1.       When is class over?  or It’s time for class to end.  These questions/comments are rude and indicate you would rather be somewhere else.  If you would rather be somewhere else, maybe you should be there instead.  The teacher takes the time given to the education of his or her students seriously.  He or she is trying to teach you something and you should be focused on what is being taught, not watching the clock.

2.       I don’t get it. This is a terrible and unintelligent question.   Be specific about what you don’t understand.  Do you need to see the combination again? Do you not understand the musicality?  Do not understand the arms and head?  Do you not understand the correction?  Be specific and your teacher will be more than happy to help you. 

3.       Am I doing this right? If you were doing it wrong, the teacher would tell you. 

4.       Watch me. The teacher is trying to watch all the students in his or her class.  He or she will watch you all equally and yes, some of your best moments may be missed.  Take pride in knowing you did them well even if the teacher didn’t see them. 

5.       When can I move up? or When do I get pointe shoes? When the teacher thinks you are ready, he or she will let you know.   These questions are not going to make your teacher look at you and say, ‘Oh my goodness, I totally forgot.  I meant to do that three weeks ago!  Thanks for reminding me!’  You’re more likely to get, ‘When you finally hold your stomach up throughout class without me having to tell you yet again.’

6.       What do I need to work on? Many students and parents think this is a great question to ask and it makes most teachers cringe.  You should know exactly what you need to work on if you are paying attention in class.  You should know the corrections you get often and the general corrections given for the entire class’ benefit.  A much better conversation would be, ‘Miss Erin, these are the things I think I really need to work on.  Am I on the right track?  Can you give me any pointers on how to address these issues?’   

7.       Can we do ______ today? Fill in the blank.  So this is a hard one for a teacher to deal with.  We certainly don’t want to squelch your enthusiasm, but we do not appreciate being treated like a call-in-request radio show either.  The best dance teachers come in with a very clear agenda and lesson plan of what they would like to cover in class that day.  A better way would be to come to the teacher after class and say something like this, ‘Miss Erin, the fouetté turns that I have to do for Snow Queen are making me nervous.  Could you maybe work on those sometime in class or work with me before or after class to get me more comfortable with them?’

8.       Can you come in early and teach me what I missed? Dance instructors, especially adjuncts at the college level, barely get paid to teach it once.   We also only get paid for the hours we actually teach and have no obligation to come in early or stay after class to help you.  When we do so, we are doing that out of the goodness of hearts and the fact we want to see you succeed, so be appreciative of our time.  Besides, you would never even think of asking a lecture professor to come in early to repeat the lecture they did the day before because you missed it.  Dance instructors are no different.  What will make a teacher want to give up their free time to help you?  Perhaps something like this, ‘Miss Erin, I know I missed class yesterday and I’m so sorry.  I asked my classmates what I missed in class and they showed me these two new steps and the choreography I missed.  May I please show them to you before class tomorrow so I can make sure I’m doing them right?’ 

9.       I’m tired.  This is especially bad when you’re whining.   You don’t think your teacher is tired?  He or she would never dream of complaining to you about it.  They came to class with a job to do and so did you.  Besides, it’s not a very inspiring thing to hear from a student and it doesn’t motivate the teacher to work with you if you announce to them that you’d rather be home in bed.   

10.   I can’t.  This phrase used to drive me crazy as a teacher.  However, over the years I’ve figured out this phrase is code for one of three things: I don’t want to, I don’t have the courage to try, or I haven’t figured out how yet.  When students say ‘I can’t,’ it’s more than just verbal, it’s mental.  As a student, if you tell yourself, ‘I can’t,’ then quite literally you won’t.  You are limiting your own potential when you use this phrase and I never accept that from any student in any class that I teach. 

68 comments on “Ten Things You Should Never Say to Your Dance Teacher

  1. Jenn

    I want to follow <3

    1. Jo Hogan

      The only 2 I haven’t said… #1 and #2. Sorry Cindi.

      1. Jo Hogan

        #1 and #8. I have said #2. Sorry once again. :/

  2. Michele Philage

    Great article!

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Kari Jensen

    Thank you so much for writing this! These are all things that make me crazy when my students say them! Printing this up now and putting it in our dance room 🙂

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Thank you so much Kari!

  4. Lauren

    The “I can’t” point is overly simplistic and extremely frustrating.

    Often, teachers are so used to students who misuse “I can’t” to mean “I’m too lazy” that they overlook a student who actually can’t and push them too far. When I danced, I had severe back pain and, despite knowing my body and knowing I was being pushed too far, I was constantly accused of being lazy when I said “I can’t do this – my back hurts too much.” Luckily, I was assertive enough to put my foot down, but a lot of young dancers aren’t.

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Lauren, that’s a very good point. If a student has an injury, the teacher needs to be aware of it. We cannot help students if we aren’t given all the information and or made aware of the situation. I would never push a student to do something if they are injured. If they say, ‘I can’t because my back hurts.’ The teacher should ask how long it has been hurting and how chronic the pain is. If it’s been over a week or it hurts to walk, a doctor’s appointment should be scheduled immediately.

  5. M. Butterfly

    What a great piece! I will be printing this out to show my dance students.
    Great blog, by the way! I look forward to reading more. 🙂

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Thank you!

  6. Anne-Marie

    Dear Miss Erin,
    As a multiple-show Broadway performer, choreographer, instructor and studio owner… I’d like to reply:

    10 Things You Should Never Say / Do To Your Dance Students:
    1) Don’t expect them not to be children.
    Because they are. Wanting approbation ‘watch me!!’, wanting to mature ‘move up’ to point shoes before they’re ready, wanting attention… These are not bad qualities in as child, they are the hallmarks of being a child. And many who care enough to ask those questions may be your future.
    2) Just because they’re asking when class is over or yawning does not necessarily signify disrespect… Kids (AND teens AND adults) these days are often over scheduled, with piles of homework awaiting them. Take it with a grain of salt and say, as I do: class is over when it’s over, and am I keeping you up?’ And then there’s:’ at least cover your mouth if you must yawn!!’
    3) If a child cares enough to ask you to ‘come in early’… You’ve struck gold. OF COURSE your busy schedule may not allow for such, but be gratified. There is a gentle way to inform them of how to catch up… Suggest a classmate who ‘has it’, or even perhaps a half hour private if warranted.
    4) You’re not in it for the money.
    Ask any teacher… You’ll never be a Rockefeller. One of the hallmarks of being an instructor, whether Dolly Dinkle Dance or at the college level, is the acceptance of that, and also the recognition that seeing students grow is, truly, a reward. I’ve had several on Broadway, and in a way it was more rewarding than being on that stage myself was.
    5) A sense of humor goes a long way.
    Take a deep breath and think of something clever… Correct with a wink and a smile. When you tell them their Time Step sounds like a Tyrannosaurus Rex shaking the prehistoric earth… You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how light it might eventually sound.
    6) Keep in mind: the study of dance is not a pre-professional track for every student. A hallmark of the art of dance is joy in expression: don’t squelch it. The child that takes 1 class a week deserves just as much attention and patience as the one dancing 15 hours +.
    7) Be flexible. And I don’t mean just splits and battlements. Yes, we all go in with a lesson plan and a combo… But if your class is excited about last weeks combo, or just saw ‘Axles’ or switch leaps on TV… Maybe you roll with it for 10 minutes. If they’re not advanced enough for the moves they request, find a preparatory move that excites them..
    8) Don’t expect too much.
    Growth, whether physical, mental, or emotional, happens in spurts. Ride the wave… Every class will not be their… Or YOUR, for that matter… Best.
    9) Keep your own ego out of it.
    When students challenge you, they’re doing what they’re supposed to… Just as you should challenge them. It’s not personal, it’s part of being an instructor.
    10) There’s no CAN’T in Dance.
    There’s a C, an A, and an N… But no ‘T’… CAN is in Dance, but no CAN’T.
    Try that saying next time you hear ‘I can’t.’

    As a veteran professional of 34 years… Performing, teaching 100’s of students, and now owning… I’ve found what works best comes down to just one thing: loving what you do and passing it on. It’s contagious.

    ~Anne-Marie Gerard Galler

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Anne-Marie, you seem like a very understanding and passionate teacher and I appreciate your feedback. However, I think our teaching styles are very different. Not better or worse, just different.

      When I was in high school, I overheard my father, a teacher of over 30 years in the public school system, talking to a young teacher just starting out. His advice has always stuck with me through the years and that is what I base my teaching philosophy upon. He told the young teacher, ‘Always set the bar high for your students. If you do, they will surpass what they ever thought was possible. Some of the truly brilliant students will even surpass what you thought was possible. That’s your most important job as an educator, not to caudal your students weaknesses, but inspire them to be their very best selves.’

      Am I hard on my students? Yes I am and I’m proud of it, but mostly I’m proud of them. Even my youngest students surprise me and inspire me everyday with their passion, artistry and yes, professionalism. I have found that if you treat students like children, they will act like children, but if you treat them like dancers and accept only brilliance, they will rise to the challenge.

      1. Anne-Marie

        Miss Erin-
        I definitely agree with you on so many levels… Discipline is an, if not THE, most important element of dance training…. Learning to keep my very (obviously) verbacious mouth shut early on got me to work with the formidable Jerome Robbins and onto Broadway at 22… Trust me, it takes A LOT of discipline to wait 5 hours to be seen as Non Equity… But the reward was an equity card with a Master.
        Even in NYC, for the last 20 years or so, discipline and correction have been doled out with a wink… And often very BITING… Smile. I do not condone treating children AS children… But I DO Believe in leading, guiding, correcting and allowing for the fact that they ARE still children. Maybe some of that comes with being a Mom myself. I don’t get the best out of my son with sternness and threats, but with some discipline, some leniency, some humor and a lot of understanding.
        Nuff said… I respect your position…. And hope I’m sitting next to you the day your ‘first kid’ hits Broadway… It’s MAGICAL!!

        1. Anne-Marie

          If you get the chance… Check out my FB page, where I posted our discussion, and the responses of some of my friends…veteran NYC teachers Juan Borona And Roberta Mathes (STEPS NYC for 20+ years)… 2 sides of the coin… Enjoy!!

        2. Miss Erin Post author

          Thanks Anne-Marie, I’ll definitely check out your Facebook page. Have loved chatting with you! I love banter. Don’t worry, most of my students consider me extremely positive and I always correct with smile and a high-five for the little ones. Most of my students are ballet dancers and are dancing throughout the country…so excited to see them succeed. I have a few of my Wright State University students that are working on and off Broadway. You’re right, it is magical!

    2. Annette Funnyjello

      thank you for your post. It pains me as a parent to have dance instructors (or any educator) that is not a parent themselves, to try and discipline or over correct children and their tendencies.

    3. Miss Jessica

      You Go Girl!

    4. Clara

      Anne-Marie, Thanks so much for your intelligent commentary. I thought the comments in the original article to be rude and somewhat ignorant. Your perspective shows the positive side of things.

      1. Miss Erin Post author

        Clara, I’m sorry you disliked my article so much. If you read all the responses back and forth between Anne-Marie and myself, I think you’ll find an explanation of my reasoning and a pretty intelligent conversation between us. The other thing I know is that if I had said anything even remotely like the 10 things I wrote to one of my teachers growing up, it would have meant immediate expulsion from class. If I can prepare my students to be able to take class with any teacher and to keep them from getting kicked out of any class or from offending any teacher, then I feel like I did my job as an educator. I also think it’s funny that this article has gotten so much attention when my other more positive posts on my blog have been ignored.

      2. Anne-Marie

        Thanks Clara.

    5. Susan Lindquist

      Anne Marie,
      Thank you for this response. It reads coming more from an objective view. Erin’s read very abrasive and tunnel visioned, not considering students situation and perspective or that people respond to learning in different ways. Saying you don’t get something is the beginning of voicing frustration. A conversation easily addressable by the teacher leading the student towards communicating what exactly they have trouble with. Dance is very challenging and competitive. It can feel very self defeating if you don’t feel you are personally as advanced as the class you’re in is. Constantly comparing yourself to others and the teacher. Dance should come from a place of love and encouraging potential, not complaining that someone didn’t ask you the right way, or say it right. There is no teacher that immediately addresses every single wrong move when the class is learning it-of course it’s not perfect the first, second, third time etc. if it were, we wouldn’t need to repeat the dances over and over and come to class to practice it again and again. So, that seems just like you are only thinking of the gripes you have, when really, you teach for the joy and masterpiece at the end and seeing individual growth. Trust is very important for a dancer. Being able to trust you can go to your teacher for guidance, encouragement and self assurance. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. If someone doesn’t ask you all these things the right way it pisses you off? (Eye roll ) Get over yourself.

      1. Miss Erin Post author

        Hi Susan! I never said that I get angry with my students for saying these things. Frustrated yes. I never roll my eyes at my students and use these moments when they say these things as teachable moments. I rephrase their question; I explain why that is not an appropriate thing to say or explain a way they can voice those things in a more polite manner. My job is to educate my students and I love them and what I do. This article was written for my students to see my real point of view when they say these things and it made the ones that read it laugh and say, ‘Boy, I do say those things! Now I know how you really feel about it and I can be a better a student.’ To me, that’s a win.

    6. Heather

      You hit every point I thought of while reading the original article. My 13 year old has been a dancer since the age of 3. She’s gone from recreational dance to competitive dance to now, dancing for a cause and not the applause. I would love to have your points of view read by instructors and studio owners. I’ve seen far too many sensational dancers, lose confidence, and even worse, their life of dance because of lack of understanding from their teachers. They are children, not robots. Respecting their instructors is very important, just as understanding the dancers are as well. Thank you again for the response you had.

  7. Miss Adrianne

    Love this! This is everything I have been thinking the last two weeks – the honeymoon phase of being back at dance is over and gone!

    To avoid “I can’t” I try to inspire positive self-talk with my dancers (well.. and other mental training concepts) – it’s a hard skill to learn but they’re starting to, and I’ve noticed a very positive change! We also have an “I can’t” jar; same idea as a swear jar – the money goes towards Master Classes for the dancers, or team building parties 🙂

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Love the positive self talk and try to inspire it in my own students as well. So many students hold themselves back from reaching their potential that it is very sad to see. The I Can’t Jar is brilliant! I will definitely be starting one at my studio. Thanks for sharing that fantastic idea!

      1. Miss Adrianne

        You’re welcome! I hope it works for you!
        Can’t wait to read more 🙂

  8. Hubbard

    A few quibbles. For #1, if the class is indeed going over, the students might have buses to catch. It is rude if we’re nowhere near the end, but most kids have lives outside of class, and a missed bus can mean a lot of waiting or a lot of walking.

    Re: #3. Some teachers are regrettably less than clear. Kids need feedback, and I’ve known a few teachers and coaches who get tired and stop letting students know how well (or badly) they’re doing.

    Re: #8. Actually, students do go see lecturing professors outside of class at office hours, which is why they don’t get why a dance teacher is different.

    Re: #10. The first thing to ask when a student says, “I can’t” is to ask, “Are you injured and didn’t tell me?” Remember that some kids are embarrassed about being human and try to tough it out, which is how niggling injuries get serious. But if they’re not hurt, then by all means go nuclear.

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      I very rarely let my students out late, so when I do go over time, it’s because it’s something important. I once had a teacher when I was fifteen keep me and my partner an hour over in a coaching session and he didn’t stop until our parents politely knocked on the door. He said, ‘oh my goodness, why didn’t you tell me?’ The truth is, we would never have dreamed of interrupting him. I still remember partnering tips from that session and I wouldn’t have missed that hour for the world. That’s how I want my students to feel about learning.

      I agree that some teachers are less than clear with corrections. There is a difference between ‘I don’t understand the corrections you are giving me,’ ‘I don’t understand why I’m not receiving any feedback,’ and ‘what do I need to work on?’

      Even with lecture professors, they would never repeat their lecture for you, but would be willing to answer any intelligent questions you had about topics you missed, I’m the same. I come to class a half hour early everyday to help my students, but I expect them to come prepared with specific things they’d like to work on.

      I totally agree with point 10. Some kids will tell you about everything and anything that hurts and others are too scared to tell you of a serious injury. I think it’s important to know your students personality and your question, ‘Are you injured and didn’t tell me?’ is perfect.

      Thanks so much for your feedback!

  9. Heather

    I hear #10 a lot. Whenever my students tell me “I can’t do this” I make them rephrase their statement: “I can’t do this YET”. Then I remind all of them that they can indeed do whatever we are working on, it just might take some extra practice.

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      I agree Heather. ‘I can’t’ usually comes from frustration, so it’s good to keep students thinking positive. Thanks for reading.

  10. Sherri

    Thank you for reaffirming my belief that dance is not for my girls. The phrasing you expect requires a certain developmental skill that most young children don’t have. It’s only with patience and careful role modelling that they will achieve the reflective practice you expect. Heck, most adults I know aren’t capable of this. Children are egocentric and are going to look to you, as their role model to “look at me”. They generally are desperate to please those in authority and so make attempts by saying “look at me” and asking what they are doing wrong. They want to do it right, to have some attention and to please you.
    Respect is earned not assumed. Just as you expect your time to be respected, you must remember that parents’ (and children’s) time is precious too. Don’t allow your classes to run over. Families have other commitments, events or….I don’t know,,,,,just want to go home and be a family. The fact that you don’t seem to have an issue with your classes potentially running over time because you might have something important to work on is disrespectful. That child may have other important things to do or just have plans to be a child! Their time is just as valuable as yours is.
    So I thank you…..this definitely has been an enlightening article

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Hi Sherri! I actually teach many different ages of students, the youngest being 5, but I also teach at the college level as well. Obviously I don’t expect the same vocabulary from every age group. Of course it’s cute when a 5 year old says, ‘Watch me Miss Erin,’ but it’s quite a different issue when a freshman in college gets angry with me because I missed seeing them do a triple pirouette. Students of all ages need to understand that I have many students in the class and that I make a conscience effort to give feedback to every single student in every single class I teach. However, I’m not perfect and I’m going to miss some of the things they do because I have other students in the room that want and need my attention just as much as they do. One of my jobs is to teach them, kindly and with compassion for the youngest ones, that it’s not all about them all the time.

      Same thing with the question, ‘what do I need to work on?’ If a eight year old asks me that question, I don’t get angry, I simply repeat the question back to them, ‘what do you think you need to work on?’ Most of the time they can tell me exactly the right things and I can add or subtract from their list. If a 16 year old asks that question, my response will probably be, ‘you should know the answer to that question and if you don’t, perhaps paying attention and writing down your corrections would be a good place to start.’

      As for letting students out late, it is my responsibility to let them out on time and I take that very seriously. I have never run a class over more than 5 minutes in my entire career as a teacher and the only rehearsals that run over are dress rehearsals and I tell my parents that ahead of time. If I had asked a teach that question at any age when I was a student they would have expelled me from the class immediately with no explanation, in fact I watched it happen to a fellow student when we were 8. She asked, ‘when’s this class over?’ and the teacher’s reply was, ‘for you, right now, please leave the room.’ I need to educate my students to know the etiquette of dance classes so they can take class with any teacher, not just me, who is much more understanding than most people in my profession. That was the main goal of writing this article.

    2. Blaise

      I think all this article did was affirm that they shouldn’t go to this particular studio.

      I don’t think it’s very practical to take anything written in somebody’s blog and apply it to everyone in the world.

      This is why it’s important to actively seek a studio that works for you. Just taking the kids to the one closest to your house is a gamble. Yes, all studios will expect your children to be responsible, just like they’re expected to behave in school. But they go about this in many, many different ways. If you don’t want them to dance, that’s fine, but don’t blame the author for that. She’s just one teacher. If you DO want them to dance, then take them to different studios to watch a class (or even try one out) until you find the right fit. Dance studios have different philosophies just like schools do, so just as you wouldn’t send your kids to a Catholic school if you were an atheist, you wouldn’t send your kids to a strict ballet school if you’re a more laidback parent.

  11. Amber

    You are a teacher that is paid to provide a service. If you don’t like your compensation, do something else. Treating children the way you do will kill any enthusiasm they have for dance. Professional doesnt mean you are allowed to be rude or a bully.

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      I am a teacher and I’m paid to provide a service and I absolutely love what I do. I think it’s important for the students to know and respect the fact that I’m choosing to spend my free, unpaid time with them. I could choose differently, many teachers do. However, I choose to come in early and stay late to help them because I love and care for their success way beyond what their tuition covers. They should be aware of that and respect that fact.

      I am NEVER rude to a student and I don’t think it’s wrong for me to expect the same from my students in return. The fact of the matter is that there is a very specific dance etiquette that is much more strict than in a normal classroom and my dancers need to know and understand that etiquette so they can take classes from any teacher with success. It isn’t a coincidence that every guest teacher that has worked with my students rants and raves about, not only their talent and technique, but their focus, work ethic and their manners. When I hear this, I know I’m doing my job and my students are doing their’s and I couldn’t be prouder!

  12. Amy

    Here’s one that you missed. I heard this one last night. “Can we do barre to Beyoncé?” or basically to any music besides classical ballet cd’s. Uuuummm no.

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Yes, I’ve heard that one too!

    2. KM

      Why not? If the beat isn’t actually correct, then you can tell your student that. But if it is, then why shouldn’t you do barre to pop music once in a while? Seems like a harmless indulgence to me.

      1. Miss Erin Post author

        I guess I’m just old school and so is the person that commented. I’m certainly not saying using modern music is bad, but it just isn’t for me. I like using music the kids know, but in the form of ballet cds and for special occasions like Christmas and for days when they are feeling depressed as a pick-me-up. I would recommend http://www.briorecordings.com/ They have a great selection of newer hits as well as original compositions that are beautifully played and have good tempos and the producer was a teacher of mine, the best!

  13. Kendra

    I have a problem with some of these.
    #1 Many children have multiple after-school activities and staying five or ten minutes late can really put a strain on a tight schedule.
    #3 As you said with #4 there are many students in a class and the teacher may not see every student do every combination at the barre. If a student is unsure they’re doing a move correctly i think this would be more than appropriate to ask.
    #6 Perhaps they should have been paying a bit more attention in class, but i really appreciate the effort of children who sincerely want to improve their performance and ask questions.

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Hi Kendra, thanks for reading! I always go out of my way to let my students out on time, which is why those questions are very irritating to me. I know not all teachers are as good as I try to be about time management, in fact, growing up, I had many teachers that kept us over and not just 5 or 10 minutes either. In those other teachers’ defense, when a teacher keeps students over, it can be a compliment to the class. The teacher can be so involved with the students that they don’t want to let them go until they understand a concept. As an aside, I feel that many kids these days can be severely overbooked, hopping from one thing to the next which can lead to stress and exhaustion for them.

      I also never get angry with a student who asks a question. It still doesn’t mean I don’t cringe inside a bit. However, if a student asks if they are doing something right, I usually pose the question back to them, “Do you think you are doing it right?” or “What do you think you need to work on?” I want to teach my students to self-correct with the information I have given them over the years, to think critically about what they’re doing and to problem solve, and finally to learn, apply and maintain their own corrections. These are the skills that will carry them into the future, not just as a dancer, but as a person and will serve them well when I am no longer their teacher.

  14. Victoria

    Miss Erin, I think that you are getting a lot of bad and negative comments back from people who don’t understand what you are trying to get at here. Being a dancer consistently since I was 16 and on and off before that since I was 3 I totally understand what you are trying to say. Granted, I am 22 and I understand most of the ‘adult’ logic in the world thanks to my wonderful mother. To Sherri who now ‘knows’ that dance is not for her child, I think you should go to a studio in your area, ask if you can enroll your child in dance for say, a month and then really see if its for her, even ask the studio if you can sit in on one or two classes to see what they are like, if you like the teaching style and if you think that would be suitable for your child, thats what my studio does. I think it’s squashing your child’s creativity if you automatically say that dance is not for her just because of this article, I think very different. I have learned lots from my own dance teacher who shared this on facebook, and this will only help me more to be a better student for her and for everyone else I have for a dance instructor. Thank you for writing this great piece. 🙂 Victoria

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Thanks Victoria! It’s funny that this article has been getting a lot of good feedback and my former students and colleagues around the country have seen it posted all over Facebook by people I don’t even know. However, the comments I’ve been getting on the blog itself have been a little mixed. I’m glad you found this helpful and I wish you the very best for your dance future!

  15. Blaise

    I actually disagree with most of these, but my teaching style is more relaxed than other people. I’m a full-time Spanish teacher by day, so my teaching in the classroom really shapes my teaching at the studio. Here are my thoughts:

    1. At the beginning of the year, this isn’t a big deal at all. Kids deserve to know when their class ends, and it’s going to take a few repetitions for them to remember. I’ve found that by November, everyone except the very youngest (3-4 year-olds) stops asking, because they don’t need to anymore. I’ve also never had a student tell me that it was time for class to be over unless I was clearly running over, in which case I thank the student for letting me know and dismiss them. My students generally have another class after mine, so it would be rude of ME to keep them past their time and make them late to their next class. Them letting me know it’s already 6:45 or whatever is just them being responsible.

    2. If a student isn’t specific enough with me, I just ask them a question like, “Well, what is it that you don’t understand?” Usually they’ll give a more specific answer. I don’t find this frustrating, because it only takes an extra second of my time to ask them to be more specific.

    3. The teacher can’t see every student at all times, so under circumstances where everyone is spread out working on a step at the same time, I think it’s very responsible of a student to ask this. I would be annoyed if I was going around to each student individually and they were still trying to call me over to them, but that’s never happened to me before. I only get this question when I’m trying to watch everyone at once, and under those conditions the question is completely valid.

    4. I’ve never had a student over the age of about 6 command me to watch them. If they’re that young, it’s fine. I appreciate their enthusiasm. If a teenager did this, yes I would be annoyed, but it’s never happened.

    5. I agree with you on this one, although maybe the student is actually looking for a specific response like the one you gave?

    6. This must be a college-level question, because I have never been asked this. I have no idea if I would be annoyed or not.

    7. I’m up front with my students at the beginning of the year that I actually LOVE requests. I have a good enough relationship with my students that they all know that I can’t always accommodate those requests, but usually if I don’t have time, I’ll ask them to ask again next week. After all, the only way I can know what steps they’re having trouble with that are in their dances is if they tell me (with my competition kids, I only teach technique classes, so I have nothing to do with choreography).

    8. Again, this must be a college-level question? I’ve never been asked this. With younger kids, we need to go over the steps every week anyway because they need the repetition, and older kids know to just ask their friends.

    9. YES. My only real pet peeve is this whining.

    10. I think every teacher of any subject in the world would agree with this.

    I did notice that you said you mostly just teach ballet, so maybe that’s why you’re so much stricter? I’m a tap technique teacher (although I teach other subjects to younger kids), so maybe that has something to do with it. But I grew up at a fabulous studio, and we were great dancers who also felt like our teacher was a second mom. If kids can be great dancers without all the harshness, why be so strict? For your college dancers, obviously the game has changed, but at a studio it is totally possible to have disciplined students who also aren’t afraid to say what’s on their mind.

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Thanks for reading my article! Yes, I do teach mostly ballet which can be more strict. A lot of these were for my college students, musical theatre majors, who have rarely taken a dance class before taking my beginning ballet class and it was written to educate them. Most of my dancers do see me as a mother a figure and many will tell you that I’m one of the most positive teachers they’ve ever had. I support my dancers, many through to professional careers, but they need to know that not all teachers are as understanding as I am. Many of these things they say that make me shake my head or laugh when I tell them that’s not the best question to ask could get them kicked out of other teacher’s classes.

  16. Heather B

    Hey hey hey!
    As a dancer, professional, teacher, and student I absolutely ADORE this article. I do have thoughts for the negative commenters: there are always exceptions to rules. But the rule is the general norm. When you send your child to school, there are certain social norms and appropriate behavior that is expected. Same with a dance class. Miss Erin is obviously not putting the same emphasis on a rule on a 6 year old that she would a 20 year old.
    No matter what the method, all teachers want their students to be great. It’s hard as a passionate artist and teacher to see potential beyond what my students can see in themselves and not bug out a little on the inside when they say ‘I can’t .’
    Furthermore, our hope is not only to make them great dancers, it’s to help them to become great people who can function in any and all settings- dance, professional, what have you. If you have so so many negative things to say about this, you’re just not seeing the big picture.
    I appreciate great teachers and great articles like this one. It just makes the fire inside burn hotter, brighter, and bigger.
    Thank you. Much love.

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Thanks Heather…I appreciate your comments. Thanks so much for reading!

  17. Jenn

    Wow Erin! I read this article when you first published it and I thought it was very well written and well thought out. It is great you have gotten so much feedback!
    I think the bottom line is there are MANY different teaching styles out there. It doesn’t mean that one is right and one is wrong. But I must say- you answered every post (both negative and postive) with class and respect. I think that is very indicative of your personality… even more so than the well written article.

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Thanks Jenn! This article has brought a lot of traffic to this site and the results were a bit overwhelming considering I wrote it for my own students and my colleagues that I know…up to 30,000 views in a single day. It just seems crazy. I’ve learned that most of the people that like it won’t comment, but ones that disagree will, which is fine by me. You know me, I always like a good debate as long as it is an intelligent one!

  18. Cat

    I guess I’m in the minority here, because I have no problem w/ my daughter’s dance classes running over. If they are in “the zone “& making progress, or having a bad day, & need to run the dance a few more time, then so be it. We also don’t engage in the “I can’t” mentality, I agree w/ the “You can’t…yet. Keep working & you will”. My daughter has been dancing since she was 5, she is 11 now, & takes dance very seriously. Dance is her life, 2nd to school & homework, which she works on before she goes to dance & when she gets home, whenever that may be. She dances 6, sometimes 7 days a week, 17+ hrs. a week. Family time? Our family works around her dance commitments, because this is not just an “after school activity” for her, it is her passion, & she works harder than most 11 yr. olds I know, often w/o complaining, because complaining is not tolerated under most circumstances. Other activities? She fully, willingly & happily sacrifices almost all other commitments, including birthday parties & other weekend activities, because she spends a majority of her weekends at the studio. So, as someone who’s family doesn’t view dance as just another after school activity or hobby to fit in between soccer practice & girl scouts, I think the author is right on “pointe”, pun intended 😉

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Thanks Cat! Sounds like you are a great, supportive dance mom! Thanks for your comments and thanks for supporting your daughter as she reaches for her dreams and goals. I wish her the best of luck in her training!

  19. Carolyn

    This makes me so sad to read. It sounds so much like a teacher that’s burnt out and/or lacking in the empathy and compassion it takes to be a teacher. No student is going to communicate exactly as you seem to want them to, but if you listen to what they actually say, you can hear what they mean. That’s teaching!

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Carolyn, you could not be farther from the truth. Many of my students would tell you that I am none of the things listed above. I am never cruel to students, but there are rules that need to be followed when it comes to ballet classes, an art that dates back to the 1500’s and still follows many of those same rules with which it started. It is my job to teach my students what is and is not appropriate to say and do. This does not mean that I teach them in a mean way. I restate their questions; I explain why and how they could express themselves better. That is my job as a ballet teacher, it’s what I’ve dedicated my life to and it’s what I love.

  20. Ann

    Miss Erin,
    I thought your article was adorable and really good advice. Every teacher of any kind deals with these things. You are so gracious and talented at conversing with people who disagreed with you.
    Many teachers understand and know that they are dealing with kids or young adults and most aren’t heading to becoming professionals.
    I appreciated Anne-Marie’s commentary as well. Hopefully she has a blog too! Loved the conversation you two engaged in. Pretty mature and engaging stuff for a dance teacher like myself.
    I have heard every single one of these things you spoke of and I have certain responses that I give to all of my students of various ages. I try to use everything as a teaching opportunity… even yawning.
    Thanks for this. Enjoyed it

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Thank you for reading my article and reading it in the spirit in which it was written. I agree, Anne-Marie had great insight as well and I enjoyed our conversation. I’d love to hear some of the things you say to encourage your dancers. A good teacher is always a good student and I’m always trying to learn from others.

  21. Karli

    I have been a dancer for 14 years, and I recently had to quit what I loved to do, dance, because of a teacher with a similar attitude to this. I completely understand the discipline that accompanies dancing. I respect that, but there is a right and wrong way to deal with things. I am not completely bashing this article by any means. Like I said, I understand the role disciple plays in dance, but teachers do need to realize the importance of a busy schedule with homework, etc. I had no plans to be a professional dancer by any means, but dancing is something I loved to do and my teacher ruined it for me. I can tell you have a passion for dance, but please keep it that way. Their are so many girls out there that are so eager to learn, and teachers need to stop letting their egos get in the way. It is so hard to appreciate dance and want to come and have a good time while also being professional if you are always put down and have to be “whipped in line”. As other comments have said,kids will be kids, they have other obligations besides dance, and they just want to be encouraged and praised sometimes (that was another thing we never got). I was definitely in the wrong place to dance because I have a type A personality and my coach was an autocratic leader with no room for any flexibility. She would even take away from other extracurricular activities we had going on (in high school). Again, it is not so much that I despise your post, but I just had to vent about how awful (like to the extreme) some dance teachers take discipline and their role as a mentor.

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Karli, I’m so sad to hear that you have quit dancing. There are so many people I meet that regret their decision to give up something they love. I know many of my students will never be dancers, but I know that I can instill in them the love of dance for a lifetime and give them skills that will help them in whatever they choose to do. I always make sure to praise my dancers when they do well and just because I don’t let them say these things doesn’t mean that I correct them in a negative or nasty way. I would suggest you try a few other studios and see if you can find a better fit for you. Please don’t let one negative experience stop you from doing something you enjoy.

  22. Sarah Boho

    I teach adult Middle Eastern dance classes and reposted this article on my personal FB page. I read this from the perspective of teaching adult students. And it still really resonated with me! Especially the last two, “I’m tired” and “I can’t”. I definitely don’t mind ONE BIT if students ask for critique. I think all of my students know that. But saying “I’m tired” or “I can’t” is extremely frustrating to any teacher and signifies to me that you aren’t interested in being there or getting better. We *all* may feel that way from time to time, but it should also push you to work harder. Saying out loud “I can’t” is bad for the morale of the group and is the wrong way of asking for attention. There are ways of approaching these questions in respectful manner.

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Hi Sarah! I’m glad you liked the article. I agree that those comments can bring down a class and that you need to respectfully address these statements and try to turn them into a positive. Thanks for reading!

  23. Miss Erin and Miss Ann Marie had valid articles. Every teacher has a their own special approach to teaching. I do not understand the reason some people have to be negative. Miss Erin should not have to defend herself with how she teaches her students. Miss Erin and Miss Ann Marie have different approaches and want their students to succeed in dancing. Miss Erin has explained she addresses each age group differently when it comes to teaching, discipline, and etiquette in a way each age group would understand. It is also important compliment and praise a dancer so they do not lose hope. This article has shown me the perspective of the dance instructor which I greatly appreciate and also what not to do or say. If I had a child who wanted to dance, I would enroll him/her in a studio such as Miss Erin’s. I would want them prepared for the “real world” for dancing auditions. I believe Miss Erin and Miss Ann Marie care for their students and want them to be the best they can be. I am a late bloomer in dancing (50’s), yet as my instructor tells our class..”There is a dancer in all of us”. Just as a dancer is unique in his/her own way so is an dance teacher unique in his/her own way. I am so very happy to learn the art of dancing. Thank you again for showing me the dance instructor’s perspective. It will help me in the future when I say “I cant”. I really like the idea of putting money in a jar when a student says “I cant”. It is true when I say “I cant” then I it puts a block in front of me mentally. Now I say.. “I can do this with a lot of practice”. It is a matter of disciplining myself and practicing when I am not in the studio so I can be the best I can possibly be when we do have our class. This is for Karli..if you do not want to be a professional dancer that is fine, please do not give up your love for dancing. I will not ever be a professional dancer, I just want to learn the art of dancing and have fun. Maybe if you find a different studio or maybe let your dance instructor know you do not want to dance professionally would help? Please do not give up on something you love to do. There is always a way to keep on dancing even if it is not at that studio.

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Found it! Thank you Dianne…I quite agree especially with your advice to Karli. I hate to see students take to heart a negative experience and let it rob them of their joy for dance and yet it sadly happens a lot in this profession. I try to inspire my students to greatness and I do expect a lot of them, but teachers need to be more aware of what they say and how they say it. In fact, Karli’s post, my personal experiences as a student and the many students that stop dancing because of negative feeling towards instructor’s comments have inspired me to write my next post, ‘Ten Things a Dance Teacher Should Never Say or Do to a Student.’ Just like there are things that students should say to teachers, there are definitely things that should not be said to students. Stay tuned!

  24. Bummer.. I have written two of the same responses in a different way and it looks as though you are not getting them. Please let me know if you have gotten either one besides the one that says I do not know if you received my comment. If you received both, would you please just post the one with me mentioning Karli in it. Thanks!

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Hi Dianne! I have to approve all comments now since we were getting so much spam on the site. I approve all comments, good and bad, and try to respond to every one, except, of course, the ones that are advertisements and such. I work weird hours so sometimes it takes me up to 24 hours to approve them. However, for some reason, some of the comments have been going into the spam file by mistake. I’ll see if I can find them and approve them for you. Sorry about the mix up. I’ll see what I can do. Thanks for reading!

  25. Nina

    Thank you for posting this article! I will definitely be showing this to my students, they always ask those exact questions.

    1. Miss Erin Post author

      Thanks for reading Nina! I’m glad you found this helpful!

  26. Miss Erin Post author

    Thank you…I’ll definitely be checking out your blog! Have a great weekend!

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