Frog in Hand YouTube Masterclass Series 2020

PEDAGOGY Episode 1: Safe Space

Written by Erin Eldershaw


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[INSERT Frog in Hand Opener Video]


Erin 1: Hello! My name is Erin Eldershaw.

Rohan 1: I’m Rohan Dhupar.

Jessica 1: And I’m Jessica Cen.

Erin 2: And welcome to the first episode of Frog In Hand’s Pedagogy Masterclass series. These next three episodes will be geared toward helping teachers be more comfortable, confident, and ready for helping the people in the spaces they lead. Today’s episode will focus primarily on creating a Safe Space. We’ve broken it into five categories:

  • What is a “Safe Space”

  • How to begin a class to initiate this safe space

  • Accessibility

  • Appropriate Conflict Resolution

  • And How to give strength-based feedback.

What is a Safe Space

Erin 3: A Safe Space is ultimately a place where every individual feels that they are in an environment that actively supports them, and is not only making sure they are protected from physical harm, but also from harassment, discrimination, and potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations. We can’t always create a ‘perfect’ space due to the intricacies of triggers and bias’, but we can attempt to make people feel the most welcomed and comfortable as possible. Individuals who enter your space should feel protected from harm both physiologically and psychologically.

Rohan 2: Each person’s Safe Space looks different! So keeping an open dialogue with the individuals in your room is incredibly important to ensure the space remains respectful, free, and welcoming.

Jessica 2: In a safe space, each person should be able to feel that their voice will be heard without judgement, and that their needs are met. Students should feel like they are able to say “No” and be met with acceptance and understanding. This is in regards to doing things that make them feel uncomfortable, being around people that make them feel comfortable, talking about things they would rather not talk about, and more.

Rohan 3: A safe space is important for many reasons. Artistic rooms often hold a required Risk-Taking aspect in order for individuals to be creative and innovative; meaning they need to be able to be vulnerable in order to take chances in their work. So in creating a safe space, we are creating a “Brave” Space, where individuals will feel more comfortable exploring, learning, and making ‘mistakes’ in the class.

Erin 4: Part of a safe space is being transparent in how conflict will be addressed, and sharing with the class that issues will be taken seriously and with respect. We will dive further into detail on this in section three of this video.

Jessica 3: When we are teaching, we understand that it may be one’s job to give feedback in an attempt to better the work, and this criticism may be difficult for either the teacher to communicate or for the students to digest. However, our choice of language in communication directly influences how a space is experienced. For more on how to create an open learning space, and how to give strength-based feedback, please see the final section in this video. 

How to Begin Class

Rohan 4: The very first moment is important. You are setting the space for the rest of the learning period. If you are in a difficult space, try to find a moment to yourself before beginning the class to be able to let go of any outside stressors. This active release can look different for every teacher; it may be breathing for a few minutes in silence, enjoying a coffee across the street from your place of work, listening to a podcast, etc. But take the time you need to arrive in a calm, centered, and playful energy, so that the students can automatically feel at ease around you.

Jessica 4: Start by trying to connect with the students. Introduce yourself and give them an honest snapshot of your professional background, what your training is in, and how you came to be there today. You can always offer your pronouns in this introduction as well to ensure that gender isn’t assumed, and if you’d like you can go into further detail that the class is welcome to express their gender however they want, and if this gender expressions comes with specific pronouns, the space is open for them to state their pronouns as well. This ensures a space where people are free to disclose or not disclose information as they see fit. For example:

Rohan 5: “Hi everyone, I’m Rohan Dhupar and I use he/him pronouns. I’m a Mississauga-based dancer, teacher, and choreographer and I am so excited to be here today.”

Erin 5: Once you introduce yourself, and if you have the time, feel free to ask the students to introduce themselves, even offering a set of questions to be answered as you go around the room. For example: have them give their name (and pronouns if they wish), what their personal relationship to this class or art is, and maybe one fun fact about themselves or their day. [Written on the screen as #1. Name/Pronouns. #2. Experience with this art/class. #3. One fun fact] This opens up the classroom in a free flow environment, where people can get out their initial nerves about speaking out in front of a group of people, and potentially feel like you know them a little better.

Rohan 6: Alternatively if you don’t have enough time, open up the discussion to the entire class all at once. Ask how they are doing or feeling today, and really take the time to listen. Offer them a space to talk to you in private if anyone has any injuries or accessibility accommodations, outlining when and where you will be reachable. Make sure they understand this is not necessary, but the option is there if they would like it.

Erin 6: Another one that I love, is asking what style of learning your students lean toward; kinesthetic, visual, auditory, etc. do they have any accessibility accommodations in this regard? Is there anything that YOU can do as their teacher to help THEM learn. Offering this will give your students the agency to request something from you, if they need something explained slower or faster at certain points throughout the class, if they want to see you demo the actions, physically move them in a position, or explain it in a different way. Each student is an individual, and will learn best in their own way, so offering this will help your students feel heard, and will help them learn to their full potential.

Rohan 7: If you feel comfortable, after the introductions and right before the beginning of class, you can also lay down a sort of ‘contract’ for the class to follow in regards to safety and comfort.  You want to make sure that everyone is one the same page, and knows that their potential concerns will be addressed in a respectful, timely manner.

Erin 7: This verbal contract can let the students know that it’s encouraged behaviour to continually be checking in with other students, particularly about consent, boundaries, and contact points. Establish a system for the language surrounding these topics, as well as letting them know who they can talk to if they wish to bring something up. For example:

Jessica 7: “Thank you everyone for inviting me in, and for allowing me to get to know each of you a little better. Let’s move onto the work now. As we begin, I want to clarify that this space is for you to explore and learn in a fun, creative, and open way. Please be continually checking-in with your fellow classmates about boundaries, what you need from each other, where it is acceptable to have contact with one another BEFORE the contact is made; and if anyone has any concerns moving forward, you may come to me at any point to address them. Another option is emailing me after class. Let’s get started!”

Rohan 8: This ensures that everyone is on the same page and feeling open and heard before continuing with the work. For how to structure the rest of your class, please see video three of the Pedagogy Masterclass Series.


Erin 8: Part of a safe space is inclusivity and accessibility for all, regardless of accommodation. If a student has injuries or has asked for accessibility accommodations, this should warrant a change in your actions, not your attitudes about them. It is important to remain flexible in how the content of your class can be executed. Ask each individual how they would like to try the action, offer some ideas, but ultimately listen to your student and support them in whatever feels best for them. The goal is to set the student up so they can be successful and be themselves in every scenario.

Jessica 8: Wherever you are, be sure to describe the protocol and standard rules of whom to talk to or where to go if a student has something they would like to talk about. If a student is feeling unsafe or unhappy, they may wish to talk to someone but not be comfortable with speaking to you yet (even if you did offer this at the beginning of class). A good thing to have accessible is a list of authorities or persons in power that your students can reach out to. In every location this list will change, however, it may include people like, an assistant teacher, a permanent teacher in the institution, the board of the institution itself, or possibly some emails or websites to support or help with the content of the class. Assure the students that there will be no repercussions if they choose any of these actions.

Rohan 9: If the student does reach out to you, assure them that your conversation will remain anonymous unless they wish it to go further. Assure them that you hold their opinions in high regard and you, yourself will follow through with the accountability of this complaint / issue.

Conflict Resolution

Jessica 8: As an educator or leader of the class, it is inevitable that conflicts or difficult scenarios will arise. These might not necessarily be anyone’s fault, however should be managed carefully and appropriately. Each situation will unique to the individuals involved, so the management of the issue will change with every scenario.

Rohan 9: If a student gets physically hurt in your class, assess the situation immediately but do not bring undue stress to the situation. Remain calm, and using your judgment, allow the rest of the class to continue working on their own to keep attention off the student. It would not be helpful if the student became embarrassed due to the excess attention. From there, you can quietly seek the appropriate medical care.

Erin 9: The accident that took place may be a learning moment for the rest of the class, but be sure not to shame the actions of those involved. For example, instead of saying, “Lisa wasn’t paying attention.” You can say, “From now on class, let’s take it slow, and be sure we are checking in with our partners at every step of the way.”

Jessica 9: If a student is making light of the safety concepts –

Erin 10: Or goofing off.

Jessica 10: – and this is potentially threatening the safety of others, try having a private conversation with them about it first, reminding them of the safety techniques you laid out at the beginning of class and the very real consequences that could take place, and reinforcing the importance of safety. If they continue past this, you can ask them to take a seat and remove them from the action.

Rohan 10: If there an escalated dispute between two students in the class, calmly take them out of a public scenario and ask both of them to describe the situation from their own perspective and ask them to refrain from being accusational. Listen intently to both parties. Try to resolve the situation between the two of them, and encourage absolute apologies without clauses or exceptions.

Erin 11: Conflict resolution is difficult in every aspect of life, and will change from classroom to classroom. So try to take every new scenario as it comes, and be ready to be malleable and open to new ideas every step of the way. Allowing the time to resolve issues that come up, will ultimately help the students feel able to express their opinions and pave the way for a safer, more open space.

How to Give Strength-Based Feedback

Erin 12: According to Gartner, one of the world’s leading research companies, one study found that when companies focused on strengths during performance reviews, employee performances rose by up to 36%; however a focus on weakness, on the other hand, decreased the performance by 27%. This means that by switching the way feedback was given and phrasing things in a more positive light, people on the receiving end found themselves in a better headspace, and were able to put even more energy into their work.

Jessica 11: As we briefly touched on at the beginning of this video. It may be a struggle to properly articulate feedback at times. It can be a difficult task to give criticism in order to augment the performance value, while making sure your comments won’t discourage a student. 

Rohan 11: Because of this, we have interviewed a handful of incredibly brilliant teachers and masters from an array of skillsets, covering stage combat, intimacy co-ordination, and dance. Daniel Levinson, Casey Hudecki, Kev McCurdy, Jill Hollingsworth, and Carolyn Augustine, have all provided us with brilliant ideas and ways to focus on strength-based feedback for our students, to encourage growth and exponential potential. Here they are: [Video Clips]

Jessica 12: As you can see there are many ways to give strength-based feedback to your students and classes. I hope these experts were able to answer any questions you may have had surrounding the topic.

Rohan 12: This concludes video one of Frog in Hand’s Pedagogy Masterclass series. We hope that this has helped you feel more confident and aware moving forward with your teaching career.

Erin 13: Thank you for tuning in to episode one of the Pedagogy class, be sure to tune into Episode Two: Tools for Teaching Beginners and Non-Dancers.

ALL: Bye!