One of the most useful things I was encouraged to have as a young dancer and dance teacher in training was curiosity. I have written here about curiosity before and I make no apologies for mentioning it again. Please read on.
In various professions including some of the dance teaching profession, CPD has become compulsory and I can see why this is. It is essential that aspects of knowledge need to be updated or kept up to date. But what a shame and what a missed opportunity it is, especially in the dance teaching profession, for professionals to only do CPD because they have to. CPD can offer us so much in the way of:
- new knowledge
- reviewing existing knowledge
- adding new skills
- enhancing our existing skills
- improving our current understanding
- gaining new understanding
Curiosity leads us to gain, for example, more in-depth knowledge about a specific area or topic. It encourages us to want to understand more about something to do with our profession, be that, understanding more about anatomy, conditioning, teaching and learning, injury prevention, safe dance teaching practice, ethics and dance, psychological matters relating to dance learning and teaching and of course dance techniques and so on. So many different areas and aspects for dance teachers to investigate and enhance their knowledge, skills and understanding.
I have lots of conversations with people about CPD and with some the curiosity comes through big time. They clearly want to know more, understand more and enhance their own practice. Others I chat to are much more on the doing no more or no less than they have to do. I get the feeling that they find my enthusiasm for CPD rather odd – a sort of, who would want to do CPD?, attitude towards it. Then there are the conversations where, in my view, there appears to be a misguided attitude towards CPD and what its purposes and potentials are. During one recent conversation about CPD for dance judges, it was put to me that judges of dance need a much higher level of CPD than a dance teacher. If we take a moment to reflect on this, surely I am not the only one that would question this? Why would those sitting watching dancers dance for the purpose of competing against others, need a higher level of CPD than those who are guiding young dancers through their dance learning, taking responsibility for their teaching on a day-to-day or week to week basis? Surely, those looking after the learning and development of the young dancers need a high level of CPD to make sure that their practices are as good as they can be? For those with the responsibility for helping those dancers to learn and develop it is an ongoing process and one that requires the dance teacher to have a broad set of skills as well as in-depth knowledge and understanding. Whilst, those judging (and I have myself judged many dance competitions and championships over the years) require a good array of knowledge, skills and understanding, can we really think that it is more important for the judges to engage in a higher level of CPD than teachers? When judges, judge it is for that transient, moment in time but dance teachers have an ongoing level of responsibility to their dance students. So, yes, judges need CPD to ensure they are up to date with whatever it is they are judging but I would say that, if anyone needs a higher level of CPD (and one could argue that we all need good, quality, CPD) it is the dance teachers with their ongoing responsibilities that need this. But to get back to curiosity and motivation to continue to learn then, one would hope that judges and dance teachers would all have the motivation to want to know more, do more to better their practice and understand more about their practice. I have a feeling that there will be many, many more conversations about CPD in the future.
When you read something about a topic that is related to your dance teaching directly or even very indirectly, do you want to know more? Do you find yourself looking for more books, articles or information about that topic? Do you find yourself trawling the internet seeking more knowledge, or a video, or site, that will help you to enhance what you already know about the topic? This is the sort of motivation that I am referring to. With so much information at our fingertips these days it has never been so easy to get hunting for more and more about any topic you can think of. Of course you need to sort out the good and not so good information on the net but there is still lots of quality information out there.
Where we are told that it is compulsory to do so much CPD in a given amount of time, often annually, then the motivation here is because we must do it in order to maintain a membership of an organisation or to satisfy some other rule or term. This type of CPD can be just as enlightening as that you freely choose to do. The important issue for me is that the CPD is good quality and inspiring. I want it to inspire me to want to listen, read, observe, participate in and/or take on board what is being presented. It is important for the deliverer/s of the CPD to make every effort to present it in ways that motivate those engaging in the CPD. And yes, it might not be possible to always make reviewing something, awe-inspiring, it is possible to avoid making it just dull and boring.
Motivating dance teachers should not be difficult because as dance teachers motivation is part of our business. We motivate student dancers to learn dance skills as part of the job, so one could easily believe that dance teachers are easy to motivate too. This is not always the case. I have chatted to many dance teachers who say they are not interested in doing any CPD, or they don’t need CPD or something similar. How sad that some teachers who are motivating their students day in and day out don’t feel motivated to continue to be a student themselves, and develop their knowledge, skills and understanding.
When we are motivated sufficiently to pursue new learning, skills and/or understanding there is very often some degree of personal benefits to be gained as well. A major benefit that is often noted is enhanced confidence or self-esteem. Whilst having more confidence can be attributed to the professional work of a dance teacher it is also about the person as an individual. When we achieve something we have worked for we usually feel good about ourselves. For dance teachers, achieving something that will contribute to our work in dance teaching can also make us feel more confident in our personal lives and this can add to our sense of self-worth as an individual as well as a dance teacher.
Loving learning and development
Loving what we do is a great motivator. And this is true with CPD. I love to find out about all sorts of topics that have a relationship with the teaching and learning of dance. And because I am interested in learning and understanding more about topics such as dance anatomy or safe dance teaching practice or ethical issues about dance teaching and so on, then it is not a chore to continue to develop these areas. And something I have learned along the way, is that we may not know what we love to learn if we don’t give it a chance. We may not realise that we have a particular interest in helping young dancers to develop their proprioception skills because we have never explore the topic in any detail. Or we might not realise that we love learning about anatomy of say, the shoulder because it helps us to understand more about the relationship between the shoulder and the arms in dance and in turn it helps us to help our student dancers.
Having a love for dance and want to know and understand more about how we teach it to others is like having an in-built CPD motivator. The love for our subject motivates us to love developing and enhancing our knowledge, skills and understanding and makes it easier to do CPD because we want to.
My love of working with dance teachers and learning and development led me to specialise in CPD for dance teachers. And in doing so I have developed some short online CPD courses for dance teachers. Why not take a look at the courses coming up and see if they can motivate you to do some CPD?