By: Sherry Fass
Catching up an absent student is one of the most frustrating parts of being a dance teacher! You're annoyed because the dancer wasn't here and you're mad because now you have to take time out of class to catch them up. These were all my sentiments on this topic until I watched Sherry Fass teach a high school dance class. I came to observe Sherry and this exact situation happened. She had a lesson plan, but a student came back from being absent and she had to catch her up. The way Sherry handled the situation was so unique that I knew I had to get her to share her secrets with all of you. So without further ado here are Sherry's 5 Dance ED Tips to catching up an absent student!
1) First and foremost, I have to take a deep breath. A lot of times I view catching up a student as a daunting task that has now put me behind schedule. I have to change my perspective and remember the first piece of advice I ever received from a near and dear former teacher, “Make a plan and then throw it in the garbage.” Sometimes simply changing my perspective and remembering that it is not the end of the world, can make a huge difference in my attitude. The world will not come crashing down around me; it is annoying, YES, but I will make it through. Also, this extra 5-7 mins of review is very beneficial for the rest of the class. It will allow their movement to be cleaner, which is never a negative.
2) If I have an advanced student within the group, I will ask said student to take the absent student aside to review with them while I run certain sections of the dance. This not only builds a sense of community, but allows the absent student to not feel “put on the spot” while they learn last weeks material that everyone else already knows. I can move forward with my lesson, while catching up my student at the same time. However, if I move on with new material, then the advanced student and the previously absent student will be behind. I would rather take the time to revisit a section that was bothering me or needs cleaning, or I will work on a particular skill while the two students work together on the side.
3) I have used my professional account on instagram to post videos of new sections of the dance so the dancers can review, and dancers that were absent can see what they have missed. They are then responsible to learn the new material and come to the next class with questions. This has been very helpful in the past.
4) If my class is very close, which most are, I will have them set up a group chat with just each other (I do not give out my phone number ever; a personal rule of mine). Just the other day I had two girls absent. I asked the group to FaceTime each other and teach the absent girls what they missed. They were very excited for the assignment.
5) PROXIMITY! It never helps to stand ten feet away from a student that needs a review and never feels good to ask a student to come up front and learn the new material. That "on the spot feeling," I have found, makes the dancer dance at 10% instead of full out. Change your proximity and it will make all the difference.
Sherry Fass holds a BS ED in Dance Education from Hofstra University, NYS Certified Dance Educator, and holds a BA in Speech Pathology (with an emphasis in Behavior Analysis) from St. Joseph’s College. Sherry is a current dance instructor at Roseland School of Dance, specializing in Ballet, Lyrical, Contemporary, Hip Hop, Jazz, and Tap, teaching ages two through adult. She began her dance career at Roseland at the age of 3 years old. She studied Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Hip Hop, Tap, and Acro for 15 years. She also studied Modern and Lyrical, taking classes at Alvin Ailey and Broadway Dance Center. Sherry was given the opportunity to begin student teaching and teaching at Roseland, continuing her passion for dance.
Sherry took a hiatus from dance to pursue her college career in Speech Pathology. She specialized in working with children with disabilities through her extensive study in Applied Behavior Analysis and Discrete Trial Training. Sherry’s experience is vast, ranging from teachingchildren with Autism, Down Syndrome, PDD, ODD, and other various disabilities, as well as Psychiatric disorders. Sherry has worked in private school settings, home settings, residential programs, and Psychiatric Hospitals.
After many years away from the stage, she went back into the studio to study, and eventually teach, Ballroom; competing in Latin, Smooth, American and International styles. In 2013, she returned to her home away from home, teaching dance at Roseland School of Dance, where she continues to share her love and passion for dance. Sherry is currently in the process of applying and pursuing her Master’s Degree, and is hopeful to begin teaching in a district setting this coming Fall.