Q: Dear Rhee,
Advice for Dance Teachers
I’m in need of suggestions on how to deal with competition parents who have a hard time getting along with each other. They are adults—I shouldn’t have to police their interactions. Most conflicts arise over fundraising: they can’t agree on a fundraiser, no one steps up to take the lead, and some parents are upset about how much everything costs. It’s very frustrating! I’d appreciate any suggestions on how to handle this situation. —Tammy
A: Dear Tammy,
You are not the first studio owner to write to me about parents who don’t get along, especially when working as a team on fundraising projects. I remember disbanding a parents’ support team at our studio because bickering was affecting the morale of not only the parents, but the students and teachers as well. At that point, students became responsible for financing their own activities and trips. Everything worked out in the long run—parents got along better and everyone’s stress lessened tremendously.
However, if you don’t want to eliminate fundraising altogether, here are a few suggestions. Take charge, or assign the task to an employee with administrative skills. Come up with some fundraising ideas, or choose a few from options submitted to you by parents. At a decision-making meeting, present a small number of options and limit the time participants have to discuss and reach a consensus. Chat about the roles/jobs needed to accomplish the task, and ask for volunteers. If parents don’t step forward on their own, assign roles to parents who will work well with each other and for the benefit of the students.
Another strategy is to make all fundraising opportunities optional. Those who wish to participate can do so, and the others can finance their children’s team activities in any way they choose. This serves to narrow the fundraising participants to parents who are enthusiastic about working with each other to accomplish a shared goal.
The reality is that you need to think of yourself as a teacher of both your students and their parents. Get right to the point with an organized agenda for each meeting. Stay on top of those heading up the fundraiser. Don’t put up with negative talk within the group. Give praise when tasks are accomplished, and let everyone know how much you value their support. All of this will set an example for how a group of adults can get along. It’s hard work to build a well-functioning community of team parents, but it’s certainly worth the effort. Good luck. —Rhee