Teacher rating - criteria?

#1
When I was asked which AT teachers to go to, I used to say "All teachers are different, you've got to find one that fits you", or some similar weasel-words.

Now I'm not so sure. Whilst I know rating teachers is a subjective exercise in some ways, I think that I've got a bit more appreciation for the level of "quality" of teachers, at least in my little corner of the world.

It makes perfect sense that there is a range of teaching ability, of course - just like in all fields of life, some are wonderful, some are awful, and most are in between.

And whilst, yes, there's a subjective element to this, there must also be some more objective measures we can use.

So how can we judge? What criteria would you use?
 

Joe

Well-Known Member
#2
The primary way to judge teachers is how effectively they are able to communicate the principles of dance to their students, and how quickly those students' skills improve. On average, of course—not every student is equal. The teacher's ability to dance is not particularly relevant.
 

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#3
Went to a "dance festival" here in Portland yeterday to see what they were offering as "Swango" (there was just this one class being offered).
Someone told me that most teachers had about 20 people in their classes. Meanwhile, one teacher couple had about a hundred people in their class.
So, one way to evaluate someone as a teacher is how many students they have.
People have come, and, it seems, gone, as "teachers" here in Portland in the years that I've been paying attention.
There are other many factors invovled, of course. Let's see wheich ones are brought up here.
 
#4
When I was asked which AT teachers to go to, I used to say "All teachers are different, you've got to find one that fits you", or some similar weasel-words.

Now I'm not so sure. Whilst I know rating teachers is a subjective exercise in some ways, I think that I've got a bit more appreciation for the level of "quality" of teachers, at least in my little corner of the world.

It makes perfect sense that there is a range of teaching ability, of course - just like in all fields of life, some are wonderful, some are awful, and most are in between.

And whilst, yes, there's a subjective element to this, there must also be some more objective measures we can use.

So how can we judge? What criteria would you use?[/I]

I’m talking about choosing teachers for private lessons only.
First get a partner to take the lessons with you so you’ll be able to practice what you learn in the class.
Next decide on what style you want to learn. Close-Salon-Nuevo
Only choose instructors who have partners that they teach with. You want both points of view.
Now watch the instructors dance. Are you satisfied with how they dance? Is this the way you want to dance someday?
If you don’t like the style or quality of their dancing why would you want to hire them? And don’t give me the old football crap trap about the fat cigar smoking coach having the winning team, this is tango not football and for $100 per hour I’m going to be very picky.

I also believe in learning one style of tango. I’m not saying to dance one style but to first learn one style. The big mistake I see a lot of people make is jumping from one instructor to another privates or group it doesn’t matter. The first guy teaches you his version the next guy teaches his and they will not be the same because every instructor has his own point of view. I’m not saying his point of view is wrong but if you keep jumping in and out of different points of views your tango will suffer and you will be confused.
 
#5
My criteria.
1. The instructor has to be a great tango dancer and a milonguero/a.
2. He/she has an extensive knowledge of Argentine music and culture (in my book, actually, that is included in #1).
3. He/she has already produced a number of adequate social tango dancers.
4. In his/her classes he/she stresses the basics rather than teaching patterns.
5. He/she explicitly encourages his/her students to aspire to all of the above.

What he/she should not be:
-A ballroom dance instructor/show dancer who has never set foot to a milonga. That means:
-Anyone who does not regularly dance tango socially is not considered.
- How many students attend the classes is not a criterion. Some instructors seem to attract crowds of perpetual beginners, walking horrors, crazy and unpleasant people. I believe there is a reason for that.
Yes, teaching tango is a business, but I will not go to those who primarily interested in money, and who ends up encouraging mediocrity and lack of etiquette in their students.
 

Zoopsia59

Well-Known Member
#6
First get a partner to take the lessons with you so you’ll be able to practice what you learn in the class.
Only choose instructors who have partners that they teach with. You want both points of view.
.
Of all the Private lessons I've taken, 4 really stand out to me as far as significant breakthroughs.

Two of those were with a single instructor and two were with a couple. In both "single" cases, the instructor was female and primarily a follower (with leading skills) as am I. In the case of the couple, both times it was the male leader who gave me the major "Ah ha!" moment. (although the woman did consistently remind me of things I already knew but sometimes forget while dancing)

So in none of these 4 cases was it necessary for me to have a couple teaching me.

I think it is very helpful, especially for beginners, to have a couple teaching a GROUP class so they can see what things are supposed to look like before they try them. Most people are visual learners, not kinesthetic or auditory learners.

But I think it is completely optional in a private lesson, especially for a non-beginner. Its not even important whether you take from someone who dances the same or opposite role you dance. A good teacher will still have something valuable to offer you. And I think its totally unnecessary to take a private with a partner unless you have a regular partner and want to work on the way you dance and work together. In fact, I think it dillutes the amount of attention you get on YOUR OWN dancing if you have someone there with you just for the sake of it, that may or may not be someone with whom you dance regularly or well.

Taking from a couple is great, if its available and affordable. But sometimes neither is the case.
 

Zoopsia59

Well-Known Member
#7
- How many students attend the classes is not a criterion. Some instructors seem to attract crowds of perpetual beginners, walking horrors, crazy and unpleasant people.
So true.... often because of their nationality or performing experience rather than their ability to nurture students as individuals.

And the larger the class, the more likely it is that step patterns will get taught. Ironically, of the privates I mentioned above, I did not enjoy the GROUP classes of some of those same instructors.
 

Zoopsia59

Well-Known Member
#8
-Anyone who does not regularly dance tango socially is not considered.
I'm adding a new criteria for myself... anyone who never dances with their students is not considered. Especially if they won't even dance with the students who have invested lots of money in private lessons or long term group classes. I give extra credit to instructors who make a point of dancing with their beginner students who might be lost and intimidated at the milonga.

I realize that some instructors could not POSSIBLY dance with all their students and still have any time left at the milonga to enjoy dancing with other advanced dancers, but to NEVER dance with students is just unforgivable in my book. My first instructor not only danced with me, but actually arranged for the class to go together to our first milonga (and danced with us all). Few instructors I've had since have danced with me socially. (although the female instructors I took privates with did dance as a follower with male students, so I'm letting them off the hook)

I actually went to one milonga that was very sparsely attended (less than a dozen people!) with about a 4 to 1 ratio of followers to leaders, and the instructor who had taught workshops all day did not dance with ANY of the followers sitting out... not even the ones who had attended the workshop. He only danced with his partner.
 

Zoopsia59

Well-Known Member
#9
And don’t give me the old football crap trap about the fat cigar smoking coach having the winning team, this is tango not football
What about the older, could-sustain-hip-fracture-with-single-fall, figure skating coaches who turn out Olympic champions, including ice-dance champions? Its not crap trap. (and if you disagree with me, please use respectful language in your reply)
 
#10
This seems so strange that some people still believe that great dancers always turn into these amazing dance teachers. The reality is: some definitely do but many do not and vice versa; we all know good dancers not reaching the top level in their dancing carrier by many reasons that turn out to be amazing teachers producing top dancers all around the world. Dancing and teaching to dance are two different skills, and some dancers master both, and the most master only one.

So, if you want to rate dance teachers then look at their students. Where and when did they start, how fast they progressed, and how far did they go with their natural abilities. That would be very dificult to rate without knowing the dancers themselves. When I see a top dancer I may be hesitant to take a lesson from that dancer, but I would definitely like to try out his/her teacher.
 
#11
Speaking of Argentine tango, the notion of "reaching the top level of the dancing career" seems a little...
unclear. Is Pocho for example, or Dany El Flaco Garcia, or Ruben Harymblat at the top level of their dancing right now? And if not, when were they?
Very often if you take a great tango dancer who keeps dancing socially, his or her dancing keeps changing all the time. If you go to Buenos Aires once or twice a year, observe milongueros, dance with them, you can see and feel that difference. That is the nature of the art, and that is the beauty of it.

Perhaps, it is possible to learn something from a so-so dancer. After all, we learn all the time, and from all kind of experiences we get. But why would I allocate my time and money to a so-so dancer when I know I can go and learn from a great dancer?
 

dchester

Moderator
Staff member
#12
The big mistake I see a lot of people make is jumping from one instructor to another privates or group it doesn’t matter. The first guy teaches you his version the next guy teaches his and they will not be the same because every instructor has his own point of view. I’m not saying his point of view is wrong but if you keep jumping in and out of different points of views your tango will suffer and you will be confused.
I went to lots of different teachers, and it didn't confuse me at all. In fact, I found it to be quite helpful to understand there was more than one way to skin a cat.
 

Zoopsia59

Well-Known Member
#13
the notion of "reaching the top level of the dancing career" seems a little...
unclear. Is Pocho for example, or Dany El Flaco Garcia, or Ruben Harymblat at the top level of their dancing right now? And if not, when were they?
My take on what Jersey wrote is not about when someone is at their own personal "top level", but whether or not someone reaches the "top level" in the field itself. (like those skaters who were never world champions, but became world level coaches.. they did not reach the "top level" in skating, as skaters, regardless of their own personal "top level")

I would think everyone is always pretty much at the "top-est" level they've ever been (up to that point).. It SEEMS like we ocassionally backslide, but in reality, we are actually usually improving in our dancing (and for those of us who do any teaching, we are also hopefully always improving there too.) Sure we have off nights or occasions where we are not able to do as well as we have on other occasions, but in general, we are always getting better.

So as to personal best, mostly we are always the best we've ever been, and at the same time worse than we will ever be from now on....
 
#14
What about the older, could-sustain-hip-fracture-with-single-fall, figure skating coaches who turn out Olympic champions, including ice-dance champions? Its not crap trap. (and if you disagree with me, please use respectful language in your reply[/I])
My point of view is to hire instructors that can dance what they teach. I want a female instructor to be able to demonstrate to my partner proper figures, how it feels how to move how to turn. I need a male instructor to interact with both of us. This is what I expect in my privates.

In So Cal there are only three instructors I would consider taking from. They all come from Argentina from the same province and the same Maestro taught them all so naturally they teach the same style.

I suggest that you take lessons from someone whose style you appreciate and identify with.

Personally I wouldn’t want to take dance lessons from an old guy with a fractured hip who no longer dances.
 
#15
...In So Cal there are only three instructors I would consider taking from. They all come from Argentina from the same province and the same Maestro taught them all so naturally they teach the same style...
sorry to hijack the thread...

hbboogie: Thanks for your suggestion on teachers (and shoes), we are enjoying our AT lessons, we like the way they teach (btw, this was without knowing who his maestro was, interesting to find out afterwards). Also had to google to see who the third instructor is, the enquiring mind wants to know.
 
#16
My criteria.
1. The instructor has to be a great tango dancer and a milonguero/a.
2. He/she has an extensive knowledge of Argentine music and culture (in my book, actually, that is included in #1).
3. He/she has already produced a number of adequate social tango dancers.
4. In his/her classes he/she stresses the basics rather than teaching patterns.
5. He/she explicitly encourages his/her students to aspire to all of the above.
I share mostly the same views. Another point I look out for, is to see how his/her students dance.

What he/she should not be:
-A ballroom dance instructor/show dancer who has never set foot to a milonga. That means:
-Anyone who does not regularly dance tango socially is not considered.
- How many students attend the classes is not a criterion. Some instructors seem to attract crowds of perpetual beginners, walking horrors, crazy and unpleasant people. I believe there is a reason for that.
Yes, teaching tango is a business, but I will not go to those who primarily interested in money, and who ends up encouraging mediocrity and lack of etiquette in their students.
I agree to these too, especially the last point.
Some see AT as a commerically viable venture, and depends on how the organisers(themselves not necessarily AT dancers) put things together, its very profitable business and also a way to reach out to rich and effluent.
 

opendoor

Well-Known Member
#17
Re: five- or six-count-basics

1. The instructor has to be a great tango dancer and a milonguero

2. He/she has an extensive knowledge of Argentine music and culture

3. He/she has already produced a number of adequate social tango dancers.

4. In his/her classes he/she stresses the basics rather than teaching patterns.

5. He/she explicitly encourages his/her students to aspire to all of the above.
Very good list ! I do agree in all, but the first point: My experience is (and the data base is not small), that good dancers are less good teachers. May I add:

6. He/she helps beginners to put up a social network and peer group.

OD
 
#18
So true.... often because of their nationality or performing experience rather than their ability to nurture students as individuals.
Which is exactly why I'm trying to identify objective criteria.

And the larger the class, the more likely it is that step patterns will get taught. Ironically, of the privates I mentioned above, I did not enjoy the GROUP classes of some of those same instructors.
Good point.

There's different skills involved in managing a larger class. Crowd management, clarity of speaking, class design, and so on.

At some point, with large classes, you almost have to simply demonstrate a pattern, and hope that you can impart some technique into that pattern.
 
#19
Very good list ! I do agree in all, but the first point: My experience is, that good dancers are less good teachers.
I think "natural" dancers can make poor teachers - in the same way that natural-language German speakers (for example) can make poor German teachers.

I think you need your teacher to be able to relate to your own experience, because they'll then know what sort of problems to fix, and will be able to explain the fix in terms that make sense to you.
 

bordertangoman

Well-Known Member
#20
I think "natural" dancers can make poor teachers - in the same way that natural-language German speakers (for example) can make poor German teachers.

I think you need your teacher to be able to relate to your own experience, because they'll then know what sort of problems to fix, and will be able to explain the fix in terms that make sense to you.
I would also say that can be true of professional dancers; if you have a ballet or contemporary training you will have everything in your head in an eight count and you will have worked very hard and long on technique to acheive your skills.

which your average social student just isnt going to do.
 

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