March-April 2014 | On My Mind

Words from the publisher

Recently I met Amanda (not her real name), a dance teacher who broke down while she explained that she had once loved teaching. Now it was nothing but stress. When she started teaching, she said, things were simpler: “All I had were toddlers; they loved class and so did I.” Now, she said, “I have students of all ages who are jealous of each other, and the parents question every move I make. They call or text me because they do not like my choreography or to blast me because they think tuition costs are too high. Almost everything I do is wrong!”

“Why do the parents feel comfortable expressing their opinion of your choreography?” I asked. She responded, “I always check in with them when it comes to the choreography. I want to be sure everyone is happy.”

I asked her if she would dare to tell her son’s baseball coach that she wasn’t happy with the way he leads the team. She said, “Absolutely not. I know nothing about sports.”

“And has he ever asked your opinion of his coaching style?” I asked.

“No,” she said. Her eyes opened wide in realization.

“Why do you think the kids are jealous of one another?” I asked.

She answered, “They believe I have favorites. But some kids are more talented, so they should be featured because they are the ones who make my school look good.”

I knew immediately that much of Amanda’s stress could be attributed to her own actions. But I wanted to fire away with a few more questions before pointing this out.

“How do the parents get your phone number? Why do they feel comfortable texting you or contacting you at home? Why do they question the costs of their child’s training?”

Her replies: “I gave them my telephone numbers in case they need to contact me, and I needed to go up on tuition to pay my expenses—but I apologized to them before it happened.”

Amanda, and the many school owners and teachers with numerous years of experience like her, shouldn’t ask parents what they think of choreography. They should have enough confidence in their own expertise not to ask for parents’ approval; instead, they should tell parents how excited they are about each student’s part in the choreography.

Every one of you school owners and dance teachers deserves the freedom to be at home, alone with your thoughts. You need time to live your lives outside of the studio, with your families and loved ones. That means the only phone number your clientele should have is the one for the school office. That goes for email addresses too.

As for tuition, don’t apologize. If you need to raise it, raise it—and say nothing. The price of everything your clients purchase goes up all the time. If someone questions the increase, say that you are doing everything you can to give their child the best dance education possible. End of discussion.

I had to tell Amanda that she, in fact, does have favorites. Teaching dance isn’t only about showing the community the best dancers in a school, it’s about presenting audiences with the passion and joy behind the movement and the music. Any dancer, regardless of age or skill level, is capable of that.

The only message you should send is that you are confident in who you are and what you want to accomplish. You don’t need anyone’s approval for well-thought-out decisions and creative choices that are in your students’ and faculty’s best interests. Believe in yourself, and act like the professional you want others to believe is at the helm of your school and in the classroom.