Tuesday, 24 August 2010

what makes a good teacher?

About six months ago I wrote an essay that thought about teaching (and learning) literature and teaching (and learning) dancing - what they do and don't share, what you can learn as a teacher when you are taught stuff that is new and difficult, how important bodies are even when what you're studying is something cerebral.

I should finish it and try to get it published somewhere, because unless you do that, you are a worthless academic. (ie it's no good to just write about this stuff for the purpose of understanding it better yourself. Also you have to publish your publishings in a journal that is "A*", which means exactly as much as you'd imagine it means, and if you only publish it in a journal ranked "A", well, you might as well give it to a drunk, violent, stinking, incontinent leper to wipe his bottom with.)

But considerations of brownie points aside, I've found it very interesting to see how different dance teachers do their teaching. How they explain something new; how they break it down; crowd control; when they drill and when they let you play; when they show you what to do and when they describe what you should aim for. I've also seen effective demonstrations of how to *not* teach. The less said about those here the better, maybe.

You can't predict what's going to work and what's not until you see it done. It was the good teacher last night who, after making us spend about six months learning a stupid, boring, stratospherically daggy line dance that I hate, suddenly decided, at quarter to ten on the first weeknight after a more than usually painful election weekend, to switch styles and introduce a new and pretty complicated rock and roll move, which he couldn't quite remember himself, but he knew he'd nearly busted a girl's shoulder doing it. It sounds pretty bad, huh. But he's a good, effective educator, able to help 40 adults learn and be comfortable trying new things, and able to have nearly everyone keep up with the group.


David said...

Please tell us how not to teach! I may be able to work backwards from that information.

librarygirl said...

That dance might be boring to do but it's very purdy to watch.

Helen said...

Yes, I also think the How Not To's are very useful, as well as entertaining!

Armagny said...

Auspiciously, I've just come back from a blog hiatus to whine about dancing teachers.

I suppose my own subjective answer would be, don't be highly repetitive, harsh, and disciplinarian if teaching 3-4 year olds. But this probably only has tangential relevance to most teachers! =)

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

I enjoyed watching the line dance too. And you may not agree, but it reminded me very strongly of the stately Regency dances in all the JA adaptations. There are a number of similarities.

On How Not To's, I put in a couple of years here in Adelaide as a critic of local amateur drama. And I really, really enjoyed it, because I find bad theatre far more educational (about theatre) than good. You can see exactly what's wrong, and why. There are definitely parallels with teaching.

WV: crescabl