6 Things Zumba Made Me Know About Teaching

Sometimes we learn about teaching in the most unlikely places. As Ms. Sneed began a new Zumba class, for example, there was a definite learning curve. “Is this how my students feel?” she wondered. Zumba reminded her to use 6 simple steps every day in her classroom.

Ms. Sneed Starts Zumba

For Christmas, Ms. Sneed received the Zumba Exhilarate 7 DVD Set. Perfect! After years of sitting at her teacher’s desk, she had gained 10 pounds. Yikes! Time to get started. She opened the box, read the directions, put on her new Zumba shoes, and pressed PLAY.

The first DVD, Step by Step, taught the dance moves. The directions suggested working through the steps two days in a row. The first day, she was miserable. Her feet clomped uncooperatively. The second day was better.

The second DVD, Activate, worked on several simple routines. Some were easy for her; others were difficult. The worst part was Salsa. She just couldn’t get the rhythm . . . her count was off. Instead, she just stood in place and marched. Time to go back to the first DVD and relearn Salsa!

Ms. Sneed was on her way with Zumba. It seemed like the perfect exercise solution for her lifestyle. But she had a long way to go to mastery!

6 Things Zumba Taught Ms. Sneed About Teaching

What had Ms. Sneed learned about teaching? A lot! Six simple steps can engage kids and make them feel more comfortable in the classroom.

1. Start Slowly

“Step, step, step.” The Zumba instructor’s voice tapped out a super simple rhythm. It seemed unnaturally slow, but it wasn’t too slow for her! Ms. Sneed needed that slow pace as a Zumba beginner. Within a few days, though, she could move so much more quickly.

Similarly, as a teacher, Ms. Sneed sometimes feared she was moving too slowly. Zumba taught her that she’s not! It’s okay to begin teaching at a snail’s pace then speed it up.

2. Scaffold

After she learned the step, it was time to add some arms (or a little bootie shake!) Hey! Ms. Sneed was really moving! But guess what? There was no way she could have moved her feet, arms, and bootie altogether on the first try. Adding one simple move at a time, working to master just that part, and then scaffolding to total body movement made it possible.

As a teacher, sometimes Ms. Sneed would get impatient and want to teach the whole thing at once. Zumba taught her that scaffolding was essential. “Teach each small part,” she reminded herself. “Then put it all together.”

3. Rewind & Remediate

As you know, Ms. Sneed couldn’t get the hang of Salsa. Going back to the instructional lesson allowed her to move on.

As a teacher, she’d sure like to progress quickly from one concept to the next. After all, there was a lot to learn before those pesky standardized tests. Through Zumba, Ms. Sneed realized that remediation is essential. Leaving a student in the dust is not an option. Sometimes it’s necessary to stop, rewind, reteach, remediate (or whatever it takes) before moving on.

4. Acknowledge Hard Work

“There! You did it! Good for you!” Every time she heard those words from the Zumba instructor, Ms. Sneed glowed. It felt good!

“As a teacher,” thought Ms. Sneed, “I sometimes just expect my students to learn. It’s their job, right?” But Zumba had taught her that learning is hard work. Furthermore, acknowledging that hard work makes learners want to work even harder. “This year,” she thought,  “I’ll praise my students more.”

5. If Something’s Wrong, It’s Hard to Move On

Wearing different shoes made Ms. Sneed’s foot cramp. She couldn’t go on. So she pressed PAUSE and headed upstairs for new shoes.

As she marched back down the stairs, she thought about how she felt when someone in her class had an “issue.” Man, she hated to stop a good lesson! I mean really!? – You need to go to the bathroom, sharpen your pencil, or blow your nose while I’m teaching? Ugh!

“Wow,” thought Ms. Sneed, “Zumba has shown me that discomfort makes it impossible to learn. Okay, I still don’t want my students to interrupt my teaching, but maybe I can make sure that everyone’s needs are covered before I begin instruction.”

6. Learning Is Fun!

After a week, Ms. Sneed finally had the hang of Salsa. Shaking up strategies for learning really worked.

And – hey! This was fun! She felt accomplished.

Once more, Ms. Sneed thought about teaching. “I often see the struggle associated with learning, and I acknowledge it with my students. ‘Look how hard you’ve worked,’ I say. But do I acknowledge the pleasure of learning something new? Zumba has taught me to say, ‘Doesn’t that feel great? You rock!'”

Zumba changed the way I felt about teaching. When I took the floor as a student, I learned that it's important to start slowly, scaffold, rewind and remediate, acknowledge hard work, stop when something's wrong, and above all else, learning is fun!

Zumba Changed How Ms. Sneed Felt About Teaching

Yep, Zumba changed Ms. Sneed. Well, she still hasn’t shed those lousy ten pounds. But her teaching has improved, and she enjoys it so much more. With Zumba, Ms. Sneed became the student. And she learned six valuable lessons: slow down, scaffold, remediate, acknowledge hard work, stop when necessary, and just shout it out – learning is fun!

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