Teaching Different Age Groups

At the place I work, we teach a variety of different classes and age groups. I haven’t really decided whether teaching the younger kids or the older kids works out better for me. The older kids are usually thinking about colleges and boys and dance companies while little kids are more interested in having fun. So some days, teaching the little kids is a blast and I walk out of the studio at the end of the day thinking I have the best job ever. Then there are days when I work with the older kids and they are so serious and passionate that I fall in love with dancing all over again.

My older students are more likely to lie about injuries or pain, which means I have to watch everyone much more closely during class, especially when I am teaching something new. The little kids are so dramatic that if one of them gets hurt the whole class might start crying. No matter how many times I tell the bigger kids that they need to tell me if something is hurting and we can decide together what the best way to proceed is, they are often afraid or embarrassed when they hurt themselves. They keep their mouths shut. They don’t want to lose a scholarship, upset their parents by running up huge medical bills, or be replaced by an understudy in the recital. They dance on injuries for a million stupid reasons and if I catch them I want to scream.

The recitals for the little kids are more challenging. It can feel like herding cats sometimes. But they’re also more fun. A little kid isn’t going to care if they have to be a rock in their recital, they’re going to stand there and shake their butt and be the best rock they can while smiling and waving at their parents. You ask an older kid to do anything other than the lead they all think they deserve and they give you the stink eye for the rest of the year. But once the older kids learn their parts and get over themselves, and most of them do get over themselves at some point, they are amazing. Recitals don’t involve me chasing people around with various bits of costume trying to get them dressed and on the stage at the same time.

It also doesn’t bother me as much when the younger kids don’t come back the next year as it does when the older kids do. I don’t know why that is. I guess I can imagine pretty easily that a seven-year-old might decide that they would rather play basketball than do jazz for another year, but a fourteen year old that I’ve invested some years in and know how talented they are feels like a slap in the face when their name isn’t on the class list the next year. I take those so personally, especially when I see how good they are and how much they seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Maybe when I have been doing this as long as Janine has, I will prefer teaching students at a certain age. But right now I am trying to enjoy the variety!