This series is a part of the Creating With Kids Interview Project! I have set out to interview 52 dance teachers working with young children everyday. By doing this project, I have learned that you are all amazing, hard working, creative and inspiring! I hope you enjoy the interviews and can take something special away from each one. A look inside a dance teacher’s class, is a look inside a dance teacher’s heart. -Maria
Introducing Susan Siegel…
Susan is a dance instructor that specializes in teaching younger dancers. She started a preschool enrichment program called Kids Dance Mobile that brings professional, studio quality dance education to preschools, daycares and community centers. Susan teaches ages 2-7 year olds.
Susan lives and teaches in the southern part of New Jersey, right outside of Philadelphia.
Maria: What is your education?
Susan: I have been teaching for almost 30 years. I was trained under a Master Teacher, who also happens to be my mother! She was a committed, caring and passionate teacher who brought out the best in each and every student that she came in contact with. From her I learned how to truly “teach”. I continue with my education by continuing to attend seminars, conferences and master classes. I have also found blogs, such as your own, an invaluable resource to stay fresh and full of new ideas!
Maria: Paint us a picture of your typical teaching day?
Susan: I start by getting my 2 girls, ages 12 and 14, off to school. I then review my lesson plans, check my music and props then I am off. I generally start teaching around 9:30 with the 2 1/2 year olds. It’s the perfect way to start the day as they are always so excited to see me and to start dancing! Each class is the next age group, so it’s a great way to build lesson plans as they grow and advance in skills. I usually teach 3-4 classes each day.
Maria: In a few sentences, describe your teaching philosophy.
Susan: My philosophy is to teach each class as if it’s the only class I teach. I want to be strong, fun, patient and prepared each class so that each week the students are excited to come back and learn more.
Maria: If I came to observe you teach today, what is the first quality I would notice about you as a teacher?
Susan: Hopefully that the children connect with me. I think that is so important.
Maria: What are 2 things you love about teaching, and one thing you don’t like very much at all.
Susan: The first thing I love about teaching is meeting so many wonderful children and getting to each of their personalities, what makes them tick, and how I can best reach them. The second thing I love is seeing the students I have taught when they grow up and see what amazing people they have become and hope that dance, in some small way, I was a part of that growth.
I don’t like when children doubt themselves and won’t try!
Maria: What surprises you the most about teaching dance to young children?
Susan: Young children surprise me by their ability to absorb everything around them. Every emotion, every movement, every pattern is like a snap shot that they take in their head. If you do something different, they immediately know!
Maria: If you were going to speak to a group of aspiring creative dance teachers, what would you tell them?
Susan: Teaching creative dance isn’t easy! I have taught all ages (2-90) for years. The time and commitment needed to prepare for class with little ones is never ending. You constantly are looking for better ways to mange and keep the students attention and to best reach them. And of course, the amount of energy needed to teach little ones is exhausting!
Maria: Share with us one teaching moment that you will never forget.
Susan: I am blessed to have a lifetime of unforgettable memories from my years of teaching. From the little moments when a student smiles when they master a step, to the pride and joy I feel when I see students performing on stage.
Maria: Teachers of young children need a pocket full of management techniques and tricks to keep things on track. What is one trick in your pocket that almost never fails?
Susan: If students are not listening and starting to get out of hand. I will quietly sit down with the students who are listening, then start whispering to them how proud I am of them that they are such good listeners. That will generally get everyone to sit down and listen. If I still have a hold out, I will then start giving out stickers (on their cards we keep for good listening). No one can resist that! I will calmly ask if they are ready to be good listeners too, then when they are sitting with their legs crossed, I will give them a sticker too!
Maria: Since teachers continue to learn too, what is one teaching goal that you are working towards?
Susan: My goal this year is to learn more hip hop!
Maria: Share with us your most favorite creative dance lesson so we can all use it tomorrow. You know, Maria’s Movers style!
Susan: Here is a scarf dance that my students love!
I use the “Suite from the Polar Express” You will hear the changes in the music which cues the students to start the next “step”.
Start with the students sleeping on the floor. I explain that in ballet, there isn’t any talking and that the dancers have to tell the story with their bodies. So they are sleeping and mommy(teacher) wakes them up, “It’s time to go to school” Show us your tired, then getting dressed for school. Now you are walking to school with your friends (Skipping, walking, ballet runs). It’s such a sunny beautiful day!
Oh no, it’s raining! We need to cover our heads and tip toe and leap over all of the puddles!(Use the scarf to cover your head) The rain is coming down harder, the wind is picking up (Start ballet runs, then bouree turns for tornadoes) and now its thunder and lightning (squat down and hide)!. Wow it’s gotten so cold, hug yourself and try to get warm. Shiver and shake.
What’s that? Hold your hand out, It’s snowing! Stick your tongue out to catch the snow flakes. Become the snowflakes Softly swirling and twirling. Then if they are still paying attention, you could have a snow ball fight. At the end all of the snowflakes melt.
you can connect with Susan on her website. Thank you for being a part of the project Susan! My favorite, you said: “The time and commitment needed to prepare for class with little ones is never ending. You constantly are looking for better ways to mange and keep the students attention and to best reach them.” It’s so true! But so worth it! 🙂