What qualifies you to teach...?

Ahimsa

New member
I often wondered this and was faced with this when I chose to begin teaching myself... what qualifies a dancer to teach? It's not like ballet where there is a recognised system on teacher training, and I feel enables many to just 'start teaching' with no regulation!

I chose to take a YMCA Level 2 dance to music teacher training course to ensure I taught safely however, I had no recognised qualification for the actual dance, often because each teacher has their own style.

I'm interested to know what qualifications our teachers on here have, what one would expect a teacher to have, and current views on the quality of our teaching (particularly here in the UK). I for one, know of certain people who have trained for 2 years (from a complete beginner) and then 'chose' to go into teaching... this I find is appalling and think students deserve more than just learning a few steps. It should be a full and rounded education in the history and culture of belly dance alongside excellent technical skill.

I look forward to your opinions,
Sahara x
 

Kharis

New member
I'm interested to know what qualifications our teachers on here have, what one would expect a teacher to have, and current views on the quality of our teaching (particularly here in the UK). I for one, know of certain people who have trained for 2 years (from a complete beginner) and then 'chose' to go into teaching... this I find is appalling and think students deserve more than just learning a few steps. It should be a full and rounded education in the history and culture of belly dance alongside excellent technical skill.

I look forward to your opinions,
Sahara x
I'm ballet trained... so I had an idea of safety in warm ups, a good grounding in posture etc, and also I had a first aid certificate and knowledge of A & P. I started teaching after only a year of training... and at that time there were very few teachers around. I was at the same time working professionally as a dancer. My classes and workshops have been running for a long time and I've never had a student injured. I've turned out pro dancers and teachers from my classes. So, what does a person have to do to become a successful teacher?

You cannot say a dancer must have xx amount of years in training before she teaches, because each of us learn differently. I learned very quickly, and I have a good eye for being able to learn from film footage and by studying a dancer's body. I also have a good ear for music and rhythm. In all this, I'm lucky. So is it so appalling if a dancer turns teacher after so little time? That depends...doesn't it?

I know dancers who danced for over 7 years, and still cannot teach. And other's who did so, like me, in under a year and are competent teachers. For me, it was important to know everything, and I'm still learning. This is how it should be. If you are not learning any more,or think you've learned enough after 5 or more years, then this is not the qualifier for then becoming a teacher.

A good percentage of good teaching consists of common sense, the ability to communicate well and have a giving and caring spirit.
 
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Kashmir

New member
Personally I had just a Teachers College Diploma when I started - I had done some dance teaching training in that but nothing significant. I also had 6 years MED and 8 years jazz and modern.

After I started I did a lot of training in Safe Dance Practice and also completed a Certificate in Dance Teaching from the Queensland University of Technology. The Certificate in Dance Teaching actually required you to have already had some teaching experience before you could enrol.

I would expect a teacher to have a reasonable amount of MED or BD training - say 5 years from a reasonable instructor - not Community Ed classes or entirely self taught from the internet or videos. I'd also expect them to have some teacher training - not necessarily in dance as it isn't always available - but basic teaching methology, learning styles etc. In NZ there are a good range of classes on teaching adults. Ideally they should also know some basic anatomy and kinesology.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Hey, now, don't knock Comunity Ed classes into the same category as videos and self taught. :naghty: I teach through the community rec center and am a "reasonable instructor" with thirty years of dance and teaching experience. Judging a teacher by where she teaches is pretty shortsighted.
 

shiradotnet

New member
When I started teaching, I had 16 years of belly dance training which consisted of weekly classes over the course of that time with 9 different teachers in three entirely different U.S. states. I also had taken countless workshops over the course of that period, including about 6 or so Rakkasah weeklongs.

Now, I'm not saying everyone must do all that before starting to teach. The main reason I didn't teach sooner is because prior to that I was in a day job that required a lot of travel, and there was no way I could commit to a predictable schedule of showing up every week to teach. After my job situation changed, I started teaching.
 

FatimaS

New member
Hey, now, don't knock Comunity Ed classes into the same category as videos and self taught. :naghty: I teach through the community rec center and am a "reasonable instructor" with thirty years of dance and teaching experience. Judging a teacher by where she teaches is pretty shortsighted.
i'd like to weigh in on this as a long-time student...i've had 4 different instructors over a 3 year period. i think the best instruction came from teachers who considered their students' abilities first. some students over a certain age (me) are able to do certain moves quite well. some moves may result in injuries. new instructors should be required to take to take safety in movement classes. alas, some do not consider this....my 2 cents...
 

Ahimsa

New member
I knew this would be an interesting topic for debate!

I agree with you Kharis, that you cannot judge a teacher by number of years. This does not qualify anyone. Some learn faster than others. Some are great dancers but will never be good teachers. However, I do believe that there is a certain level of experience and knowledge one acquires through time and study that can be judged by x number of years. One would assume that someone studying for a degree would have studied for a minimum of 3 years, for example.

The example I was using was that the person in particular had only had BD training for 2 years before embarking on her teaching path. There was nothing stopping her by way of regulation or qualification. As it happens, she had some nice moves but not nearly enough knowledge in my eyes to consider her a recognised teacher. But she was free to start up a little lucrative teaching business to unsuspecting students who were trusting what she was teaching was bellydance and that she could teach them safely. Was she insured? Did she have first aid? Did she have another teaching qualification? Did she have a PPL license? The truth is we don't know.
 

lizaj

New member
I'm a trained "teacher" teacher, I danced for 4-5 years before teaching (on request from my High school pupils). A couple of years after that, I was asked to teach FE evening classes. I decided to do the Foundation course in the JWAAD scheme and also update First Response courses. Over the last few years, I found that colleges expect some sort of training in your expertise as well as teacher training.
But IMO the most important to carry on learning yourself. So I go to festivals to workshops,attend any relevent visiting specialist Egyptian and Tribal workshops and and attend monthly Egyptian dance deveopment workshops. That is more important , I believe than formal training for any teacher.
The teacher who stops learning, stops developing and shouldn't be teaching.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
Just as a matter of information (since I am still miffed about the community ed class remark), I am insured through the city, rec center staff have classes in first aid and cpr, my non-dance teaching experience includes exercise classes, creative writing at junior college and grade school level, plant breeding and agronomy classes at university level, and I am a nationally known teacher of needlework in my other life. The benefits of teaching through parks and rec are no overhead, no need to worry about insurance, very good facilities, a locker room and showers for the use of my students, someone else does the cleaning and upkeep and takes care of the money.

I've had excellent teachers through community college programs and lousy teachers with big names and expensive workshops. My experience is not as broad as many of the OD members, but within my sphere of expertise, I teach what I teach well- and I do it down the hall from the basketball courts.
 

lizaj

New member
Shan baby...apart from group practise, I am only prepared to work for local colleges and their leisure classes ( equivalent I should thing to your parks and recs) I don't like being self-employed and I like my beautiful fully mirrored studio, the cafeteria, the good toilets and changing areas and the fact they do all the advertising and pay all the bills leaving me with a modest but ready taxed and fully legal wage. idle of me yes I know but I like it that way.
 

Ahimsa

New member
I agree with you Shanazel. You cannot judge a teacher by where they teach.

I think that what I find the most infuriating is that unsuspecting students seek out a class in the hope of learning BD and assume that the teacher has been rigorously checked, tested, whichever way you choose to describe it, as any other teacher of academics or indeed many other dance styles would be! Without safety training at an absolute minimum, BD 'teachers' risk injuring their students (pregnant women spring to mind who often seek out belly dance as a form of gentle exercise!).
 

Kashmir

New member
Hey, now, don't knock Comunity Ed classes into the same category as videos and self taught. :naghty: I teach through the community rec center and am a "reasonable instructor" with thirty years of dance and teaching experience. Judging a teacher by where she teaches is pretty shortsighted.
Round here Community Ed classes are the worse sort of drop in - and out affairs. Usually with no curriculum and the same really basic stuff being taught week after week. Emphasis on having social interaction and fun rather than dancing. I've had students who'd gone to them for two years who couldn't do a hip drop. Worse, after two years of being told any movement by women is belly dance they were unwilling to take any direction.

If where you are means actual dance classes, then my comment obviously doesn't apply!
 

Shahrahzad

New member
re: The teacher who stops learning, stops developing and shouldn't be teaching

In total agreement with this! Anyone who fancies themselves a teacher needs to be extremely self-motivated and actively seek knowledge. I present stuff to my students but I can't make them go home and go further with it. So many of them lose their rhythm handouts, don't practice sagat, don't read stuff on forums on the internet, don't watch Youtubes of great dancers, don't video themselves dancing...which I find all very weird. When I was a newb I immersed myself in as much as I could in and out of class.

Don't get me wrong, I am not slagging my students. I think they're great and it's a happy challenge for me to get the most out of them. It's just so strange... :think:
 

Yshka

New member
Our local Rec centre has a good teacher too. I don't care much for Soraya Hilal inspired dance, but I know the lady has decent training in both Oriental Dance and Soraya Hilal and has enough training under her hipbelt to be called qualified.

I started teaching through my teacher. She needed a substitute and under her guidance started preparing to be able to substitute that single class. I have a firm background with the same teacher, who, through physical therapy- and movement studies puts safety and well-being of the students first. Under her guidance I try to provide my students with the same safe and knowledgeable learning environment. Other than that IMO it is MOST ESSENTIAL that a teacher keeps learning and studying dance and always strives to provide the best to her students in safety and knowledge, both technically, information-wise (backgrounds, music, styles, etc.) and in terms of really knowing her stuff.

Do I think I am qualified to teach? I sometimes feel I started too soon. I had about 5 years of bellydance, continuously studying backgrounds, Arabic music, rhythms, styles, cultures, ways of musical interpretation. From day one I've been absorbing everything I can about this dance, and if a student asks me something I cannot answer, I make sure I can ASAP. I've taken and am taking up to 5 regular classes a week with 2 teachers and take workshops and intensives all year round.
I have the trust and guidance of my own teacher, who is a teacher by profession and after only a few years of bellydance but large background in movement theatre etc. found her way to teaching bellydance, never quitting to develop as an Oriental dancer.
I admire her for providing a firm technical basis, good posture and alignment, background information, openness to other dancers and styles, giving students what they need in order to become good dancers. Safety and knowledge. She is also a teacher by heart and nothing gives her more pleasure than to make other dancers become the best they can be. All that together I feel qualifies her.
She has trusted me to teach more, little by little, co-teaching first and now teaching 3 weekly classes.

You cannot always judge a teacher by her experience, nor by certificates from training programs. There is no certification standard like in ballet yet, but how to start one if anyone can just do what they want? What saddens me is that there are still too many dancers who don't know what they are teaching and call it bellydance.

This is a long-discussed topic, but today I received a video of a dancer I know in a nearby town. Stating to have 6 years of exp, she has only taken classes for the first 2. She then started teaching and is advertising new classes now. Her website states she has taught beginners and advanced, but has no real info about the dance, any previous training, who she studied with, what style or specialisation, no pro-pictures. Zip.
And then I received that video containing a piece of flauncing around with isis wings and smiling happily to a sad, melancholic song by Tarkan, and then with the same expression a dance in Turkish cabaret costume to "Hips don't Lie" by shakira. I know she took up class again recently because she knew nothing about the dance, but recently quit again because she'd rather invest in her new teaching job than in actually learning to dance.

This was all posted on a seemingly credible website, and markets her upcoming new
course. For Pete's sake... I try not to wonder about what exactly 'qualifies' a dancer anymore, but with dancers like this I do wonder what makes them 'think' they are qualified.

A way to recognise a 'qualified' teacher? The one who is dead-honest about whatever training she has had and is willing to share both her sources and her knowledge, in a safe way. Who continuously strives to learn and shows to have a heart for both the dance and her students. That all together qualifies a teacher to me.

Dear Shahrazad, I agree. A teacher who is not interested in learning should not teach.
 

Shanazel

Super Moderator
If where you are means actual dance classes, then my comment obviously doesn't apply!
No, it doesn't, and that is exactly why I objected to such a sweeping generalization. :cool:
 

Maria_Aya

New member
In such a "non diploma" dance as oriental dance its difficult to recognize (at the begining before we start lessons) who is good teacher and who is not.

The years of working, the experience, the travelling, being serious, and having a name is what work at the end.
Every day I meet "new teachers" that suddently pop up !
But in the next year 90% of them dont teach anymore, as they see how much hard work it is, and also that it doesnt pay so much.
So the ones (in Greece) that continue in the years are the ones that really love it, learn all the time new things, travel, and actually we educate our selves and also each other helps.

Maria Aya
 

Kharis

New member
Every day I meet "new teachers" that suddently pop up !
But in the next year 90% of them dont teach anymore, as they see how much hard work it is, and also that it doesnt pay so much.

Maria Aya
exactly. What happens if a product is below standard,shoddy and potentially dangerous. Nobody buys it. They may purchase one...just to try it, but that's it. You can have a big, posh restaurant all decked up with fantastic decor and an awesome menu, but if the food's crap, it'll go bust sooner or later.

Does this give other eateries a bad name? Not really. It's par for the course. What we must remember is that this scenario happens all the time in all professions.. from dog grooming to yoga. Some people have the knack of being good teachers, and some don't. Some can back it up with good dancing, and some can't. If you can't dance AND you can't teach, then you're not going to go very far.

So, perhaps asking a teacher how long she's been teaching may be a pertinent point when seeking a teacher. Someone who's been running classes successfully for a year or two may be the more commonsense option if you're the type of person who's outraged at someone who's relatively new at both ME dancing and teaching.

there is much more to teaching than just showing students how to move, create choreographies and organise haflahs. A good teacher has to recognise strengths and weaknesses in each student and be understanding of them, be able to break down technique in ways that are easy to understand and with variables, give all she knows without holding a thing back for herself, teaching not just dance, but history, culture, performance skills and having the insight and courage to instill confidence where there is none, and humbleness where it's needed. She's a shoulder to cry on, and an emotional confidante, have the wisdom and humility to know that although her students may adore her and occasionally put her on a pedestal, she's actually no better than them and was once a struggling student herself, and to remember that for every stumble and mistake her students make, she's made them first herself. Her patience must be endless and her capacity to give, a bottomless pit.

And apologies to the guys out there for using the She word all the time...it's just easier than he/she.;)
 

adiemus

New member
The problem with a market-driven approach to quality is that there is a bit of a number's game with beginners in any type of ongoing learning - loads of newbies who do a term or two of dance instruction, then drop out. Now that's not so much of a problem except:
- they don't know whether what they're being taught is quality
- they may go away disappointed and put off bellydance because the quality of the teaching wasn't good enough (and that's a shame)
- they often do go away miseducated and without sufficient knowledge to know this (and so we get the proliferation of 'goddess dance from ancient times' applied to fusionesque hip wiggles)
- they may decide later to pick up dancing again with another teacher - but are unteachable because what they've learned originally was so totally wrong
The adage 'you don't know what you don't know' applies to newbie dancers as well as newbie teachers - and in a market-driven approach, it's not the quality that 'sells' the teacher, it's location, facilities, is she/he 'nice' and 'encouraging', are the classes fun, do the classes have 'sex appeal' (ie can people wear pretty hip belts, is there branded gear to buy, is there something 'special' that these classes promise that no other classes do - perhaps a secret entry to a hidden mystical world of crystals and goddesses and myth?)

More serious students, who approach the whole idea of dance education with some research, will seek out more proficient teachers - perhaps look at the size of classes, the background of the teacher, the teacher's style of teaching, and even look at whether the teacher belongs to any recognised groups (like the MEDNZ group in NZ).

But for loads of beginners, it's those really trivial things like parking, proximity to home, time of class etc that really make or break whether one teacher will be chosen over another. Dumb I know - but that's how the 'market' works.
 
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