Becoming a dance teacher is an important decision. If you're considering it, it might be helpful to find out what our students think. Could one of our Teaching Qualifications help you reach your goals?
Here's a brief Q&A with alumna Gemma Fisher.
How long have you known about us?
I've known about bbodance for nearly 30 years now as I trained with them from the age of 4 in Ballet, Tap, and Modern Dance, attending many of their dance courses and summer schools. At the age of 11 I went on to train at The Royal Ballet School, White Lodge, which led me to a professional dance career, travelling the world with Spirit Of The Dance. I've always kept up-to-date with bbodance over the years and was very excited to see the new courses they're now offering.
Why did you choose our Teaching Qualifications programme?
My path is somewhat in reverse to the usual route dance teachers take to gain their qualifications and I was desperate to train as a qualified teacher. My training was primarily to give me skills as a dancer and I always felt that I lacked teaching qualifications to deliver a well-rounded and balanced lesson in line with standards, principles, and new methods. Having looked at other qualifications, only bbodance courses offered what I was looking for. The training is not just about a particular syllabus — it's about teaching. It's also a fully recognised Ofqual qualification and leads to Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status. There are very few courses of this standard available. Not only did I feel it was the right course for me, but a friend was at the time doing the course; in fact, she visited me to watch my classes as part of her 40 hours of observation for Level 4. She confirmed it was a wonderful course that changed her whole outlook on teaching. Her school was growing thanks to the things she had learnt — this was just the feedback I needed and I applied for an interview.
Has the TQ programme helped you develop your teaching practice?
On one of our first course days, the tutor Sam told us to ensure that what we were learning on the course was in line with our current practice, that we aligned the two. To work the course alongside what we were already doing in our own schools — or, for some, what they hoped to do in the future. Thanks to this advice I was able to grow in strength in my own pedagogic practice whilst learning so much about the way I wanted to teach and what works. You have to be open to change and self-critique on this course. Without the willingness to grow and change the course will not nourish you in the best possible way. Yes, it was hard, but, as I teach my students, if it's not hard it's not worth doing. The constant reviewing and reflecting on my coursework and how I implemented it in my practice has been an invaluable life lesson. I used to doubt and overanalyse everything I did, often spending far too long after lessons worrying about what I was doing. The course gives you tools to reflect and move forward and has given me so much confidence in what and how I'm teaching. I've also met wonderful people that are helping me along the way, similar-minded people have become a great support system when you need to ask questions or bounce information off each other. bbodance has opened so many doors for my teaching and my future.
Would you recommend the Level 5 course to others, especially professionals with a similar background to yours?
That horrible saying, "those that can’t do, teach!" haunts some ex-professional dancers when they open a school. You sometimes hear of qualified dance teachers questioning the abilities of ex-professional dancers as teachers. For many ex-professional dancers this doesn’t matter, but as the world evolves I believe if you're serious about teaching dance, you should continue to study as a teacher. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is an invaluable teaching tool. Professional dancers have a huge vocabulary of technique and experience, but, without learning how to teach, our skills are not fully realised. I would not have developed as a teacher without these qualifications and would recommend them to any ex-professional dancer who wants to open a school or who has had a school for many years and wants to continue to learn and grow.
What was your favourite part of the course?
I loved the History of Dance module, although I was not great at the writing of it. I read so much about the history of Dance — I became inspired all over again like when I was a student. The history of anything gives you so much substance and meaning to what you're doing; it really did enrich the course and my creativity.
Any other thoughts?
This course can help anyone who wants to learn skills that improve the quality of tuition you deliver. It can be very difficult juggling work, which, in my case, was two jobs, working day and night 5 times a week and on a Saturday. But I did it, like anything you've got to want to do it. So much so that I'm going onto Level 6. Having only got GCSE’s when I was younger I now feel very accomplished to have gained my Level 4 and Level 5 Teaching Diplomas with bbodance. Good advice would be to time-manage your life and forfeit a social life for a little while. Set goals and targets and don’t lose sight of the benefit this course can bring. Good luck future learners!
We hope this brief interview helps you on your dance journey!
(photo: Gemma in class; courtesy of Gemma Fisher)