March 12, 2014 by Nicole
I think everyone knows what it’s like to feel invisible. But dance class should not be one of those places. If you’re feeling like your dance teacher doesn’t notice you, you need to get to the bottom of why you’re feeling that way.
Take a step back: is this an isolated incident or do you feel like it’s a persistent issue for you? If you can’t think of other times when you’ve felt ignored or unnoticed, then it’s probably just an off day for you or your instructor. Let it go and approach your next class as a fresh start.
But what if you’ve been feeling this way for a while? Try to remember the last correction, note or compliment your received – this is another time when your dance journal will come in handy. Then try to cross-reference those notes with your recent class behavior…have you been applying your corrections or completing any suggested out-of-class assignments (like strength training)?
If you have been doing those things and you still feel like you’re going unnoticed, I think the best course of action is to approach your teacher.
Politely ask if you can have a few minutes of their time before or after class. You want to be respectful and also ensure that you have adequate time to address your concerns. If they say no or won’t try to find an alternate time to meet with you, then you may have a larger problem. If you’re in the right studio for you, everyone should be working with you to set and meet your goals. A teacher who is unwilling to communicate with you is unlikely to help you meet your goals. It could be time to consider finding a studio that is a better fit for you.
However, I think that’s an unlikely reaction. More than likely, your teacher wants to help you improve. Begin the conversation by letting them know what you’ve been working on. Bring your journal as a reference, if it helps. Explain that you’ve been actively working on improvement (via your corrections, etc) but are unsure that you’re making the progress you’d hoped for. Explain that you’re feeling frustrated and ask if there is any feedback they can share with you. Let your teacher know that you’re the kind of dancer who is best motivated by having specific feedback and goals to work toward.
Don’t be accusatory (“you make me feel invisible” or “you don’t ever notice me”) – in fact, it’s probably best if you try to avoid using the word “you” at all. Talk to your teacher very honestly about how you’re feeling…that should mean lots of “I feel” or “I am”.
Now, if you haven’t been thinking very much about your corrections or completing any out-of-class assignments, I would very gently urge you to consider starting there instead. Take a solid week (or two) and focus specifically on the last set of corrections you received. Remember that teachers are human too – they can become discouraged when they feel like broken records. Any teacher is excited to work with a student who takes ownership of their own progress. They want to work with students who want to work.
You may find that once you actively approach class focused on improvement, your teacher will respond to that effort. Or, if you still feel like you’re being overlooked, then ask your teacher if you can have a conversation (as described above).
More often than not, communication helps fill the gaps and helps us get what we need out of the particular situation. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you’re experiencing. Your teacher is probably not consciously withholding information from you. Talking it out gives you both an opportunity to better understand (and therefore, work) with each other.
And what if you’ve already tried talking and nothing changed? Or you’ve noticed that only certain kinds of students (company or competition, for example) receive attention in class? First, try to be objective and assess the situation, putting your personal feelings aside. If that truly is the reality, then it could be that your learning style doesn’t mesh with a particular teaching style or that your desires/needs from a dance school do not match with the current option. It could be time to consider whether you’re willing to live with that particular reality or if switching teachers/schools would be a better option for you.
There is no “one size fits all” approach to dance training. That’s part of what makes training decisions so hard. It really is all about finding the right instructors at the right organization at the right time in your training. And when it works, you know. And when it doesn’t (or doesn’t anymore), you should (and will!) find one that does.
Have you felt unnoticed in class? How did you deal with it?