Taking back preschool classesQ: Dear Rhee,
I’m doing my best to build my dance studio business in a small town. In the beginning, almost five years ago, my studio was booming; it was full of preschoolers and lots of kids under age 10, plus my competitive team. For the last couple of years, I have had a hard time growing and even maintaining my preschool classes. Students always seem to drop off before the season finishes, and this year registration is really low. This is happening at a time when there are more toddlers in our community than ever.
My two preschool teachers are young, beautiful, energetic dancers who are trying to do a good job. They don’t have a lot of preschool teaching experience, although I have worked hard to help them. We have grown a lot over the past three years, and I have hired new teachers, but I’m questioning whether I should get back to teaching the preschool classes. I thought I had prepared my preschool teachers well enough that I could work with the more experienced students, and I am already teaching many hours a week.
Is there something that I could do to get my teachers up to speed? What is your advice? —Jenn
A: Dear Jenn,
I believe that you answered your own question. Yes, you should probably start taking back your preschool classes. First, parents love it when the school’s owner teaches their children. More importantly, you know that your teachers don’t have much experience. You wrote that they are “young, beautiful, energetic dancers,” which is admirable, but it takes much more than that to work with preschool children. You could send your teachers to any number of workshops or certification courses that would help them become better teachers, but you can’t wait for them to get up to speed.
I assume that you had many students ages 10 and younger when you started your school because you were a new school owner who was willing to teach anyone who danced through the front door. Your entrepreneurial spirit and personal interest probably impressed your first students (and their parents), which made your studio boom. But as our studios grow, we must do our best to maintain a personal touch while we preserve teaching standards.
I understand that you can’t teach every class, but are the classes you do teach critical to your future business and income, or are they the classes with the most experienced students? Do you feel that you deserve to teach only the experienced students or do you believe that you should make a good income and run a business where every child gets the same high-quality training? If you’re counting on a financially successful future, you will need a growing preschool and children’s program.
You write that you started with a competition team: where did those students come from? How does a new school start with a team when it hasn’t yet trained any students? My instinct tells me that they came from other schools and these are the more experienced kids who you feel you deserve to work with. Know that you can get the same feeling of success from watching your preschool kids smile and pretend to be ballerinas as you do when you or your kids win an award. The inexperienced students need you too. You can do this: it wasn’t that long ago that your business was booming; it can do so again. Good luck. —Rhee