When I took my Associates exam I was very fortunate that my teacher, who will always be my teacher and mentor, helped teach me to teach. She gave us opportunities to actually run classes, because sure, all of us can memorize the textbook, but lets be honest it is a completely useless skill when it comes to teaching a three year old how to stand in first position, or an adult how to execute an extended highcut. We are not robots. We are coaches, mentors, we encourage, we inspire, we challenge, and we help our dancers understand that venturing into scary, unknown territory is okay!
That being said I have always been adamant that any of our Associates candidates must have a basic comfort level with teaching all levels and ages of dancers. This year's candidates are Robyn, Holly and Simone. They each have a class they are primarily assigned to and more or less run with my supervision. This means that they have been gaining the necessary technical knowledge required to teach the levels they are working with. They know the dances/steps, they can perform them, explain them, teach them, and workshop them.
This process is critical to their development as quality teachers. It enables them to learn how to use "theory speak" in a real world setting, that is to say that they can teach a step in a technical manner but still in layman's terms. The Associates exam is largely based on verbal explanations of steps, introductions, movements. While a dancer may be able to describe a step verbatim, they may not have the experience in actually teaching it. When our TA's are ready to take their Associates, they are already teachers in their own right. All they are doing is taking the necessary formal examination that certifies them through our organization with their professional designation. Think of it like university; they have done their coursework and are ready for their finals and graduation.
We all encourage any dancer who is interested and inspired to become a TA to let us know so that we can help create a path and journey for them to be successful in their goals. Nothing is more rewarding than watching a student perform a full dance to the music for the first time knowing you helped get them to that point. Teaching is probably the most rewarding thing that I do, and teaching dancers to become teachers is even more rewarding!
Kathleen Higgins, BA Associate SDTA