Taking Ballroom Dance lessons as a single, couple or in group classes is all about communication. The communication between the instructor and the students is critical to the learning process. Taking classes from an instructor for the first time is the hardest. It takes time to get on-board with the instructor's approach, teaching technique, terminology, voice level, rate the material is presented, etc.
Patterns are generally taught by physically demonstrating both the leader's and follower's part. This is the easier part of the teaching process. However, students sometimes do what they think they know instead of what is actually being demonstrated. Even in group classes, I try to go around to each couple to make sure they understand the geometry and flow of the pattern. The hard part for the instructor, is trying to communicate what the pattern feels like (what is happening between the steps). The most effective way (in my opinion) is to verbally describe what is trying to be taught, then physically dancing it with him/her so the words match the feeling of the movement. My instructor (female) and I used to go at it over and over again trying to come to an agreement on the use of the words to describe a specific movement. Men and women see, hear and verbalize things very differently.
Words are very powerful tools in the learning process. You can't assume that the words you speak have the same meaning to all that hear them. Most of the time in dancing, the words are used to create a certain body action or movement. The body action is used to verify that the communication was successful. Many times the instructor will use several different phrases to describe the action that he/she is trying to teach, hoping that one of the phrases will "click".
The student has a responsibility to themselves and others (if in a group class) to make sure they are understand what is being taught. If you have questions, there are probably others that have the same questions. In ballroom dancing, there should always be a reason for "why" we do something. The reason is usually partnership, connection, power, movement, etc. The more you know the "why" the more you are likely to do it.
You (the student) are paying your hard earned money for these lessons and you are responsible for getting the best possible information from your instructor. Your instructor is working for you, not the other way around. If something doesn't feel right or doesn't make sense, don't be afraid to voice your concerns to your instructor. Sometimes it could be a new position that feels strange, it could be a misinterpretation of the information or maybe the instructor misstated what he/she meant. Either way the main concern is to get it corrected. Instructors often teach things at a simpler level then evolve it to a higher level as the student progresses. Sometimes it is better for the student to learn things in a certain order or sequence. Your instructor should be able to explain this rational to you.
Many times the importance of the information is not realized. This is especially true for men. The seemingly little things that the leader does can have a huge impact on the follower. I have the man dance as the follower so he can experience how important the little details are to the follower. The men need to be able to understand the feeling he is trying to give to the lady.
Instructors in general, will give their best effort to give you the best possible ballroom training. Just don't forget that you are in control and don't hesitate to demand the very best. Happy dancing!!