I teach dance 4 days a week to children ranging from age 2 to 18. Every 2 months we start a new session on a quarter system. That means that I have 9 first days of school 4 times a year and 9 last days of school 4 times a year totalling 36 first days of school every year! And guess what, the first day of school is always my favorite! Followed closely by the last day of school, of course! 🙂
The first day of school is stressful for everyone. Parents are trying to figure out timing and their daily schedule, what will be required of them and their students for the class. Often they are anxious to find out about the teacher, what the structure of the class will look like and the techniques, and teaching methods of the teacher and how they will fit into their family dynamic. If it’s the child’s first time in a classroom setting that brings on even more questions, concerns and adjustments.
Children pick up on all of the things their parents are feeling and can absorb some of that anxiety. They also have their own things to worry about. Will they have friends in the class, do they know the other kids, will they like the teacher, will the teacher like them. How will they fit into the classroom setting, will the subject be too hard or will they be bored.
Then there is the teacher. We have put in hours of preparation, prayed over the rosters and curriculum and spent many hours planning the quarter and this is the day it all begins. It’s exciting and anxiety ridden all in one moment. I love the first day because there is always a moment during the class when I can feel the shift. Everyone starts to relax and a peace sweeps over the room. I can see the students relaxing and settling in to their new environment, getting to know their new friends and finding their place in the classroom. The parents see their kids having a good time and they begin to relax as well. It’s one of my favorite moments of teaching.
The first day is important for lots of reasons. First impressions are huge and that includes discipline. The first day of class sets the tone for every day that follows. My goal in teaching is to create a fun, safe environment where children can learn to enjoy new skills in dance and acting. I will push them but always with lots of encouragement.
My classes are generally for those who want to explore dance or acting and see if there is a passion there. I believe that in dance and acting you have to start with a love for it first or you will never survive the brutal training that comes later. My goal is to foster the love they can come back and rest on when they are tired and discouraged by their training coaches or failed auditions. Believe me, if you want to be an actor or a dancer you will fail some auditions and hear MANY lectures on how you’re not good enough, it’s just the way it is.
Back to discipline and fun. This is what I do for my classes of students ages 2-12. I start off by explaining the rules of class, they are quite simple.
1. Always have on your listening ears.
2. Don’t talk when I’m talking.
3. Be obedient.
Simple and to the point just how I like it!
When discipline and training opportunities come up I recommend a few things:
1. Pull the child aside.
-never discipline a child in front of the other children, it embarrasses them and harms their self esteem.
2. Kneel down to their level and ask them to make eye contact.
-it is important to get on their level and get their attention. The rebellious ones will fight you on the eye contact but you have to be patient and stick with them until you get it. This is a key element in discipline, this is where you establish your role as teacher and their role in obedience.
3. Speak softly to the child first asking them if they know what they did. Then telling them what they did, that it was disobedient, hurtful, etc and then why or what the consequence is.
-“Sally, do you know why you are in time out? You said a mean word to Suzie and that hurt her feelings. Suzie is our friend and we don’t want to be mean to each other.
4. Walk the child to the time out chair where they will sit for an appropriate amount of time. At the end of the time explain to the child that they may come out of time out when they are ready to join the class and be an obedient listener.
5. When the child comes out of time out they are to go to offending person and ask for forgiveness. Offended person than accepts by saying, “I forgive you.”
This process teaches the child that there are consequences to their choices and that if they make a poor choice they will have a privilege taken away from them. In this case it is the privilege of participating in the class activities. Discipline is a necessary act in a classroom. I know there are many differing opinions on discipline and classroom rules. This is the method I have developed over the past 15+ years working with children, studying effective discipline and psychology.
It is important to remember that the purpose of discipline should be first to maintain the safety of every student in the classroom. The next concern is to teach and train these little ones to be well adjusted, responsible human beings who understand that every choice they make for the rest of their life will have some kind of consequence good or bad.