Finishing on success: When is it important; and why is it necessary?

Finishing on success – Although I have absolutely done this, I haven’t actually recognised it explicitly nor have I always applied it when I should have.

This lesson is curtesy of my partner who I watched for over an hour teach my son how to play basketball. And, as my son became frustrated at the prospect of not just being allowed to aimlessly hurl the ball at the net I witnessed some serious teaching excellence occur.

Once my son decided to sit down out of his sheer unwillingness to continue his losing streak I took the opportunity to learn how to shoot a basketball properly. After about 20 minutes I was hitting some amazing shots and it felt great. Not only did it feel great to get better but it felt so nice to learn from someone who wanted to invest their time to teach me something. As it was getting dark I decided it was time to call it a night, but first I offered a few more opportunities for my son to try to work on his shot. I said he could have 3 more turns. After 3 failed attempts I commended him on his effort and started to head towards the car. Then, my partner stepped in and said “we are not leaving until you (River) get in a basket.” I thought “well ok lets do that” without giving this tactic the consideration or credit it deserved. My son tried and tried until he finally hit a shot. Then he asked if he could have a few more goes. Of course I let him. As we were walking back to the car my partner said to me “River really needed to finish on success.” In that moment I had a lightbulb not only go off but scream at me “this is so important to remember, so don’t you forget it!”

Why did this lesson seem so profound? Getting the best out of my class doesn’t just happen during the class. Every single class sets us up for the next. I have always asked myself what the last class taught my students; not only physically but mentally and how I should start the class in a away that will compliment the week before. Thus it is so important that as teachers we are organised in advance so that there is a mental preparedness from us and our students in order to create or maintain the fine balance between being confident and understanding that there is so much to learn; that we should celebrate our small wins but also have a grasp that the journey is long in order to reach our major goals.

I find defining tactics a useful tool as a teacher so that I can begin to do the following:

  • Have a repertoire of useful and effective tactics.
  • Identify when a particular tactics or set of tactics should be used.
  • Understand how to employ the tactic consistently.
  • How to follow through with the tactic to get the best long term result.

After analysing my class plans from the last few years I realised that roughly 3 out of every 5 classes ended on success. Not particularly in any order but just that although success was necessary, it was important for students to return home with the intent of reflecting on how they could be better students. So, I realised that roughly 3 out of 5 classes were designed to ” finish on success.” From now on I will use this phrase in my class plans.

As I delved further into my notes it became clear that I employed this tactic in the following circumstances:

  • Teaching beginners
  • Introducing new concepts, steps or skills
  • After a difficult class or set of classes
  • After a positive failure that occurred inside or outside the class (ie. competition or exam)

Referring to the above circumstances I’ll give one example of how I used the tactic “finishing on success” (although there are many ways you can employ this in each of these circumstances):

Teaching beginners:

I would sit down with the class and ask them what they felt really good doing throughout the lesson. If they felt comfortable enough to show us then we would all clap for them after their successful display of confidence and skill.

Introducing new concepts:

When giving feedback on the class lesson I would make sure that the aspect to work on is stated first and the aspect that was done well is stated as the final comment.

After a difficult class or set of classes:

If the students have, in my experience, reached their emotional and physical limitations I make sure to have a final exercise that includes a skill that they are collectively great at.

After a positive failure that occurred inside or outside the class room:

Speaking to the class about how difficult it is to try new things, enter in to new situations and set more difficult goals and how this is very commendable. That in and of itself this an achievement. That I am proud of them and could not reasonably expect more than their best effort.

Follow through is important because students need repetition and consistency in order to thrive. So, for example, whenever I have beginners I know the goal is to build confidence and a love for dance. Therefore I will make sure that finishing on success happens throughout the class, not just at the end. Whereas, competitive students require positive failure as well as successful outcomes in order to make significant improvements. So, I will create more comprehensive tools that take more effort to achieve that success like achievement charts; as opposed to the beginners who will receive praise for smaller goals like applying one correction.

Why is this necessary? Last night it became apparent that when my son wanted to leave the court because he was not prepared for the level of failure he was experiencing that finishing on success was important to ensure that he was willing to try at a later date and prepared to do his best when that date arrives. And since my partner wanted to achieve the goal of my son ‘wanting’ to come back and try again I would say this tactic worked nicely. Whereas after a few lessons River may need to finish a lesson on a correction that is really important for further progress meaning that finishing on success will hinder his growth in the sport and therefore finishing on success is not an appropriate tactic.

It’s amazing what we can learn when we least expect it. I would say keeping my student hate on as often as I can has really helped me pick up on some amazing things that I might otherwise miss.

Happy teaching !!






Published by everythingdancewithashley

Ashley Grottoli is an award winning dancer and choreographer who has helped thousands of students achieve their personal and professional goals. "Teach a dancer tricks and they are impressive on Instagram; Teach a dancer to harness their mind and body’s full potential and they can become anything they want to be" says Ashley.

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