Twirly Girls shares her experience teaching pole to deaf students.
What are the primary things to keep in mind when teaching pole to students who can’t hear?That everything is visual. It’s important that each step, each move is done slowly and broken down in small segments. I also found that it’s important to show the move, then break the move down, step by step. After each step, I stop, and allow the interpreter to explain the move, then I do the move again. The girls can’t watch me and the interpreter at the same time, so it’s important to give the interpreter time to explain the move. It’s a slower process, but deaf people are very visual so they watch everything. Facial expressions, body movements, they pick up on movement from watching.
How have you altered your approach to pole instruction in order to connect with this group of students?I’ve always broken down moves step by step, because it’s the way I like to learn things myself, so I don’t think I’ve really altered my style of teaching. I do have to remember to talk slower to the interpreter because I talk fast and I need to give her time to sign to the girls. I’ve asked her to let me know how to make things easier for her, since this is new to me also. At the end of each of my classes, I let the girls do a free dance. To feel the music and let their body move, incorporating the moves they learned that day. Well, since they can’t feel the music, they ask me to show them how much time they have, since they can’t tell when a song starts or ends. So I hold up my finger to let them know how much time they have left. I’m amazed at how sensually they are dancing and how much rhythm they have. I’m also creating different hand signals for a Twirl, or move. Bringing my hands together like I’m praying is the sign for The Prayer, crossing my wrists stands for Fairy … anyway … I’m creating hand movements for various moves and it works because when I do the motion they know what move I’m talking about. It’s really pretty awesome.
Has what you’ve learned in teaching deaf students been something you’ve now added to how you teach all your students?I don’t think so. I think all beginner students need the same attention and need to have each move broken down so they understand the whys and hows. Most of these women are teachers or in the teaching field, so they understand the concept of teaching. I don’t want to treat them any different than any other student.
Anything else you’d care to share:I’m so lucky to have this opportunity and these women are so awesome…Last week was their last session with Twirly Girls. They had all bought a one-month Groupon Deal because it was so affordable. They gave me a beautiful card saying how much they loved their experience and how they didn’t want it to end. Hugs and sad eyes. The interpreter told me they were very sad and hated for the sessions to end but they couldn’t afford the classes on a teacher’s salary, and a few are unemployed.
Since it was their class, I had them dress up with wigs and costumes and takes lots of pictures … we must have been there for 2 hours.
Then, I realized, I didn’t want it to end either, so I gave them an offer they couldn’t refuse.
So … the Visual Twirlers will be back to class on Monday!
They may not realize it, but I’m the one getting so much out of this! Two of the girls already climbed to the top of the pole! It’s amazing how determined they are.
I would love to see more schools embrace anyone interested in taking pole. Everyone wants to feel like they are equal in all ways … and I believe there is a move for everyone. Everything can be modified.
Thank you, Bel – this will be a help to pole dance instructors everywhere!