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.