I learn my best when my brain is free to focus on the task at hand. I know that sounds obvious, but I have noticed that when I am in new situations, much of my thought process is devoted to making sense of the world around me. What is the proper way to behave? Every community has its own culture, and as human beings we are constantly adapting to our current environments. As an educator, I work hard to eliminate this guessing game for my students. The first day of a class session and every time I sub a class, have a new student, or change the structure of my class, I take the time to explain a few things. I have heard some teachers describe this act as “Meet the Studio” and while the space is one aspect of the class, there are other crucial elements in knowing what to expect.
I introduce myself to every person who walks through my door. I do my best to make sure that I am able to look the person in the eye with a smile on my face. I include my name, as well as my job title and how it may relate to them. For example, “My name is Ms. Rebekah, and I am one of the dance teachers at the school. I teach Sara on Tuesdays.“ If a person is sitting down, I will make an effort to sit next to them to introduce myself. If it is a young child, I kneel down to their level. I do not count an introduction with a child’s parents as meeting the child.
“My name is . . .” In this day in age, it can be difficult for students of any age to know what to call the teacher. Is there a title in front of your name? Are you going to go by your first name? Last name? If you have made the decision to be called something that is different from the culture of the school or community, then it is important to explicitly state that information. “My name is Rebekah Chappell, and you may call me Rebekah.”
When I enter a new space for the first time, my eyes always scan the room for the lay of the land. We orientate ourselves in space. Where is the bathroom? Where are the entrances and exits? Where is the front of the space? Where will I stand or sit? What is on the walls? What is the lighting like? When I look out the windows what will I see? Some of this processing happens subconsciously, and I have noticed that the younger the child, the more observant he or she is of the space around them. Young children notice every micro change in an environment. The first class should include time spent orienting the learner to their space. This can also happen at an orientation before the start of the session.
I highly recommend orientation sessions. This is a time set aside for setting expectations. It ideally includes time for a student to meet their teachers and begin to build a relationship with them. It allows any questions or concerns to be addressed in a low key, informal environment. Students will often ask questions individually that they are not willing to ask in front of their peers. If students are registering and beginning a class after it has begun, I highly recommend having the new student come early the first day. If that is not possible, have the student come at another time to meet and speak with the teacher, see the space where class is held, and be introduced to the flow of the class. I ask current students to introduce themselves to the new student as well as explain how the class proceeds.
If orientations or early meetings are not possible, I take time to do this in class. I try to anticipate any need my students may have in my classroom and explain to them the etiquette of class. For example, "The bathroom is located down the hall. It is important to go to the bathroom before dance class so that you do not miss any part of class. If it is an emergency, you may quietly leave the classroom at the end of an exercise to do so."
Next time I will discuss how to introduce classmates and the structure of class.
This is a blog of processes. Through the sharing of media and writing I am following my impulses, teasing out and unpacking, translating, solidifying, and making concrete my investigations into something that can be shared.