This year we registered two students who came to us from another school. When the mom started to badmouth her kids’ previous teacher, I quickly explained that their teacher was a friend of mine and that I wasn’t comfortable hearing any negative comments. I thought that was the end of it until I got a call from my friend. She was in tears because this mom has been posting negative comments online about her and her school, as well as about how happy her kids are at my school.
It isn’t often that dance teachers in the same area can be friends, but she and I have become very close on many levels. Although she didn’t say so, I know this incident is making her distance herself from me. I want her as a friend more than I want these two students. Do I have a right to say something to this mom or ask her to leave my school? If I do ask her to leave, will she badmouth me on her Facebook page? Any advice? —Stressed
From a business standpoint, I have found that Facebook can be extremely effective for marketing and getting the message out. Social networking is a free-for-all for us to use as we see fit. That means people have to use their own ethical and moral standards as guidance on how to use it. This mom has lower standards than you or I do.
Yes, I do think you have a right to speak to this mom. It’s unlikely that she would have forgotten the conversation you had about this teacher. Nicely remind her about it and reiterate that her children’s former teacher is your friend and that her postings are making you uncomfortable.
If she refuses, I would ask her to leave the school. It’s as simple as that. You are running a private school and have the right to refuse students. However, I would not personally ask her to leave; instead I would contact a lawyer who would send a letter that covers my bases legally.
Your question about whether this mom might badmouth you on Facebook is a legitimate one. She might not if she thinks she would look foolish to criticize you after she’s been praising you. But she might do it anyway. At least you and your friend would be able to bond over your experiences with this mom!
You need to set a policy that states that students at your school (and their parents), as well as your employees, are forbidden to post negative remarks about other schools or dancers. Don’t forget to state the consequences of violating this policy. It’s too bad that school owners have to set policies about matters of basic courtesy, but this mom proves that they’re needed.
I want to say how admirable I think it is that you value your friendship more than those two students. Others in a similar situation might say, “Business is business.” Good luck to you and your friend. —Rhee
My 14-year-old daughter is a serious ballet dancer who has been dancing for seven years. I support the ballet training because I can see the good it has done for her in many areas of her life. My problem is that my daughter has become so close to her dance teacher that I feel alienated.
My daughter is at the studio many days a week, which I can understand because she loves it, but when she isn’t at the school she is on the phone with her teacher or staying overnight at her house.
When I attempt to talk to my daughter about anything related to dance, she tells me I don’t know what I’m talking about and mocks me. Yesterday she told me that she wished her dance teacher was her mom. With my two older daughters I went through the “hating Mom” stage at about the same age my youngest daughter is now, but the dance teacher’s involvement adds a dimension to this that is painful to me.
Am I just jealous of their relationship and should I let it go? If I speak up to the teacher, will I risk alienating my daughter further? I need help and don’t know where to turn. —Mother in Trouble
Dear Mother in Trouble,
If a mom at my school felt the way you do, I would want to know. My immediate reaction would be to work with you to make the situation more comfortable for everyone involved. My experience with handling teenage attitudes is vast and I know that many kids think their parents are uncool. I would come up with ways to reinforce how cool I think the student’s mom is—without the student knowing what I was up to. And I would try to get the mom more involved in the process (if she had the desire). If the child saw her mom as a part of the school, she might even think she was cool.
That said, I’m concerned about the teacher’s phone conversations with your daughter and the sleepovers. What could they be talking about? What do they do when your daughter stays at her house? Instinct tells me that this teacher is crossing the line in the teacher–student relationship. If she were a public school teacher, I believe it would be considered an ethics issue.
My advice is to set up a confidential meeting with the teacher at a time when your daughter would have no idea that the meeting is taking place. Start by discussing your daughter’s attitude problem and then (in a non-accusatory way) try to learn more about the teacher’s relationship with her. Ask what your daughter does when she stays at the teacher’s home. You could start the discussion by asking if your daughter behaves herself when she stays there. Once you introduce the topic, your instinct will tell you whether something inappropriate is going on.
I suggest that you discourage your daughter from staying at the teacher’s house by coming up with distractions or commitments on the days that she might be going there. If the teacher’s behavior is innocent, I have a feeling that she would be less likely to invite your daughter to her home as frequently.
Please understand that I am not accusing the teacher of any impropriety. However, she is certainly leaving herself open to the possibility that people might interpret her actions in a judgmental way. This is a tough one—please let me know how it turns out, and good luck. —Rhee
From reading your magazine and from being at a couple of your seminars, I can tell that you have had positive influences in your life who have helped you to become who you are today. Can you share who some of them are and why? —Curious
Thanks for asking! I immediately think of my mom, who had the most influence on who I have become and the philosophies I hold dear. Sherry Gold taught me that dance is about passion and that a truly good dancer is not only a strong technician but also has the ability to move an audience. My mom also set the example for what can be accomplished with hard work and determination. In her life, dance was a great gift and one that she passed on to a few generations.
As a young dancer I was highly influenced by many of the master teachers of the time, including Beverly Fletcher, Fred Knecht, Joseph Giacobbe, Luigi, and Brian Foley, among others. But the one teacher who I feel connected my soul to dance was Gus Giordano. From him I learned that all dance comes from the center, which I interpreted as the soul, and it worked for me. He taught me that you don’t just move your arms and legs to make good dance; a port de bras or battement was good only if you incorporated your core being into it. To me, that knowledge is what makes dance an art. Once dancers realize that, they move to a whole new level.
Like others before me, I’ve taken my passion for dance in entrepreneurial directions, proving that once a dancer, always a dancer, even if you’re not moving your body. I could go on and on because I feel like I had some of the best mentors in the field. Thanks again. —Rhee