Helping Students Cope In Difficult Times

Coping in stressful times.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve listened to a young dancer complain about how someone else treated them, or others.  It’s not a new phenomenon, rather part of the business of dance, and being open enough to listen to what your students have to say.  I have seen students treated so poorly that they opted out of dance just to escape the cynicism, or the perception of cynicism from others.

Some students just have better coping skills than others.

Some students are forced into stressful situations by adults, or peer pressure, or simply fall into a situation due to lack of knowledge of what they were really getting into.  It is very important that if you are thinking about an advanced level of studies that you fully understand what is expected of you before you sign up.  If you will do some basic research first-you might save yourself some grief.

Researching everything you decide to do is important, especially if it isn’t a beginner level class.  You might think you are advanced, but I’d still suggest you at least go to a class and check it out first.

What is really stressful for students is inconsistency.  Inconsistency in teaching styles, lack of professionalism, and/or verbal inadequacies in actual instruction.   You have to be clear in what it is you are teaching.   It’s crucial that  you be able to demonstrate the proper technique, and be able to verbally get your message across to your students.

I want to address a number of questions, and I will present my take on them below.

Why wouldn’t a director allow an officer to put together choreography for the team?

This point is often hard for younger students (high school level) to understand.  Most students feel that as an officer that it is a right to put together the choreography and teach it too. Unfortunately, if you are not able to perform technique necessary for a dance, and catch your own mistakes, I too wouldn’t allow you to teach a dance to students, let alone choreograph it.

Some students can cope with being told no.  Others cannot.  It’s all in how good their coping skills are.  When they reach this level it is important to have someone there in authority that understands what their students are anticipating, and be prepared to let them down gently.  Have something else just as meaningful prepared in advance.

Some instructors  by nature are just  “hit with a stupid stick”.  They will put anyone in control of a squad or team.  Their own kid, their kids friends, their favorite, non-professionals, etc.   They just really don’t understand the dynamics of team building and how important it is to have someone teaching who actually knows what they are doing.  In this case it’s all about popularity, and parental meandering – it’s evil.   Not very many students will have the coping skills necessary to deal with this type of stupid.  The best you can do is “finish on top”.

How do I cope?

That is the question that is only answered through time.  You have to learn the skills necessary to deal with a multitude of stressful situations.  One way to help yourself is to NOT sign up for a level that is over your head.  Avoid situations that you already know have problems.

Seek out levels and instructors who have an even temper and unruffled demeanor.  Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here.  Instructors will raise their voices a lot.  You need to not take it personally when they do.  If you can’t handle constructive criticism, you have no business, in the business.   You are there to learn.  You aren’t there to teach or take over.  Coping doesn’t mean you react to every situation that happens; you have to be able to let things go, or learn from a skill.

There will be those around you who have zero coping skills.  Everything is about them, for them, and their little world.  They will bring their worst to the table.  Coping with personalities is something we all have to deal with.

Don’t let it be your personality that others have to deal with

It is fair to talk to your instructors and ask for guidance?.

Sometimes instructors really don’t know what their students are going through.  They don’t sit in the classrooms with you and see all that is happening in your world.  If you are having a real problem with someone – it is up to you to let the coach/ instructor know.  Never state it out loud in front of the team.  That only stirs up animosity and resentment.  Let your coach help you deal with some of the issues.  They can’t take on all the load for you – but maybe they can at least help in their class.  But you have to let them know there is an issue.

How do I help others to cope, I think they are going to parties to escape?

First off, remember you aren’t a professional.  If the situation is drug related or abusive, you have a moral obligation to help that person.   By helping, that might mean reporting the behavior to someone in authority.   You aren’t the police, and you shouldn’t attempt to be.  Allow those in authority to deal with the issue.  The student might get mad at you – but you force them to deal with the issues and hopefully get help.  It’s called tough love.

Being there for newer students or older ones – who for some reason others have decided to pick on – they need you.   There is really no excuse for bullying.  Helping someone to overcome the stigma of being a newbie is important.  Remember when it was you?

It’s okay to make mistakes.  You just practice  until you get it right.  Sometimes coping does mean helping others to move on.  Letting them know it is okay to do something different.  Letting someone down gracefully rather than rudely matters.  Your ability to help others cope is a reflection of your own humanity and caring skills.

There will be problems that will be way above you.  Stay away from situations that you know will cause drama and make matters worse.  Keep your cool and you keep sanity.

Coping

The ability to overcome in times of distress.

If all else fails “there’s still chocolate”…..