Purposeful teaching

I used to teach with someone who was very clear about what she wanted from tango, and was not afraid to say no to things that she had no interest in. She really made me think about what I wanted out of my tango, especially as a teacher, and achieve some level of vision and purposefulness. I knew for example that I wasn't particularly interested in show tango, so I never taught this, and always referred interested students to other teachers with much more experience and knowledge about it. I was also not interested or particularly qualified to teach kids, as another example. Since I was not a professional tango teacher, it made sense for me to concentrate on just a few areas of interest. I think ultimately, my vision was to empower my students in practical terms to a level where they could forge their own path in tango, and to focus on connecting people through the dance.

Once established, this purposefulness also helped me greatly to create the content and the approach in my classes. I knew which steps I wanted to teach, which ones to avoid, and how I wanted to structure each class. It was akin to a piece of writing - how to choose the right words and discard the unimportant ones for what I'm trying to say. (And just like my writing, this was a constant work in progress in practical terms.) I encouraged different solutions to the same problem because I have never been very dogmatic about different approaches to tango. I tried to minimise the time spent on talking and demonstrations because I wanted the students to quickly gain basic competency without too much theory.

Tango pedagogy has not been around for a very long time - perhaps less than two decades, if one considers that tango in BA has been taught largely by osmosis over its main history. This means that we can find a wide variety of teaching styles and approaches to tango. For a tango teacher, having an overall aim clarifies the focus of the classes, helps students to choose the right teacher for them, and sets up realistic expectations.

 

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