Help Wanted: Finding the Right Sub for Your Little Darlings

I’m so happy to have Heather Vaughan-Southard guest posting today on a topic that I recently had to deal with. Read on, you won’t be disappointed! 

The mere thought of creating sub plans for an absence is enough to make me rearrange my life to avoid it. However, it can’t always be avoided and maybe that is a good thing.

I wouldn’t consider myself a control freak but I am specific when it comes to my kids- whether they are my own or those I educate on a daily/weekly basis. I don’t put them in the hands of just anyone, but parenting has taught me that my way isn’t the only right way.

So, when looking for the “right” substitute, I suggest these perspectives to “create” the right sub even if they don’t have a rich
history or particular love for creative movement or littles! (For shame!  heehee…)

Do what you do best: TEACH. So many dancers teach the way their teachers did, you may be surprised at how few have been “taught” to teach- even those with college degrees! (For shame!)

This is an opportunity to expose experienced or prospective dance teachers to new ways of teaching as well as possibly inspiring them to re-examine their content or presentation.

It is likely the people you are considering now are teaching dance as a means to support their other goals, performance based or other. In time, however, their focus may just shift to dance education. The perspective you offer now may be a catalyst for great teaching even if it takes years to develop.

Look for these qualities and engage in a dialogue that clearly outlines your philosophy and your goals for your class(es):
•       An educator with an open mind and an appreciation for creative thinking
•       A well-rounded person that has interests in a variety of things
•       A seasoned dance artist that understands the principles of concert dance
•       Someone that relates well to children

Consider a “general” dance instructor who:
•       won’t take offense if you write the lesson plan or explain in detail the content you’d like addressed
•       if afraid of over-stepping, frame the discussion as the opportunity to make sure you are on the same page. “Pattern” to a creative movement specialist may be ABA, to be experienced in a variety of physical ways but a general dance teacher may interpret “pattern” as specific movement vocabulary and will teach the movement instead of
the concept.
•       can be trusted to explore musicality or another concept that is pretty commonly addressed in “standard” dance classes in kid-friendly ways
•       is willing to take risks

Broaden your spectrum of creative experiences that involve movement. This widens the pool of candidates as well as reinforcing community. With a little shared preparation, could….
•       a musician teach your class?
•       a lower elementary teacher that likes and uses movement take the lead?
•       a visual artist share pictures, discuss elements of visual art and lead improvisation?

Recruit for the field and our future
•       Enlist a college or high school dancer to shadow you in the studio.
If you don’t feel comfortable leaving them in charge officially, but more as a facilitator for the movement experiences, maybe they could work with someone from the above categories. Chances are they may be seeking community service experiences for job or college applications and will be happy to “intern” free of charge.
•       If you are fortunate to have a college dance program nearby, contact the professor that teaches the dance pedagogy class to either recommend appropriate candidates or to announce the opportunity to their classes.
•       If your teaching environment allows, contact a local K-12 dance program for potential high school shadows. It is likely that the philosophy of that program may more closely align to your creative movement goals than typical studio settings, but not necessarily.

Trust your kids, take pride in the work you’ve already done and RELAX!

Your students already know good teaching and will be able to discuss this with you in their own way upon your return.

They will either be able to help guide the substitute into your usual practices (and their comfort zones) or they will just go with the flow.

Either way, the strength of your teaching will help them through even when you aren’t there.

And if it doesn’t go as well as all had hoped, well, there is always more work to be done, anyway.

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