strathspey Archive: A teaching point

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A teaching point

Message 35010 · Ron Taylor · 23 Apr 2003 20:50:04 · Top

I am always interestedin seeing the make up of individual Branches - the latest beintg that of Bristol Branch.

I would be pleased to learn how Branches determine when a beginner can "go ip" to a general class and from there to an advanced class etc.

Years ago I was in a Branch which had a formal arrangement for beginners progressing. At the end of a teaching year a panel of teachers would watch a class and then they would invite individuals to "move up"

For the past 20 years I have ben trying to get my Branch to do something similar but to no avail, individuals move up wheh THEY think they are good enough to do so. I have been trying to take a class as very much an improvers class
with emphasis on teaching dancing in all it's aspects but I am lumbered with people who should never have progressed from a beginners class, it really is most frustrating.

I would like to knock the heads together of our committee members!!

Ron Taylor

RON29@blueyonder.co.uk.

A teaching point

Message 35011 · Marilyn Knight · 23 Apr 2003 20:54:28 · Top

That's really true in this area, and at dances, as well as balls. I
feel, in part, here, it's because we have a paucity of people who will
even enroll in, and continue in, a class. Beats dancing with waste
baskets and fire hydrants....sort of...

-----Original Message-----
From: RON [mailto:RON29@blueyonder.co.uk]
Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2003 10:51 PM
To: strathspey@strathspey.org
Subject: A teaching point

I am always interestedin seeing the make up of individual Branches - the
latest beintg that of Bristol Branch.

I would be pleased to learn how Branches determine when a beginner can
"go ip" to a general class and from there to an advanced class etc.

Years ago I was in a Branch which had a formal arrangement for beginners
progressing. At the end of a teaching year a panel of teachers would
watch a class and then they would invite individuals to "move up"

For the past 20 years I have ben trying to get my Branch to do something
similar but to no avail, individuals move up wheh THEY think they are
good enough to do so. I have been trying to take a class as very much an
improvers class
with emphasis on teaching dancing in all it's aspects but I am lumbered
with people who should never have progressed from a beginners class, it
really is most frustrating.

I would like to knock the heads together of our committee members!!

Ron Taylor

RON29@blueyonder.co.uk.

A teaching point

Message 35012 · Pia Walker · 23 Apr 2003 21:15:43 · Top

Ron just think what you can do with all that raw talent - and think it will
only be because of you that they have progressed to being improved dancers -
good on you that's all I can say.

Pia
----- Original Message -----
From: "RON" <RON29@blueyonder.co.uk>
To: <strathspey@strathspey.org>
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2003 3:51 AM
Subject: A teaching point

I am always interestedin seeing the make up of individual Branches - the
latest beintg that of Bristol Branch.

I would be pleased to learn how Branches determine when a beginner can "go
ip" to a general class and from there to an advanced class etc.

Years ago I was in a Branch which had a formal arrangement for beginners
progressing. At the end of a teaching year a panel of teachers would watch a
class and then they would invite individuals to "move up"

For the past 20 years I have ben trying to get my Branch to do something
similar but to no avail, individuals move up wheh THEY think they are good
enough to do so. I have been trying to take a class as very much an
improvers class
with emphasis on teaching dancing in all it's aspects but I am lumbered with
people who should never have progressed from a beginners class, it really is
most frustrating.

I would like to knock the heads together of our committee members!!

Ron Taylor

RON29@blueyonder.co.uk.

A teaching point

Message 35015 · Lee Fuell · 23 Apr 2003 21:32:33 · Top

Ron & List,

Re:

> Years ago I was in a Branch which had a formal arrangement for
> beginners progressing. At the end of a teaching year a panel of
> teachers would watch a class and then they would invite individuals to
> "move up"

<snip>

> For the past 20 years I have ben trying to get my Branch to do
> something similar but to no avail, individuals move up wheh THEY think
> they are good enough to do so. I have been trying to take a class as
> very much an improvers class with emphasis on teaching dancing in all
> it's aspects but I am lumbered with people who should never have
> progressed from a beginners class, it really is most frustrating.

<snip>

> Ron Taylor

While I share your frustration (as a common dancer, not a teacher), I fear that in
our area the result of such a process would be the death of SCD. In much the
same way as the current teacher examination process deters many people
(including me) from even attempting to become teachers, I think such a screening
process would drive people away from SCD. In the UK where you may have a
plethora of folks to dance with, many groups in the States are lucky to have two or
even one set of dancers at any given class. If we did anything to restrict their
ability to attend social or intermediate level classes, we wouldn't have anyone to
dance with - they'd just go do contra or square dancing or something else. One of
the unavoidable truths of SCD is that each dancer needs other dancers in order to
be able to dance, so for the time being at least self-selection is then only viable
option. Dancing with "permanent beginners" is better than not dancing at all!

In fact, around here we have a different problem - trying to encourage participants
in the beginner's classes to move up to the social/intermediate level. There seems
to be an unintended intimidation factor that we have difficulty getting around.
Beginners get comfortable with the basics and just want to stay there. I can think
of several folks I wish would come to our social/intermediate class, but just can't
seem to get comfortable with the idea of doing so.

With the SCD population greying and participation declining (at least in areas I'm
familiar with), further restrictions on participation in any class would seem to be
counterproductive.

Happy dancing,

Lee

A teaching point

Message 35044 · Lee Fuell · 24 Apr 2003 01:24:55 · Top

Ron,

Re:

> Is it possible to arrange for a few of the more advanced dancers to
> attend the Beginners class on occasion - just to participate - so
> that they get to know each other socially and on the dance floor?
> An invitation from a friend may be less easy to resist than a
> prompting by "Teacher"!
> Happy Dancing
> Cheers :)
> Ron

Yes, we do this. However, sometimes we have gotten too many advanced
dancers in with the beginners, which is counterproductive. Makes 'em feel
awkward and clumsy. One or two sprinkled in seems to be positive; more than that
seems to just add to the intimidation problem.

Another technique we've tried is to offer beginners free admission to some of the
low-key social dances, make sure there are several basic-level dances on the
program, and make sure the beginners are taught those dances in class. The
hope is that if they have a positive experience at a social event, they will feel more
comfortable coming to the higher-level class. The percentage who do, however, is
still much lower than I'd wish it to be.

Lee

A teaching point

Message 35096 · Priscilla M. Burrage · 27 Apr 2003 16:02:22 · Top

On Wed, 23 Apr 2003, Donald Lee Fuell, Jr. wrote:

> Ron,
>
> > Is it possible to arrange for a few of the more advanced dancers to
> > attend the Beginners class on occasion
>
> Yes, we do this. However, sometimes we have gotten too many advanced
> dancers in with the beginners, which is counterproductive. Makes 'em feel
> awkward and clumsy. One or two sprinkled in seems to be positive; more than that
> seems to just add to the intimidation problem.

I find that a ratio of one beginner to one experienced dancer is ideal.
It's importan to establish a time for this to happen just to discourage
the prima donna advanced dancers. There are some who, unknowingly
perhaps, can make all the other dancers feel awkward and unloved.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Priscilla Burrage Vermont US
(pburrage@zoo.uvm.edu)

A teaching point

Message 35141 · Lee Fuell · 27 Apr 2003 16:36:28 · Top

Priscilla,

Re:

> I find that a ratio of one beginner to one experienced dancer is ideal.
> It's importan to establish a time for this to happen just to discourage
> the prima donna advanced dancers. There are some who, unknowingly
> perhaps, can make all the other dancers feel awkward and unloved.
>
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> Priscilla Burrage Vermont US

An excellent point! Hopefully, I'm not one of the prima donna dancers. I try hard
not to be, but find that sometimes my enthusiasm seems to intimidate some of the
less-confident beginners.

Another category of "experienced" dancer that can be counterproductive in a
beginner's class is the "perpetual beginner" who thinks he/she is experienced, but
is not. We have had to essentially ban certain people from attending our local
beginner's class because they were continually mis-correcting real beginners.
Problem #1 is that they were even trying to correct the beginners. Problem #2 was
that the corrections were more often than not wrong. Problem #3 is that this was
sometimes done in a negative, critical tone totally inappropriate for a beginners
class (or most any class, for that matter).

That being said, I think it's important for the teachers of beginners classes to
carefully select the experienced dancers they ask to come to the beginners class
to fill out sets and be the subtle helper that's required.

Cheers,

Lee

A teaching point

Message 35162 · Helen P. · 2 May 2003 09:24:40 · Top

A ratio of one beginner to one experienced dancer in a Basic class is ideal
in many ways.

Roughly equal numbers means everyone feels more equal: there are lots of
"us" and lots of "them", so no one is singled out.

It brings the group together. The beginners don't feel isolated, and the
experienced folk are more comfortable with them at joint events.

It's easier on the teacher to have helpers.

It's easier on the beginners to have helpers.

It's easier on the experienced folk to only watch after one or two
beginners, instead of many. All too often in a traditional beginners'
class, the teacher has to focus on the least adept dancers, while everyone
else fends for themselves -- or the helpers have to direct an entire set
while the teacher is "busy".

Likewise, the beginners don't feel they have to compete for an experienced
partner.

Beginners are more likely to pick up good habits from experienced partners.
That saves time and effort to unlearn mistakes and relearn the right way.

Also, a beginner can often dance above their own level with an experienced
partner. That makes their learning curve even shorter, and really thrills
them. Enthusiasm is a powerful learning tool, and that's contagious to the
experienced folks, too!

Class time is used more efficiently. The teacher can get through more
material, while the beginners receive more intensive instruction. This also
keeps the class interesting for the experienced folk.

Not-really-experienced dancers can be "tricked" into working on the basic
skills that they need, without getting into ego problems.

As far as exclusion goes, it's really not necessary. If someone is overly
"helpful", the teacher can just ask them to lay off, nicely. Often, someone
may not realize that they are interfering with the teaching, and a simple
request is all they need to cease.

-- Helen (MD USA)

From: "Donald Lee Fuell, Jr." <fuell@mindspring.com>
To: "Priscilla M. Burrage" <pburrage@zoo.uvm.edu>;
<strathspey@strathspey.org>
Sent: Sunday, April 27, 2003 10:56 AM

> Priscilla,
>
> Re:
>
> > I find that a ratio of one beginner to one experienced dancer is ideal.
> > It's importan to establish a time for this to happen just to discourage
> > the prima donna advanced dancers. There are some who, unknowingly
> > perhaps, can make all the other dancers feel awkward and unloved.
> >
> > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> > Priscilla Burrage Vermont US
>
> An excellent point! Hopefully, I'm not one of the prima donna dancers. I
try hard
> not to be, but find that sometimes my enthusiasm seems to intimidate some
of the
> less-confident beginners.
>
> Another category of "experienced" dancer that can be counterproductive in
a
> beginner's class is the "perpetual beginner" who thinks he/she is
experienced, but
> is not. We have had to essentially ban certain people from attending our
local
> beginner's class because they were continually mis-correcting real
beginners.
> Problem #1 is that they were even trying to correct the beginners.
Problem #2 was
> that the corrections were more often than not wrong. Problem #3 is that
this was
> sometimes done in a negative, critical tone totally inappropriate for a
beginners
> class (or most any class, for that matter).
>
> That being said, I think it's important for the teachers of beginners
classes to
> carefully select the experienced dancers they ask to come to the beginners
class
> to fill out sets and be the subtle helper that's required.
>
> Cheers,
>
> Lee

A teaching point

Message 35142 · Martin.Sheffield · 1 May 2003 10:52:47 · Top

Lee wrote:
>
>... We have had to ban certain people from attending our local
>beginner's class because they were continually mis-correcting real beginners.

Share your secret.
How did you go about banning anyone from a class without causing hard feelings?

I've been tempted to ban one or two people , but have rarely had the
courage to do so!

Martin

A teaching point

Message 35153 · Lee Fuell · 1 May 2003 22:12:51 · Top

Martin,

Re:

>Lee wrote:
>>
>>... We have had to ban certain people from attending our local
>>beginner's class because they were continually mis-correcting real
beginners.

>Share your secret.
>How did you go about banning anyone from a class without causing hard
feelings?

>I've been tempted to ban one or two people , but have rarely had the
>courage to do so!

Well, I guess my choice of words was poor. What we did was provide an
alternate dance opportunity by establishing a "social" class on an alternate
night. We then just explained that we wanted to limit the beginners class
to beginners so the teacher could focus on meeting the beginners needs
without the distraction of the other dancers there. It's actually been a
"win-win" - we've got a viable and fun social class that can dance at a
higher level, and we've also got a beginners class that provides a
supportive, basic-level environment for beginners. Most of the beginners
just take one or two 10-week classes and move on to something else
("samplers"), but we're getting one or two people a year to move up to the
social class. We're pretty pleased and hope this can continue. It really
reinforces my basic belief that separate beginner classes are the best way
to introduce folks to SCD.

Lee

A teaching point

Message 35165 · Martin.Sheffield · 2 May 2003 15:23:36 · Top

At 22:09 01/05/03, you wrote:
>Martin,
>
>Re:
>
> >Lee wrote:
>
>What we did was provide an
>alternate dance opportunity by establishing a "social" class on an alternate
>night.

Lucky you to have the chance to have enough people available to dance on
another night.
I wouldn't have thought that the French were so much more socially active
than people elsewhere, but if I suggest a change of day, or that someone
should come to this class rather than that one, the reply is invariably,
Oh, no, I go walking, swimming, singing, hunting, shooting or fishing on
that night.

I have found it impossible to keep the more advanced and the less advanced
(for want of a better term) in separate groups. People choose the time and
the day rather than the level, in my experience. How can you get people to
move up/down into a different class if they are not free to attend at a
different time?

> It really reinforces my basic belief that separate beginner classes are
> the best way
>to introduce folks to SCD.

Yes, I once had this pleasure, and it worked well as a social activity. We
did a lot of ECD, ceilidh dances and square dances before going on to
standard SCD.
But ... without any "better" dancers to imitate, I can't say any of the
beginners of that group ever got to resemble "proper" Scottish dancers.
They reached a ceiling, romping happily through the dances, in the right
places at the right time, but still seeing no reason to do the steps the
way *I* was doing them.

Apart from that one class, I have always had to integrate newcomers in with
the old timers. It's not ideal (too fast for the newbies, too slow for the
old'ns), but I think they start fitting into the mould sooner than they
would in a group where the teacher is the only model -- especially if the
teacher does not take part in all the dancing.

It's one of those situations where you have to be content with what you
have; keep 'm coming and do your best to keep'm happy.

Martin
in Grenoble, France.
http://perso.wanadoo.fr/scots.in.france/scd.htm

A teaching point

Message 35147 · John Chambers · 1 May 2003 16:14:35 · Top

Martin wrote:
| Lee wrote:
| >... We have had to ban certain people from attending our local
| >beginner's class because they were continually mis-correcting real beginners.
|
| Share your secret.
| How did you go about banning anyone from a class without causing hard feelings?

Suggest that they really belong in the more advanced class?

;-)

A teaching point

Message 35020 · ron.mackey · 24 Apr 2003 01:01:35 · Top

There seems
> to be an unintended intimidation factor that we have difficulty getting around.
> Beginners get comfortable with the basics and just want to stay there. I can think
> of several folks I wish would come to our social/intermediate class, but just can't
> seem to get comfortable with the idea of doing so.
>
> With the SCD population greying and participation declining (at least in areas I'm
> familiar with), further restrictions on participation in any class would seem to be
> counterproductive.
>
> Happy dancing,
>
> Lee

Is it possible to arrange for a few of the more advanced dancers to
attend the Beginners class on occasion - just to participate - so
that they get to know each other socially and on the dance floor?
An invitation from a friend may be less easy to resist than a
prompting by "Teacher"!
Happy Dancing
Cheers :)
Ron

Ron Mackey. London Branch (and Croydon)
39, Grove Park Road,
Mottingham
London SE9 4NS

A teaching point

Message 35022 · Volleyballjerry · 24 Apr 2003 02:37:04 · Top

In a message dated 04/23/2003 11:50:47 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
RON29@blueyonder.co.uk writes:

> Subj:A teaching point
> Date:04/23/2003 11:50:47 AM Pacific Daylight Time
> From:<A HREF="mailto:RON29@blueyonder.co.uk">RON29@blueyonder.co.uk</A>
> Reply-to:<A HREF="mailto:strathspey@strathspey.org">strathspey@strathspey.org</A>
> To:<A HREF="mailto:strathspey@strathspey.org">strathspey@strathspey.org</A>
> Sent from the Internet
>
>
>
> I am always interestedin seeing the make up of individual Branches - the
> latest beintg that of Bristol Branch.
>
> I would be pleased to learn how Branches determine when a beginner can "go
> ip" to a general class and from there to an advanced class etc.
>
> Years ago I was in a Branch which had a formal arrangement for beginners
> progressing. At the end of a teaching year a panel of teachers would watch
> a class and then they would invite individuals to "move up"
>
> For the past 20 years I have ben trying to get my Branch to do something
> similar but to no avail, individuals move up wheh THEY think they are good
> enough to do so. I have been trying to take a class as very much an
> improvers class
> with emphasis on teaching dancing in all it's aspects but I am lumbered
> with people who should never have progressed from a beginners class, it
> really is most frustrating.
>
> I would like to knock the heads together of our committee members!!
>
> Ron Taylor
>
> RON29@blueyonder.co.uk.
>
>
>
>

A teaching point

Message 35023 · Volleyballjerry · 24 Apr 2003 02:41:49 · Top

Please excuse the blank reply which I just sent in error to Ron's message;
now allow me a few minutes to gather thoughts for the reply not yet typed.

Robb Quint
Thousand Oaks, CA, USA

In a message dated 04/23/2003 11:50:47 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
RON29@blueyonder.co.uk writes:

> Subj:A teaching point
> Date:04/23/2003 11:50:47 AM Pacific Daylight Time
> From:<A HREF="mailto:RON29@blueyonder.co.uk">RON29@blueyonder.co.uk</A>
> Reply-to:<A HREF="mailto:strathspey@strathspey.org">strathspey@strathspey.org</A>
> To:<A HREF="mailto:strathspey@strathspey.org">strathspey@strathspey.org</A>
> Sent from the Internet
>
>
>
> I am always interestedin seeing the make up of individual Branches - the
> latest beintg that of Bristol Branch.
>
> I would be pleased to learn how Branches determine when a beginner can "go
> ip" to a general class and from there to an advanced class etc.
>
> Years ago I was in a Branch which had a formal arrangement for beginners
> progressing. At the end of a teaching year a panel of teachers would watch
> a class and then they would invite individuals to "move up"
>
> For the past 20 years I have ben trying to get my Branch to do something
> similar but to no avail, individuals move up wheh THEY think they are good
> enough to do so. I have been trying to take a class as very much an
> improvers class
> with emphasis on teaching dancing in all it's aspects but I am lumbered
> with people who should never have progressed from a beginners class, it
> really is most frustrating.
>
> I would like to knock the heads together of our committee members!!
>
> Ron Taylor
>
> RON29@blueyonder.co.uk.
>
>
>
>

A teaching point

Message 35024 · Volleyballjerry · 24 Apr 2003 04:06:49 · Top

I think that we all know the difficulty that Ron describes. It's what an
American would image a Briton describing as a "sticky wicket"!
Self-promotion from level to level would seem to be endemic most everywhere.

Here it's not a branch issue, but a class issue. Folks generally attend
class based on geography, but if there are several classes within reasonable
reach, then some picking and choosing may be possible.

Our Thousand Oaks class was originated about a quarter century ago as its own
R.S.C.D.S. affiliate, which it still is, and is now as well a branch class
within the San Gabriel Valley Branch, which is younger. And since the Los
Angeles Branch serves the same general geographic area, some of their
classes, as well as our own, are nearby. Every other class in Ventura
County, of either branch, is younger. So just by virtue of age, we're the
class in the area with the most experienced dancers. Up to a couple of years
ago we'd experienced what had amounted to several years of great frustration
with beginners. Our area simply does not generally produce enough of them at
any given time to fill a class exclusively for beginners. So as they showed
up rather randomly from time to time, one, two, or three at a time, I had
them come half an hour early for several weeks (which meant early for me too
of course!) to teach them basic steps and formations, we limited the dances
that they could initially do, and this went on for years. Our dancers,
gracious that they are, were always patient and helpful. But the new dancers
could not help being somewhat a drag on the class, just by definition. The
frustration occurred when, although many years ago a certain percentage of
these new dancers would eventually learn to dance and "stick," in the more
recent years, despite all sincere efforts to cordially bring them in, one by
one they eventually disappeared. So all of this effort on my and the class's
part was for naught...several years of assisting beginners and no additional
regular dancers. (I haven't yet really addressed Ron's issue, but I'm
getting there!) So a couple of years ago we took the big step to cut off
beginners entirely and make the class for "experienced" (that doesn't mean
advanced) only. When somebody inquires about the class, it pains me
sometimes to say that beginners have to start in a nearby class and join us
subsequently with some experience. But the move has proved to be a good
(even if admittedly a somewhat selfish) one. What has developed without any
particular intent is that the reputation of the Thousand Oaks class has
brought us a few dancers, driving from some distance, simply because they
know that it's a place where they can come and dance with other experienced
dancers. The reputation also has developed in terms of its being a class
where you better be able to handle the dancing if you attend. Recently a
couple of "perpetual beginners" from a neighboring class gave us a try.
While we were all most cordial and helpful, and would have continued to be so
had they returned (after all, they were "experienced"), they recognized that
they were having difficulty keeping up and did not return. Later I heard
that they'd told others jokingly (and seemingly without hard feelings) that
they were "Thousand Oaks dropouts." And there are several others around, so
I hear from our dancers who know them from elsewhere, who know that this is
not the class for them. Those who do attend do so happily knowing whom they
won't find there. The point is that this was all accomplished without any of
the formality that Ron has described in his former branch. We welcome all
experienced dancers, and dance ability does vary among our own regulars. But
a certain level is nonetheless maintained. The downside of this is that we
have no beginners with their "new blood." This is of course potentially a
problem in the long run. Recognizing this, we recently advertised a
short-term beginner class to be taught by one of our regular members who is a
teacher not regularly teaching. The result: one registrant; class canceled.
Perhaps we'll try it again. And so, even without beginners, we continue
gaining an occasional new dancer from time to time through our reputation.
We also lose one occasionally (two recently just moved away). One final
point regarding Ron's issue: in our case it is not a situation of "footwork"
which naturally keeps at bay those area dancers with whom many would prefer
not to deal; this itself does vary among our regulars. It is rather the fact
that we do a lot of complex dances (our whole branch as compared with other
Southern California branches is also generally known for this), and they are
taught and learned rather quickly, giving us the opportunity to do many
dances in an evening without too much standing around; our regulars are all
quite good in the realm of timing, dance "geography," and the like. And
there are those in the area who seem to feel from our reputation that they
could not handle the pace (even if this may be to some extent more reputation
than reality). So there you are, Ron. Something that has developed,
somewhat by chance, in Thousand Oaks, to some extent if not wholly along the
lines that you seem to seek. Too bad that you're too far away to join us.
My, this has become long!...more, Ron, than you ever wanted to know?

Robb Quint
Thousand Oaks, CA, USA

In a message dated 04/23/2003 11:50:47 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
RON29@blueyonder.co.uk writes:

> Subj:A teaching point
> Date:04/23/2003 11:50:47 AM Pacific Daylight Time
> From:<A HREF="mailto:RON29@blueyonder.co.uk">RON29@blueyonder.co.uk</A>
> Reply-to:<A HREF="mailto:strathspey@strathspey.org">strathspey@strathspey.org</A>
> To:<A HREF="mailto:strathspey@strathspey.org">strathspey@strathspey.org</A>
> Sent from the Internet
>
>
>
> I am always interestedin seeing the make up of individual Branches - the
> latest beintg that of Bristol Branch.
>
> I would be pleased to learn how Branches determine when a beginner can "go
> ip" to a general class and from there to an advanced class etc.
>
> Years ago I was in a Branch which had a formal arrangement for beginners
> progressing. At the end of a teaching year a panel of teachers would watch
> a class and then they would invite individuals to "move up"
>
> For the past 20 years I have ben trying to get my Branch to do something
> similar but to no avail, individuals move up wheh THEY think they are good
> enough to do so. I have been trying to take a class as very much an
> improvers class
> with emphasis on teaching dancing in all it's aspects but I am lumbered
> with people who should never have progressed from a beginners class, it
> really is most frustrating.
>
> I would like to knock the heads together of our committee members!!
>
> Ron Taylor
>
> RON29@blueyonder.co.uk.
>
>
>
>

A teaching point

Message 35029 · Oliver Thinius · 24 Apr 2003 10:02:18 · Top

I am not running a branch but an affiliated group. However, the
problem remains the same.

Our group offers a Monday Night Beginners' Class, followed by a
General Class. As soon as "beginners" seem to be fit enough not to
spoil the General Class people's enjoyment of dance they are invited
to stay after the beginners class. People asking wether or not they
may stay receive an honest answer ("Please feel free to stay", "It's
still too early" or "Please feel free to stay BUT stay off the dance
floor when dances are announced to be tricky or more difficult").

In order to allow beginners or advanced beginners to progress we
offer an Wendesday Night class once a fortnight, featuring Step and
Formation practice.

Only problem of this "procedure" is that some of the General Class
people do not understand the difference between "General" and
"Advanced".

Regards,
Oliver Thinius
othinius@scottishsupplies.de

RON schrieb am 23.04.2003:
>I am always interestedin seeing the make up of individual Branches -
>the latest beintg that of Bristol Branch.
>
>I would be pleased to learn how Branches determine when a beginner
>can "go ip" to a general class and from there to an advanced class
>etc.
>
>Years ago I was in a Branch which had a formal arrangement for
>beginners progressing. At the end of a teaching year a panel of
>teachers would watch a class and then they would invite individuals
>to "move up"
>
>For the past 20 years I have ben trying to get my Branch to do
>something similar but to no avail, individuals move up wheh THEY
>think they are good enough to do so. I have been trying to take a
>class as very much an improvers class
>with emphasis on teaching dancing in all it's aspects but I am
>lumbered with people who should never have progressed from a
>beginners class, it really is most frustrating.
>
>I would like to knock the heads together of our committee members!!
>
>Ron Taylor
>
>RON29@blueyonder.co.uk.
>
>
>
>

A teaching point

Message 35030 · Colin Norton & Elizabeth Low · 24 Apr 2003 10:58:14 · Top

It's really interesting to see that the problems regarding attracting and
retaining/progressing) beginners, that of trying to meet the needs of a
very mixed group of dancers and the "greying" of dance groups is constant
in the US, UK and Australia. I have to confess that through reading the
spirited and enthusiastic discussions on the Strathspey Server I had
formed the view that these problems were some what absent in UK and North
America.

I teach SCD at an adult education class in Canberra for our Branch
through one of our local colleges and trying to attract a minimum of 8
participants is a challenge. Despite this I have for the past few years
had a couple of dancers who apply to attend every term and are happy
dancing in a Beginners Class. It's quite a dilemma - do you ask them to
move on, knowing that they don't want to dance outside of the beginners
class and will stop dancing or do you keep encouraging them to attend
knowing that while the Branch doesn't end up with new dancers, at least
you are maintaining their enthusiasm for SCD. (I prefer the latter
option and look forward to seeing them continue).

One mechanism our Branch has tried is to make the Beginners class an
intermediate class after some time. That way dancers are progressing to
more challenging dances and formations - but with a group of dancers they
are comfortable. When we have retained numbers previously, it worked
quite well and a number of these dancers did progress to Branch
membership.

I guess it's one of those issues where there won't be a single solution
for every situation.

Elizabeth Low

A teaching point

Message 35034 · Pia Walker · 24 Apr 2003 14:36:03 · Top

What does other dance groups do? This is not a problem which is solely a
SCD problem - my daughter has danced ballet since she was 2.5 and she has
followed her class through beginners, intermediate etc etc - of course it is
not called beginners, intermediate etc because they are children so are
grouped after age not ability.

there are two ways of looking at this - from the class participant, and from
the teachers side:

As a class participant, I would hate to be selected or de-selected to any
class I chose to go to - I pays my money voluntarily, so therefore if I feel
comfortable in a class, like the teacher, and like the people there, I would
like to stay there. I presumably have read the blur about each class, so
would be able to select what I think suits me the best - price, travel, etc
comes into it also. If for some reason I struggle, well it is up to me to
either change class or work more to improve myself.

As a class participant who is "experienced" - I like to help - not matter
how experienced the class is, we are still all on different levels, some are
exceptional dancers, but advanced in years, some are young, knows the steps,
but not formations etc etc. , and helping and assisting is one of the things
that goes on in class - I need help and assistance sometimes too (most of
the time :>) - perhaps I have just been lucky with my teachers that they
have managed to instill this in me. Should I really be so arrogant and
patronizing, that I should look down on people who are starting out just
because I did that in 1977?

As a teacher, well yes it is a problem constantly having new people coming
into a class and you start all over again. But does the class form because
the teacher has a dream of perfection from start? OR and I much prefer
this - should the teacher work with what he/she has got and try and improve
the class as a whole? Surely teaching means to bring people on to become
better from any given point? It doesn't harm an experienced class to start
all over - it is amazing what bad habits people pick up over the years.
Basic work should be taught in all classes not just beginners. If you have
to dance simple dances, well if you are teaching an experienced class, you
could point out to them that you definitely expect superior dancing from
them - where they concentrate of the finer point of footwork, hands etc etc.
And perhaps if the ratio beginner to experienced, is OK - you can still
dance the more difficult dances - pointing out to all that they must help
and be helped.

Pia

>
> I guess it's one of those issues where there won't be a single solution
> for every situation.
>
> Elizabeth Low
>
>
>

A teaching point, from a beginner's perspective.

Message 35041 · Blain Nelson · 24 Apr 2003 20:02:43 · Top

For those who aren't familiar with this, I have been attending classes
since January, and attended a few dances before that.

The beginner's class has been a bit touchy at times. We've had some
weeks that we're short of a full set. There are four of us that have
been there most of the time, and my daughter started coming to class
with me a couple months ago. Aside from that core, we've had a couple
who have been dancing at that level for a year previous who have come
1/3 to 1/4 of the time, and a few total beginners who have come 1-3
times (mostly once).

Of the core, the other male and my daughter have gone to every dance
since we started attending class (and the first dance was after our
first class). The two ladies in our core haven't come to any dances,
and have only come once on the weeks (once a month) that we meet with
the intermediate class (due to scheduling conflict).

Now, to prepare for a new job, I've begun taking a class at the local
tech college, which is offered the same night and most of the same time
as my beginners class. As much as I love the dancing, I have to attend
the other class. Now, the first week of my tech class was the week that
our class meets with the intermediates on a different night, so I went
then.

I found that I was able to keep up with the things we were doing as well
as many of the intermediates, and better than some (and, of course, some
of them totally blew me away in terms of ability). My footwork is
passable, my forms are pretty okay (totally mess up on occasion, but can
generally do it right or recover quickly), and I'm remembering the dance
geography pretty well after a couple times through. I have room to
improve on all of these things, but I'm not finding that my
participation is messing up a set very much anymore, and the people I
dance with have made a point of telling me how well I'm doing on a
semi-regular basis.

I will not be able to attend the beginners class on its regular night
for a year. I will be able to attend it on the night it meets with the
intermediates, and I will be able to go to the dances every month
(between September and May). And, over the summer, when there are no
formal dances or classes, one of the advanced members has discussed
opening her home once a week for a potluck and some dancing, and I have
been invited to that.

I'm considering asking the teacher of the intermediates if I could come
there sometimes and dance with them. If they're doing something beyond
my ability, I would be happy to sit it out (breaks are good), but if
it's something I can handle with a bit of stretching, I would like to be
able to try it.

There's been some discussion of when/how you progress from the beginner
class to the intermediate, and the response has been pretty vague, so
I'm guessing there may not be a formal process for that (which makes
sense, given the difficulties others have noted elsewhere here). I
don't want to be tromping on any toes with that request, and I
understand that my request could stir things up conceivable. From my
perspective, I'd rather do something that will keep my learning and
progressing, rather than taking an extended time off and just trying to
keep up at the dances.

So that's where I'm at, and I'm not sure how that fits with the rest of
the discussion. I recognize the struggle between trying to invite and
retain beginners on the one hand, keeping them in a learning environment
when they need ot on another, and, on the third, moving them into more
advanced groups but only when they are ready. Since groups, areas, and
people are all different, I'm not sure that one set of rules will work,
but perhaps some good basic principles could be worked out that every
group and participant could use to take some of the pain out of that
process.

Take care,
Blain

A teaching point, from a beginner's perspective.

Message 35047 · Pia Walker · 24 Apr 2003 20:44:33 · Top

Hi Blain

All I can say is go for it - if there is a class you can go to, if you know
your strenghts and weaknesses and if you dance with them anyway on some
occasions - why not.

Good luck and Happy Dancing

Pia
----- Original Message -----
From: "Blain Nelson" <blainn13@earthlink.net>
To: <strathspey@strathspey.org>
Sent: Thursday, April 24, 2003 7:02 PM
Subject: Re: A teaching point, from a beginner's perspective.

> For those who aren't familiar with this, I have been attending classes
> since January, and attended a few dances before that.
>
> The beginner's class has been a bit touchy at times. We've had some
> weeks that we're short of a full set. There are four of us that have
> been there most of the time, and my daughter started coming to class
> with me a couple months ago. Aside from that core, we've had a couple
> who have been dancing at that level for a year previous who have come
> 1/3 to 1/4 of the time, and a few total beginners who have come 1-3
> times (mostly once).
>
> Of the core, the other male and my daughter have gone to every dance
> since we started attending class (and the first dance was after our
> first class). The two ladies in our core haven't come to any dances,
> and have only come once on the weeks (once a month) that we meet with
> the intermediate class (due to scheduling conflict).
>
> Now, to prepare for a new job, I've begun taking a class at the local
> tech college, which is offered the same night and most of the same time
> as my beginners class. As much as I love the dancing, I have to attend
> the other class. Now, the first week of my tech class was the week that
> our class meets with the intermediates on a different night, so I went
> then.
>
> I found that I was able to keep up with the things we were doing as well
> as many of the intermediates, and better than some (and, of course, some
> of them totally blew me away in terms of ability). My footwork is
> passable, my forms are pretty okay (totally mess up on occasion, but can
> generally do it right or recover quickly), and I'm remembering the dance
> geography pretty well after a couple times through. I have room to
> improve on all of these things, but I'm not finding that my
> participation is messing up a set very much anymore, and the people I
> dance with have made a point of telling me how well I'm doing on a
> semi-regular basis.
>
> I will not be able to attend the beginners class on its regular night
> for a year. I will be able to attend it on the night it meets with the
> intermediates, and I will be able to go to the dances every month
> (between September and May). And, over the summer, when there are no
> formal dances or classes, one of the advanced members has discussed
> opening her home once a week for a potluck and some dancing, and I have
> been invited to that.
>
> I'm considering asking the teacher of the intermediates if I could come
> there sometimes and dance with them. If they're doing something beyond
> my ability, I would be happy to sit it out (breaks are good), but if
> it's something I can handle with a bit of stretching, I would like to be
> able to try it.
>
> There's been some discussion of when/how you progress from the beginner
> class to the intermediate, and the response has been pretty vague, so
> I'm guessing there may not be a formal process for that (which makes
> sense, given the difficulties others have noted elsewhere here). I
> don't want to be tromping on any toes with that request, and I
> understand that my request could stir things up conceivable. From my
> perspective, I'd rather do something that will keep my learning and
> progressing, rather than taking an extended time off and just trying to
> keep up at the dances.
>
> So that's where I'm at, and I'm not sure how that fits with the rest of
> the discussion. I recognize the struggle between trying to invite and
> retain beginners on the one hand, keeping them in a learning environment
> when they need ot on another, and, on the third, moving them into more
> advanced groups but only when they are ready. Since groups, areas, and
> people are all different, I'm not sure that one set of rules will work,
> but perhaps some good basic principles could be worked out that every
> group and participant could use to take some of the pain out of that
> process.
>
> Take care,
> Blain
>

A teaching point, from a beginner's perspective.

Message 35058 · Lee Fuell · 25 Apr 2003 00:07:50 · Top

Blain,

Re:

> I'm considering asking the teacher of the intermediates if I could come
> there sometimes and dance with them. If they're doing something beyond
> my ability, I would be happy to sit it out (breaks are good), but if
> it's something I can handle with a bit of stretching, I would like to be
> able to try it.

Sounds to me from your description you should be able to fit into an intermediate
class. As well as you did at the mixed class, I'd say just go for it - show up and
jump in and show them what you can do! Remember, it's usually easier to obtain
forgiveness than get permission.

Lee

A teaching point, from a beginner's perspective.

Message 35059 · Pia Walker · 25 Apr 2003 10:17:34 · Top

I've got to remember this one - It's brilliant !!!!!!!!!

Pia

Remember, it's usually easier to obtain forgiveness than get permission.
>
> Lee
>

Does anyone know if

Message 35062 · Pia Walker · 25 Apr 2003 10:21:05 · Top

Sorry to bother you all

Does anyone know of any Scottish Dancing in Brazil? Near Piracicaba? In
July? I have already got feelers out for a local Samba class :>) But hope
to do pas-de-basque as well if possible (not much difference in step though
:>)

Pia

Does anyone know if

Message 35074 · Ray D. Sampson · 25 Apr 2003 16:54:19 · Top

Pia:
There used to be a dancing group in Sao Paulo, part of the St Andrews
Society, but I don't think they are active now... also there is a group
in Rio de Janeiro, but I do not know any of the particulars! I
might possibly be able to find out, if you wish.

Ciao,

Ray Sampson
On Friday, April 25, 2003, at 01:21 AM, Pia Walker wrote:

> Sorry to bother you all
>
> Does anyone know of any Scottish Dancing in Brazil? Near Piracicaba?
> In
> July? I have already got feelers out for a local Samba class :>) But
> hope
> to do pas-de-basque as well if possible (not much difference in step
> though
> :>)
>
> Pia
>

Does anyone know if

Message 35076 · Pia Walker · 25 Apr 2003 17:13:00 · Top

That would be great I'm going to the Sao Paulo area, and it would be nice to
hook up with someone.

PIa
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ray Sampson" <raysunshine@earthlink.net>
To: <strathspey@strathspey.org>
Sent: Friday, April 25, 2003 3:52 PM
Subject: Re: Does anyone know if

> Pia:
> There used to be a dancing group in Sao Paulo, part of the St Andrews
> Society, but I don't think they are active now... also there is a group
> in Rio de Janeiro, but I do not know any of the particulars! I
> might possibly be able to find out, if you wish.
>
> Ciao,
>
> Ray Sampson
> On Friday, April 25, 2003, at 01:21 AM, Pia Walker wrote:
>
> > Sorry to bother you all
> >
> > Does anyone know of any Scottish Dancing in Brazil? Near Piracicaba?
> > In
> > July? I have already got feelers out for a local Samba class :>) But
> > hope
> > to do pas-de-basque as well if possible (not much difference in step
> > though
> > :>)
> >
> > Pia
> >
>

A teaching point

Message 35043 · Lee Fuell · 24 Apr 2003 13:20:39 · Top

Elizabeth,

Re:

<snip>

> I guess it's one of those issues where there won't be a single solution
> for every situation.
>
> Elizabeth Low

This is an extremely wise observation, and I believe true for most issues. Learning
how other groups do things is valuable, but only to obtain insight and ideas, not
prescriptive formulaic solutions. Effective leadership requires leaders to know the
members of the group, know the unique circumstances of their group situation, and
devise unique solutions to unique local problems. There is no "single sustainable
model for success" that can be applied universally because we are all unique
individuals, all groups are collections of unique individuals with a unique corporate
persona, and although problems may be similar the best solutions may be totally
different - but equally valid.

Happy dancing,

Lee

A teaching point

Message 35066 · Helen P. · 25 Apr 2003 12:02:51 · Top

Around the Washington, DC, area, beginners usually are told they may "go up"
at any time during the year -- whenever they, individually, are ready (as
decided by a small group of the teachers who usually teach a particular
group).

This can be extremely frustrating for some beginnners, especially
experienced English Country or Contra dancers who have crossed over to SCD.
That's an awkward situation, because they usually are fairly good at the
overall figures, but they often haven't a clue about foot & hand technique,
nor deportment. So, should the teacher try to teach them, running the risk
of driving them away altogether; or else let them loose on the general
class, where they are reasonably self-sufficient, but won't ever be really
good without learning that basic technique?

Also, the teachers are often inconsistent. For example, I started out in
two classes. I went up from one class months before I was permitted to
progress by the other teacher. At the time, I understood why this occurred,
and I did benefit from the instruction, but it was still very frustrating.
At least it was better than if I had been forced to wait for a whole year
(even that would be an appropriate length of time for some beginners).

On the matter of the percentage of experienced dancers in beginner classes,
and also the fading out through poor attendance, please consider our Friday
Basic classes. We have a consistent teaching group: a full cert' husband
and prelim wife, plus another prelim. Along with me (a frequent class
musician and dancer), the foursome has made the class "ours". Thus, the
classes get advertised and announced regularly, the students are comfortable
with consistant teachers (with occasional guest teachers), and it's not hard
to organize since we four are all in it together. The full cert' is the
overall "boss", but all of us are there almost every time to teach, dance,
or play music -- and then have a social hour after class (to sip tea, munch
cookies, and talk). Typically, half of the class is experienced dancers.
That's a lovely mix, because no one is overly burdened with too many
beginners, yet the beginners know it's still "their" class. It's quite
sociable, and the beginners learn very quickly from familar teachers -- and
with about one "assistant" to dance with each one of them.

In the past, the Branch started classes like this each Fall, that usually
died by January. This one, due to the consistent effort by the foursome,
has been going for, gosh, what is it?, three or so years now, even during
the summers. We were forced to miss a lot of classes due to local area
shutdowns for 9/11 and the sniper attacks, but it's still going.

So, having consistent teacher(s), regular advertising, & personal
encouragement, and treating the basic dancers as dancers, not nuisances, has
gone a long way towards making this a fun class for us all.

Also, since the beginners now know several experienced dancers well, they're
much more secure about going to "big" events. It's especially reassuring to
go with a promise of at least one dance with an experienced dancer with whom
they're familar.

So, guess which dance or dance class is *my* top pick this Friday night...?
:-)

-- Helen (MD USA)

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