Teaching Q & A: the Case of the Struggling Student


Do you have any advice for teaching a student who is really struggling? In every class, there is always a student who just doesn’t get it. I tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time with them, when the rest of the class also deserves my attention. How do I catch the slower student up without holding back the rest of the class?

Nita’s Answer:
Keeping in mind that each student is an individual with a different level of mastery, try to spend the same amount of time with each student, correcting each  to the level she is performing at – not to the level she “should” be at, nor to the level of the class she is enrolled in. If a beginner student has enrolled herself in the intermediate or advanced class, you must still correct her as a beginner.

I find that the difficulty with learning any new complex movement usually stems from a weakness in one of the foundation movements that it is built upon. In other words, if the rest of the class is learning a complex movement and one student just isn’t getting it, you will need to identify the weak foundation movement and offer a correction to that movement (not the more complex one.)

For example, if you are teaching the class horizontal figure 8 hips but she is still struggling with isolating the hips in a horizontal slide, than of course she is not going to be able to do the figure 8 correctly, hard as she might try. In this case, you should correct her on the weak fundamental movement (the hip slide) rather than trying to “catch her up” to the rest of the class doing the complex movement (horizontal figure 8).

Say something like this: “Lets break this down. We know that the horizontal figure 8 is built on the hip slide, so lets master that first. When you’ve got that, it’ll be a snap to build on it and do the figure 8”.  Give her the job of practicing the hip slide and quickly move on to the next person.  It is then up to her to take your advice or not.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!