Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Managing Teaching Assistants

Managing Teaching Assistants

Having a teaching assistant helping you in the dance studio can be a valuable asset. Although, it can become a problem if you do not manage your teaching assistant from the very beginning. Teaching assistants are most of the time older students who come into additional classes, besides their own classes, for the purpose of helping the dance teacher out and to demonstrate steps and combinations when needed. Dancers chosen for teaching assistant positions should be some of your best students that have danced through your program. They should have good technique, know the dance vocabulary, be friendly, patient, have a good work ethic, and be very responsible. When you do find teaching assistants that meet this perfect criteria, they are invaluable. There are times you do find out that your teaching assistants don't work out or aren't able to handle the job. This can become very frustrating.

After you select who you are going to ask to be a teaching assistant, you need to clearly state all of your expectations and needs. First of all call a special meeting at the beginning of the year or semester for all of your teachings assistants. Even returning assistants should attend this meeting. Print out a contract with all the instructions and expectations of their jobs. You should talk through everything and have them read it and sign it, just like a contract. It is also a good idea of the parents of the teaching assistants to read and sign this contract also. Parents of the teaching assistants need to be supportive also. If you do encounter problems during the year, you can refer back to this contract later. The teaching assistant contract should state all the requirements of their job, such as:

1. How early they are expected to arrive before their first class they are assisting with.

2. They are to always set a good example. Be professional at all times and be a role model.

3. Proper dance attire and dance shoes are required of the teaching assistant.

4. Assistants are not to have visitors, friends, or boyfriends visit or accompany them.

5. Teaching assistants are not to handle money.

6. Teaching assistants are to direct questions from parents to the main teacher.

7. Take attendance for teacher.

8. Start warm-up exercises.

9. Help teacher at end of class, such as cleaning up, putting items away, locking up, etc..

10. Assistants should chart their hours worked in a special place for the studio owner.

11. Substitute teaching in case the main teacher is sick, injured, or has an emergency.

12. Know where the music, lesson plans, and props are kept and know how to work the music.

13. Be active in making corrections, keeping students in line, and correcting behavior when the teacher is teaching.

14. Help students with shoes and monitoring bathroom breaks.

15. There is no sitting down or standing around.

16. You can also choose to include a type of no-compete clause in the assistant's contract that they are not to later share your studio's lesson plans, choreography, techniques, and trade secrets with other studios or to use them as their own in the future.

One of the most important things a dance teacher needs to remember is that teaching assistants will often need to be told what to do and what is expected of them. Often we assume that the assistants will just come in, see what needs to be done, and do it. We forget they need to be prompted & trained and they need to develop confidence over time. Once you dedicate some time in training molding your teaching assistance, they can become so helpful and important to you.

Teaching assistants can be paid for their time and dedication in a couple ways. In the past I have given my teaching assistant's free or discounted classes during the year. This way I didn't have to deal with actually paying a younger employee. If they quit, were terminated, or had a long absence for some reason for their duties, then they were charged tuition for their own dance classes that they took. You can also choose to actually pay your assistants. It is your choice. There are some studios that require their competition students to do so many hours of assistant teaching throughout the year.

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