An Ode to Substitute Teachers

I like substitute dance teachers. A lot. I believe it isn’t always an easy job: people tend to stare at you and quietly mutter something along the lines of «But that’s not how we usually do it» under their breath. So kudos to the subs.

During my eleven months of jazz dance, I’ve encountered four substitute teachers, some of them on two or three occasions. I only disliked one (and that might’ve been due to my PMS and not something she actually did). Here are the reasons why I’m always excited when I find out there will be a sub teaching today’s class:

1. Change is fun

Jazz class is never boring but like any other class, it has repeating elements. These are valuable teaching tools and time-saving devices – but sometimes it’s just nice to do something completely different.

2. You can understand something better

There is a wonderful German expression that roughly translates as «to stand on the hose». It describes the facepalm-inducing situation when your brain has already been provided with all the necessary information to comprehend a concept but utterly fails to do so. A comment from a different teacher can sometimes untie that knot. Unless your sub has been taught exclusively by your regular teacher, they will explain things differently – which can be a big leg-up for your understanding.

3. You can learn something new

Maybe your regular teacher has an aversion to a paticular step or technique that others use, or maybe they decided to teach it to you later. I’ve learned to do back shoulder rolls exclusively from Frodo and I had a disproportionately tough time comprehending them at first. Fast forward to where Jay (another sub) actually called them good. Which brings us to the next point…

4. You can measure your progress

The first time I have ever encountered a sub was a mere few weeks after starting jazz. Merlin (yes, a bird) was a fun guy and a great teacher, but boy did I suffer. I had barely learned to follow along in the regular class at that point. All those unfamiliar exercises completely threw me. I was particularly baffled by a seemingly simple pirouette drill. Staying in one place the whole time, you perform a quarter turn in one direction, change legs, do the quarter turn back, change, half turn, change, half turn back etc. all the way to a full turn. I struggled with this enormously on the first try, and then Merlin told us to do it faster. At which point I just stood there and stared stupidly.

Enter jazz class six months later. Y. was on vacation, and guess who was subbing for her? And guess which exercise we did once again? And guess who had no trouble with it even on double time? Right. While your week-to-week progress may sometimes be less than obvious to you, having class with the same sub with a couple of months inbetween can really show how far you’ve come.

5. You don’t have to commit

You acknowledge all of the above points as valid, but your sub is so awful you just want to punch them in the face and/or run away screaming? I’ve been there. Fortunately, you’re not stuck with them forever. Unless your teacher is gone for weeks on end, you only have to survive one or two classes with your nemesis. So enjoy your substitute teachers while they last – or just be grateful they don’t last long.

What is your opinion on substitute dance teachers? Do you and your co-students enjoy and/or comply with their teaching?

One thought on “An Ode to Substitute Teachers

  1. I (usually) ❤ subs for all these reasons! Also, once in a while, a sub who teaches a class I don't already take answers the question, "Where can I add a good class?"

    Liked by 1 person

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