Using reflective practice for dance teachers

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The third principle of Moving Mentoring is Curiosity. Curiosity is about questioning ourselves, our peers, and our world. It is about being interested in the lived experiences of others and learning from our life experiences. Curiosity is exploring how our bodies can move (way more ways than we think) and how to see the world and describe what we see.

As dance teachers, getting curious also means taking a look at our careers periodically and digging in to what is working for us and what might be working against our best interests.

Reflective practice is a process of continuously learning. We can employ reflective practice in most settings. Today I have a few ways you can apply it to your career.

But first, I’m excited to offer you the 2019 Dance Journal. This product is a digital download. If you choose to buy it it will come by email and you can print out as many as you need and even add your studio logo to the cover. The journal includes two prompts per month—one writing and one drawing. Each month, you will get an email with ideas on how to use the journal in dance classes. It's a great gift for your tween and teen dancers!

Incorporating some writing into your dance classes or rehearsals can increase connection, thoughtfulness, and integrate learning.It’s written for grades 6-12, but I’m going to journal in one in 2019 and Instagram it—so you may even want to print one out for yourself too.

Reflecting on 2018 and Preparing for 2019

Do you ever feel as a dance educator that there’s little time for reflection? You are just plowing forward, trying to strike things from your To Do list, meeting deadlines only to be met with a new project (or crisis). I get it. Plus you have a personal life!

December is a lovely time to look back on your year and look forward to the next. IF you stop and take the time to do so. Take a look ahead at your month and see if you can find a 3-4 hour block—Just. For. You. If you have kids (or parents) at home, you absolutely must get out of the house.

You can use the process outlined below to facilitate your reflection.

Step 1--Treat yo' self

Go to your favorite shop and order a coffee or tea or hot cocoa.

Step 2--Document your work

Make a list of ALL the work projects you did last year: classes, performances, consulting, fundraising, costume design--whatever you did in your professional realm. Include work that you got paid for, work that you paid into (for instance self-producing a piece or attending a training), work you broke even on, everything you consider professional. You can put each one on a tiny post it note or write a list.

Step 3--Appreciate your work

Appreciate your work. Don’t skip this step. As dancers, we often learn that criticism is the highest praise but that can get exhausting. Take a look at everything you have done this year. Good job! Congratulate yourself.

Step 4--Sort it out

Graph what you did last year in this matrix:

X Axis: Draining—Joyful

Y Axis: Lucrative—Costly

(Who says dancers don't do maths!)

So the quadrants are Draining but Lucrative, Draining and Costly, Joyful and Lucrative, and Joyful but Costly.

If these dimensions don’t speak to you, make your own. It’s a play on the Eisenhower Matrix of Urgent/Important, Urgent/Not Important, Not Urgent/Important, Not Urgent/Not Important. For instance time might be a critical element for you so one of your dimensions might be Time Efficient—Time Consuming.

Step 5--Get Curious

Start with Draining and Costly. Take a look at each item. What in this category can you let go of? For items that you can’t release, imagine how you could continue doing them in a different way. Could you automate or delegate some of this? Could you downgrade your input somewhat?

Now go to Costly but Joyful. Dancers need items in this category. These fuel our creative spirits. Whether it’s producing a concert of your work or teaching in a community that can only afford to pay you enough for your gas money or writing an article for a scholarly journal—money is not our only driver. Now, of course, if this section is packed full and the others are empty, you need to take a look at your personal finances. If you need to maximize your earnings, take this section down to 3-4 projects or classes.

Next Lucrative but Draining. Do some detective work. Most of us will have some of these, I do. What is draining about these? Do you hate the work but it brings you money? Or is there something about the process that is draining? Is it net negative because of how you are approaching the work and could that change?

Now bring it home with Lucrative and Joyful! Good job here!! Take a look and see what in this category you can carry into 2019, what similar opportunities you should pursue, and what spinoff ideas can grow from this work? Also, look to see what it is about this work that is feeding you—literally and creatively! Get Curious about your strengths and start shouting those out to the world to attract more of these opportunities. And lastly, pay it forward. Do you know someone who could do this work with you? Is it time to take on an apprentice teacher or a research assistant?

Step 6--Look forward

Sit with this reflection for a few days. Notice what inspiration comes in to your mind and begin journaling, mind mapping, or collaging for the new year.

ashley thorndikeComment