Today’s blog is a request from a fellow professional. A request to write about the mistrust so many have for their dance teachers, studio owners and the industry. I am not going to lie though; they will probably only like half my bog.
Yes, undoubtedly there is an overabundance of cooks in the kitchen when it comes to dance. Parents, students, the mail man and his dog all have an opinion on dance and what the industry should look like. I get ridiculously irritated thinking about all the people I have had to engage with regarding information and situations that were WAY, WAY, WAY outside their scope of understanding. Why am I discussing with a 12 year old to not change my choreography because she felt she looked better with her own? Why do I have to explain to a parent why a sun dress and cotton knickers are not appropriate for a public venue involving dance, let alone any dance in general? WHY, WHY, WHY????????
So many of these situations would be avoided if people simply trusted their professional. Why else would they have chosen them? Was it a bargain? Sally’s friends go there? It is close to the house? If parents have chosen their dance school based on any other reason that is not in addition to trusting their instructor then I can’t really help them with their attitude because professional, safe, experienced instruction was not the main motivator for their decision. In my opinion, the #1 reason to allow someone in their child’s life is because they trust them. That is it! I can’t even believe I had to say that …massive face palm. However, it is so obvious that so many don’t trust their dance professionals when they are blatantly changing solo choreography, speaking down to their dance teachers, not following their policies, forgoing reading newsletters, not arriving on time regularly, not wearing appropriate dance clothing and the list goes on……..and on ………………………….. and on………………………………………………………………………………….and on to infinity and beyond, whether it is justified or not.
I may love dance, but I also love being a professional, with a job, that is respected and that pays me money. As long as I am making a difference in this world through inspirational teaching, finding the balance between challenging and building confidence, designing outcomes that compliment each and every student all within a safe and respectful work environment then I will continue to do what I do. I am certainly not teaching in order to have the privilege of being in any specific parent’s and child’s holy presence. I do not believe one child is more important then the next. I work incredibly hard for all the students I teach. So many of us do. So to think that a parent or student believe they are 1) above everyone else in a class and 2) above the expertise of their instructor is a concept I am yet to grasp as a former competitive dancer, now instructor and proud dance parent. This scenario is not only affecting the positivity of the dance environment but our ability to produce results. And that right there folks is the real shame of this distrust and disrespect we continue to see and experience daily. So not following a professional’s instructions will extinguish any guarantee of a good result and the student will be a mere shell of their potential and ultimately the entire endeavour will be a huge waste of money.
Parents who would like to undermine my or any other dance professionals decisions can teach their kid at home using youtube…cause thats always worked out great:/
As I said earlier, I am a dance parent. So now it’s time to tell all these dance teachers why parents often don’t trust them. This simple list will hopefully highlight the MASSIVE downfalls of our industry and how it affects parents:
- No regulations regarding who can teach dance or open a studio. None whatsoever. I have seen former students of my colleagues open studios after 2 years of dance instruction. I have brought my son to an acro workshop where the instructor made him do skills I clearly knew he wasn’t ready for and he broke his toe. Disgusting.
- Marketing messages also have no legal ramifications if they are false. Now how is a parent supposed to know that when a studio says it offers “the opportunity for academic accomplishment and a professional career” that it cannot actually help their child achieve this? When they say they are great but if assessed by another professional would no doubt educate that parent about what that school is actually offering the parents, and it would not be a pleasant revelation. That if a dance school says its “fun” and “supportive” but the teacher forces students to rehearse for a year end concert, which is supposed to be fun, for weeks at a time on the stage ultimately impeding on everyones’ lives; then what is a parent supposed to do? What people are saying about their schools and the reality of what they offer often doesn’t match up and the only way for that parent to find out is by attending the school and giving them their hard earned money. Imagine the lesson was even harsher. Imagine finding out that their 16 year old daughter cannot keep up with 5-7 year old class with a proper teacher after 10 years of ‘so called’ serious dance training. All those years they thought they were getting something they weren’t and it was at the expense of the child. What parent wouldn’t lose faith in dance and its professionals?
- Too many emotions means studio owners are not making the right decisions. the amount of studio owners I have met that do not stick to their policies is astounding. Being soft isn’t just bad for the students, it’s bad for the industry. For years, dance professionals have crumbled under the pressure of having to honour their policies for fear of losing students. But you see, that’s what a business does, it creates policies that will regulate the type of business we receive. Not all business is good business and not all students and parents belong at every single studio. So instead of letting everyone find a situation that is better for everyone, we are teaching parents to disregard our expert knowledge and authority. Dance teachers did that. Not the parents.
- Youtube teaching galore means parents and students are seeing that dance professionals don’t have a clue what they are doing. When a teacher goes in to a studio and constantly uses online resources to teach but does not truly understand how to HOLISTICALLY teach the skill then the students will be skipping foundation technique that will make the skill messy, unsafe and unusable. So then parents start asking “if the teacher is going to youtube then why can’t I and what am I actually paying for?” Very fair, very accurate questions.
- Judges and examiners teach children and parents that dance is subjective in competition and exam settings. BUT IT ISN’T! If everyone performed the same on another day it shouldn’t matter who the professional is; the results should most likely, with the tiniest of variances, be the same. Dance isn’t some thing that is randomly performed without structure, long standing techniques, expectations and concepts. Dance is a sport that has CLEAR guidelines as to what makes a dance and dancer great. No its not an opinion. It is based on facts and we need to start educating the public on this fact.
As you can see, we, as an industry have failed miserably when it comes to educating our public as a whole. I am not saying everyone has failed or that there aren’t parents and students that get it or teachers that aren’t absolutely on the ball when it comes to their teaching, studios and marketing. What I am saying is that a significant portion of the industry is riddled with poor teaching, poorly run studios, a lack of regulation and consistency which is paired with a generation impaired by too much information and not enough clarity or personal responsibility.
So how can we fix it? Here is another list that will hopefully help both sides to come to some sort of respectful and productive conclusion:
- Give your studio 6 months where you do absolutely nothing but drop off and pickup your child. No negative comments of any kind. Let the studio respond to every unique situation as it arrises. Things take time and you need to give that time to see how they handle themselves.
- If you have a concern, put it in writing like a you would for any other professional institution. This will give the studio TIME to address it PROFESSIONALLY and that is not in the middle of class or at the end of a long day of teaching.
- Read about dance. Educate yourself on its origins and it’s heroes. Start to see dance for its legitimacy and history. Not the caddy Facebook feeds.
- Be ok if your child isn’t brilliant at dance. Explain to them that like anything else they have to work at it and invest fully in their classes. That is your only job parents! Support your children through their sport as a parent, not try to be wanna be coach.
- Respect the studio owners hours of operation and personal space. They do not live for your child. They provide a service that has a scope and that scope does not include listening to your personal problems or taking your calls outside of office hours. If for ANY reason you cannot meet your commitments then that is NOT YOUR DANCE TEACHERS PROBLEM. We are not monsters, but we are also not working solely to please parents and children.
- If you have not done the following: trained in dance for a long time; assisted experienced teachers; taught beginners; taken a business course; taken all genres; had an honest conversation with yourself and what you are ACTUALLY capable of teaching then do NOT be surprised if you have an abundance of issues with parents. It is often the lack of skill and ability that is shining through the smoke and mirrors of the words and excuses.
- Be mindful of your message and ensure that your website, social media and other marketing materials are a true reflection of what you can offer. When the results do not match the promise then you will get yourself in to big trouble and breed a very distrustful market.
- Let us work towards standardised marking systems. Let us be ok with sticking by those systems. And let us maintain our standards in the professional, competition and exam sector of this industry. In the same way that NASA isn’t sending all little astronauts to the moon we need to stop giving everyone an experience that only hardworking children and professionals deserve.
- Dance teachers with a massive amount of skill and knowledge need to become mentors. We need to offer teaching methods and tricks of the trade that work to those who are willing to learn. Because how else do teachers have the ability to critique their own teaching abilities? We are leaving others behind and it’s not acceptable.
- If you can break the skill down to its absolute basic form than you know how to teach it. If you don’t, then ask a mentor or go back to assisting. But do not ‘try’ to teach something you can’t teach or have no experience teaching. It is wrong; plain and simple.
Before I finish up I wanted to apologise to Karen for not writing a shorter blog! I really struggle to put all of the stuff in my head in to even less words…yes folks this is me trying lol.
So to conclude this blog I would like to say that the mistrust between parents, students and dance professionals has been created by a multitude of factors. Not just the parents and not just the professionals. I will end on this note: Be sure of what you want, because what you put out in the universe will come back to you.
Lots of work to do folks!!! Change is good. Let us change together:)
LIVE LOVE DANCE