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re: Choosing a Teacher
Posted by Jonathan Atkinson
8/31/1999  3:34:00 AM
Karen,

Great post. I'm always interested to hear what students have to say about teachers, especially their likes and dislikes. Every little bit of information helps me to become a better teacher myself.

Something I'd like to clarify and discuss further:

>> Having known many teachers, I would not
>> say their ability to train you is based
>> upon whether or not they currently
>> compete or have a lot of students who
>> currently compete.

I agree that there are some damn good dancers/competitors out there who are awful teachers. This combination is possible because the skills involved in dancing and teaching are mostly unrelated, and often someone who has natural ability and requires little effort to learn themselves has very little understanding of the learning process. What's worse, these teachers often just assume that they are good teachers based on their dancing ability, and so they never make any effort to improve their teaching skills.

No, competition is definitely not the be-all-end-all of dance ability. BUT it does almost invariably improve one's own dancing. So while you can't judge a teacher solely based on their status as a competitor, I think that you can bet that a competitive teacher is better than they would be, were they not competing. Because competition is such a great motivator, it forces us to study and improve our craft in a way that we never otherwise would.

The longer I compete, the more I study. The more I study, the more I know and understand, and the more I can share with my students. The trickle-down theory definitely applies to dance knowledge. Often times something I learn when working on my Double Reverse Overspin to Telemark, Big Top and Contra Check gets translated right down to the basic Box step, which helps me teach my next baby Bronze student.

I've always taken pride in my ability as a teacher, much more than my ability as a dancer. And while I was a good teacher long before I ever started competing, I was not nearly as good as I am now. I owe a good chunk of that to my experience as a competitor.

Sincerely,
Jonathan Atkinson

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