Are you looking for ways to grow your dance school? Unsure about where to start with preschool dance classes? Don’t worry, we have the answers you’ve been looking for.
We recently hosted a webinar with Fiona Ramasami about how to run your preschool dance classes to their maximum advantage.
Why should you consider offering preschool dance classes?
As someone who didn’t instinctively feel she was suited to teaching little ones, Fiona still knew it was an important avenue to follow, as there was a high demand for preschool classes in her area but very little supply.
She said that her mission with Vanilla Preschool Dance is to help dance teachers, “… meet the growing demand for this age group. You can earn more as dance school owners, and your teachers can earn more income all whilst having the opportunity to do that in daytime hours.”
Everything you need to make your preschool classes a success
As there wasn’t much preschool-specific training or resources readily available when Fiona started out, she shadowed some experienced teachers who were amazing with that age group. From seeing how they interacted with the children to what they were covering in their classes, the inspiration soon flowed.
Fiona used this experience to work out the three elements she needed to provide successful preschool dance classes. These were:
- Planning – How to plan the content of the classes
- Reflection / Reflective practice – Analysing your own practice to identify what drives children’s learning and development, as well as the impact your values have on understanding children’s learning and development
- Owning the room – How to engage with and manage young children
Fiona highlighted that although there is a perception that kids today want constant stimulation, she was more interested in what works and what they actually need from a class. She stresses the importance of finding out, “… what do your teachers think and what is their approach? Is it the same as yours? Do they have much guidance from you on how they actually deliver whatever content you’ve got, and how to run their classes?”
With those points in mind, Fiona has some key ingredients that are going to help your teachers plan their classes effectively, in a way that’s in line with your philosophy and also great fun for the kids.
- Creativity and imaginative transitions
Although teachers may want to be given a plan for what to do during each song. Fiona recommends that instead you should provide a framework and emphasise the importance of linking songs together.
For example, if the theme is the weather, each song can represent different elements like sun, rain, wind, or rainbows, so there’s a nice flow to the class.
Fiona is passionate, “Good delivery happens more consistently when you have something consistently great to deliver. Plan so you can play!”
Planning is essential because even if you’re great with young children, you need to have a structure, or they will lose focus. By creating a flow through your imaginative transitions, you don’t have to remember every word of what you want to say, because you can rely on the main points of your structure.
Fiona says, “That’s how I remember my classes . . . I can go in and because I know how I’m going to link things, I know what order it is, so I don’t have to keep checking.”
To have an engaging class you need to take the children on a journey and as Fiona says, “You want to spark their imagination. So, I like to picture it in my head and then help draw it out of them so that they’ve got it in their head as well.”
It doesn’t have to be all about rainbows and fairies, in fact, Fiona says that “ . . . kids relate to everyday experiences, everyday objects, the things that they come in contact with.”
As with most things, consistency is key. Fiona says that “Children need a consistent experience, and you need a consistent method for planning in order to create it for them.”
In practice, this means making sure that your teachers have guidance from you about how to plan their classes so that they’re in line with your vision. Don’t assume they know how to do it already.
To make sure all your teachers are on the same page as you, you should be able to provide them with the following tools:
- A description of your approach and your aims
Fiona suggests giving your teachers a long description of your approach and aims for the classes and also providing a shorter version for your parents.
That way, both have realistic expectations and have an idea of the sorts of themes you use. If a parent is looking for unicorns and sparkles but your offering is more focused on linking with the preschool curriculum, then make that clear so that everyone, including your teachers, can start on the same page.
- A structure to follow when planning their classes, with a clear idea of the themes and skills they should focus on
Sometimes your teachers will think that they have no imagination or have lost their creativity. Perhaps they think that they just don’t know how to plan a class for little dancers. But if you give them a prompt then their ideas come flooding in.
- Pull-out plans and playlists with room for their own imaginative flair
It’s important to give your teachers some flexibility within the structure you set out so that they can tap into their own imagination. If they feel restricted by your guidance, then they may feel less job satisfaction. So encourage them to use their own creativity so they can flourish as much as the children.
- Connection and calm
It’s key to assume that your teachers automatically know how to carry a class. Fiona says you should ask if “ . . . they need ways of managing individual children or just how to manage a group?”.
If your teachers can’t effectively manage a class, then the children will leave in a state of frenzy rather than calm.
What you want your teachers to achieve in a class, is a sense of connection with the children and a sense of calm. When they leave, they should feel as though they have a place there, that they’ve been noticed and are valued.
Parents will pick up on that and it will have a hugely positive impact on the way they perceive your offering. They’ll also be more likely to spread the word about how great your classes are.
What can you bring to the mix?
There’s a huge demand for preschool dance classes. If your classes have a great reputation, then you’re more than likely to have a waiting list.
If this is the case, then it’s time to expand and create more capacity for your most in-demand classes.
To do that effectively, you may need to make some structural changes to your business.
Here are four keys points Fiona suggests you focus on:
Get a good admin system in place
- Invest in an admin system that will help you manage enquiries and grow capacity. The system you choose should be able to:
- Collect enquiries
Your enquiry forms should collect as much information as possible, especially the availability of your potential customers so that if a space comes up, you immediately know who’s able to slot into that class.
- Organise enquiries
Make sure you can filter enquiries by the most important data, i.e., age, availability and dance preference. This makes it easier to access relevant parents and appropriately allocate any free spaces that pop up. When you have a space, you are losing income, so make sure you’re in a position to get it filled as quickly as possible.
- Follow up
Your system should make it easy to follow up on any enquiries and provide you with all the information you need at your fingertips. Then when you call them, you’ll already know which classes their child is interested in, how old they are and what days they are free to attend. Even if they have to go onto a waiting list, they’ll have had a good first impression of your professionalism and will know where they stand.
If you don’t have a good admin system in place, then, LoveAdmin’s powerful dance school software can streamline your admin and maximise your profitability.
Fiona does warn though, that the “…data system you’re using, is only as good as the information you put in and how consistently it is used.” So make sure you’re keeping your systems up to date and adding to them as and when new information comes in.
Consider all class options
Look at your current venue, is there any way they can offer other days or times on top of your existing classes?
- Is there another, more suitable venue that can offer more capacity, times, days or rooms?
- Would you consider using multiple venues? It can be logistically tricky, but still very doable if you delegate some responsibilities to other trusted members of your team.
Consider all team options
- Have an open mind. Consider other teachers across other disciplines. They may be more than able to teach a ballet class for little ones, as the ballet content is pretty low. If you can supply a digital pack guiding them through what to do for each class, they don’t have to worry about creating something from scratch. This immediately solves a recruitment problem and means they can increase their earning potential during daytime hours.
- Ask your staff to have an open mind about teaching other age groups. Inevitably, the older children get, the more likely they are to drop out. This means there’s always a bigger demand for junior places. It may not have been something they feel equipped to do but, with the right guidance and support they may grow to love it.
- Consider holding a very early class. Most venues are empty in the earliest part of the day, but you’ll find that’ll suit some families better. Especially if they have early risers.
Create consistency by looking after your team
When you look after your team then they’re more likely to stick around. Make them feel valued and supported by providing them with the following things:
- Clear class descriptions, a skills list, aims and themes.
Relating back to the consistency, give them everything they need to be able to succeed within the framework you provide.
- Clear expectations with space for their own creativity. Allow them the freedom to add their own touches to your framework.
- Hand holding, shadowing you or being assisted by you. It’s so important for your teachers to know you are always there in the background supporting them. Always listen to their concerns and guide them appropriately. Everyone can have a wobble when they start something new, so be available to walk them through their worries.
- Ongoing and open communication. Make time for regular catch-ups with your team so that you can catch any concerns they may have. If you are approachable and supportive, you’re more likely to keep on top of any potential issues.
How to connect with Fiona
If you’d like to learn more about how to leverage your preschool classes, then Fiona runs a course called, Become a Preschool Dance Pro. This helps dance school owners plan and deliver classes that engage and flow, so they run more smoothly and feel more rewarding. If you’re interested in this course, you can find out more information here.
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