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How can a teacher develop healthy classroom culture?

By Dezmond Garcia

I want to talk about classroom culture. It’s important because in my opinion it determines how quickly dancers mature in their dance journey. I have a lot to learn with regards to teaching and I feel I have much to grow in, but along my dance teaching journey I have learned some core principles that have helped increase classroom retention and attention over the years. Healthy classroom culture will allow everyone to be comfortable and to ultimately help pull How can a teacher develop healthy classroom culture? | Allegro Dancethe best out of each person in class. I've kept my processes simple and practical. I have two goals in every class:

1) My first goal is to break walls and build trust. I want to create a safe environment for failure and challenge. This allows me to build a professional and healthy relationship with all my dancers.

2) My second goal is to encourage them to keep taking class without losing enthusiasm or love for their passion and I have learned our energy as teachers has a lot of influence over that. The first thing I learned is the power of first impressions and setting expectations. I like to start and end all my classes in a huge circle. When we start class I will take attendance and everyone will greet that dancer as I say each dancer's name. This helps me pronounce names correctly and helps everyone feel seen! It also gives me time to lay the ground work of what we will be doing along with rules for the class. The circle is important because it’s an inclusive shape.

At the end of class we gather in a large circle again and I have each dancer share what they like and learned in class for the day. This helps dancers feel heard and appreciated but also helps them evaluate their experience in class. It also gives me a gauge on how each dancer processed class with me by their tone and words. If I feel something is off after class I can make time to chat and see what’s bothering them. The next thing I do to help me achieve my two goals mentioned above is to work the room. I walk among the dancers side by side behind them, sometimes right in front of them! I never stay still. I also always look for small ways to edify dancers specifically and uniquely. I show students, that I am one of them... human! That I am here to help and guide their dance journey in whatever way I can. This is great because it eliminates hierarchy and allows dancers to feel safe. It also guides them to develop a positive attitude towards mistakes and it helps them to treat their peers with respect as well. To not compare our skills, but rather to respect each others growth journeys! My biggest lesson thus far is that people do what people see and the best way to develop a class culture is to BE your class culture, to embody it. Many things in life are caught not taught. A quote, “Kids are terrible listeners, but great imitators” always sticks with me although I don't remember where I heard it. I do

always check myself and my spirit because ultimately that’s what gets replicated in your class. I hope the small practices and ideas shared here will help you on your journey to making your class, a class to look forward to!


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