You’ve heard the story before…
Boy meets girl, girl falls in love with boy, boy stays with girl until someone better comes along, and once she does, he’s gone.
Well, maybe that’s not how the story is supposed to go, but, in reality, it happens that way more often than not. A similar story happens at dance studios across America everyday…
Dance Studio owner meets Dance Teacher, Dance Teacher gets hired by Dance Studio Owner, Dance Teacher sticks around until the gig that they really want comes along, and once it does, their gone.
This is not how the story is supposed to go, but it is what happens quite often. I talk to dance studio owners everyday who are having trouble hiring and retaining great teachers. Sometimes, they just can’t figure out why they’re having such a hard time. They’re paying their teachers well, they treat them well, it’s a great environment to work in, the students and parents love them. But yet, in the midst of the peak dance teaching season (Sept.- June), the teacher bolts. No warning, no advanced notice, nothing. What happened?
Well, in my experience running a dance teacher staffing agency since 2007, I’ve found that there is one reason.
For some dancers, teaching dance is a last resort. Not for all. But for many. It’s what some dancers do because they (for whatever reason) can’t do what they really want to do…..Perform.
And just like that boy meets girl story, they’re just teaching dance until the next performance or other gig that they really want comes along, and then it’s bye bye to your dance studio.
Is this your fault as the dance studio owner?
No, of course not.
But, what can you do?
How do you filter out these people from the dance teachers who actually love teaching dance, and have purposefully chosen it as their career path? Here is my advice to you on how to handle this type of situation:
1) Ask the right interview questions. First and foremost, when first interviewing the teacher candidate, don’t just ask them about their teaching experience, their training, etc. Delve deeper than that. Ask them what their dreams are, where they see themselves in 6 mos., a year, 5 years. Ask them what their career goals are, are they currently performing, auditioning, etc.? Ask them if they’re currently working. If so, where? Are they earning a living wage? Is the job at your studio possibly going to be their main form of income, or just supplemental income? This will help you to get a better idea of what their situation is, and how committed they will be to your studio over time.
2) Look for warning signs. If they have never taught at a dance studio, or for an arts organization for two years (minimum) consecutively, beware. This may be a red flag of a lack of commitment and consistency. If they are in between jobs, and not quite sure how they will be able to survive, or what their job/financial plan will be for the next 6 mos. to a year, beware. I don’t say this so that you’ll begin discriminating against people who are only working part-time, or may be in between jobs. I say this because, money plays a huge part in this type of situation. So that means, if they’re teaching 3-5 classes per/week at your dance studio, earning $200 per/wk, and that’s their only form of income, and a job opportunity comes along that will pay them $500 per/wk, or even $250 per/wk, it’s only natural that they may have to reconsider their commitment to your studio for survival purposes. You must be aware of all of the different variables that come into play for dance teachers, and think like a dance teacher, not a like dance studio owner.
3) Go with your gut. This is very straightforward. If something in your gut tells you that something isn’t right with a particular individual, then that’s all you need to know. Your gut is never wrong!
4) Ask their references the right questions. This is really important. Although, it can be a little biased because, the teacher chooses which references to give to you. So, if things didn’t go well at a particular dance studio, they’re obviously not going to provide them as a reference. So, in general, you’re going to talk to people who have only had a good experience with them. But even still, ask the right questions. Such as: What things do you think this teacher could improve upon? What are their weaknesses? How did they handle conflict? What kind of feedback did you get from the students and parents? Why did they leave your dance studio? Really ask questions that matter.
5) Have back up resources in place at all times. Whether your students and parents understand it or not, your dance studio is a business. You have liability insurance, flood insurance, etc. for a reason. So make sure you have “teacher insurance” too. What is teacher insurance? Teacher insurance consists of back-up resources that are in place for you to access, should anything go wrong with one of your teachers, and they need to be replaced at the last-minute. Whether it’s a last-minute sub, or to replace them permanently. This is crucial. I suggest having a circle of teachers that you can call in your area, in case of an emergency like this, and be a part of an online community of dance teachers (such as this blog community), so that you have extensive resources to back you up when you need it.
Remember, not only are you dealing with artists, but you’re dealing with people. People pursuing their dreams, and trying to make a decent living in a very unstable, inconsistent business environment. There are many variables that must be considered, therefore, ahead of time. Make sure your dance studio is covered, or your you may end up broken-hearted and alone.
Can you relate to any aspect of this article? Do you think this is a legitimate issue amongst dance teachers and dance studio owners? Do you have more advice or suggestions to offer? What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment below.
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