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It’s important to recognize that the most effective way to ensure consistency and clarity in setting expectations, is to represent a united front. When children see follow-through coming from parents, it lets them know they are like-minded with similar philosophies and expectations. Well, the same really holds true for you as studio directors when it comes to supporting your teachers. We all have had those dicey situations either with parents or students where someone is disgruntled or disappointed about something; and the first inclination is to blame the teacher if they are not getting their way.  While it is a delicate balance of ensuring your clients are happy, throwing your teachers under the bus is not the way to go about it either. What this does is set up a precedent for resentment, undermining and feeling as though a teacher’s authoritative role is not being supported in the choices they are making in their classes. They feel discounted. This is not an ideal approach to ensuring a long-lasting and productive working relationship between you and your faculty. Consequently, it will eventually become clear to parents and students that there is dissention in the ranks and quite possibly going over the teacher’s head will become the go-to method of dealing with their issues. This is not a good scenario for anyone involved.

So, being the studio owner, how do you maintain directorship over your business while still supporting your teachers? It’s very simple really. Represent the united front. Whether it be regarding parent or student affairs, their ideas or input, etc. This approach will go a long way for everyone. First off, if it’s to be assumed you painstakingly took the time to surround yourself with faculty whose decision and teaching ideology your trust and count on, then this established protocol shouldn’t be an issue. Secondly, every one of us at some point is going to come across a situation that must be dealt with. Not everyone is going to be happy 100% of the time. The bottom line is how you choose to deal with it to find a resolution.  

First off, think about why parents need to speak to your teachers directly. Why aren’t you making it clear that all discussions, concerns, complaints come to you. Your teachers shouldn’t be in the caught in the cross fire, even it involves them. Most times if a parent or student comes to you first, you can put the fire out even before the teacher has to be involved. However, if the situation calls for it, then it is your responsibility to hear exactly what occurred from the teacher first and their responsibility to come to you with the issue. The best approach to handling this situation is then to call a meeting with the parent and child and hear them out. Most times, they just want to be heard. However, while letting them vent is a sure fire way to demonstrate understanding and concern for their issue, defending, supporting and validating the teacher’s actions is going to send a clear message as well as to where you stand. Now, clearly if the teacher is in the wrong and done something terrible that can’t be overlooked then that’s a different story entirely. However, the situation we are discussing here are everyday studio issues that most times demonstrate an undermining of authority and just simply not liking artistic or teaching decisions being made.  Showing that you fully support your teacher’s actions and decisions set up that feeling of a common studio philosophy and mindset and shows that you are all on the same page as to how things run and operate and what is expected of the student. Even in the occurrence that your teacher may have been in the wrong or you didn’t exactly love the way they might have handled something, the best thing to do is to still show that support in front of others and then privately speak to them after about how it was handled and how you would like it rectified or handled should the situation arise again.

Representing a united front will do just that; create unity. It will set the bar high. It will also ensure your studio’s mission, etiquette and expectations are understood, respected and followed by everyone. It will demonstrate to your teachers your respect for their decision making skills and teaching methods while diplomatically asserting to your clientele that you are all of one mind; supporting the talented teachers you chose to hire to help make your business the success that it is.

Good Luck.

See you in the dance studio,


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Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford is a native New Yorker and graduate of NYU Steinhardt's Dance Education Master’s Program; with a PK-12 New York State Teaching Certification. Her double-concentration Master’s Degree includes PK-12 pedagogy and dance education within the higher-education discipline. She also holds a BFA in dance performance from the UMASS Amherst 5 College Dance Program where she was a Chancellor's Talent Award recipient. Jess now works extensively with children, adolescents and professionals as choreographer and teacher and conducts national and international master-classes specializing in the genres of modern, contemporary, musical theatre and choreography-composition. Jess’ national and international performance career includes works such as: The National Tour of Guys & Dolls, The European Tour of Grease, West Side Story, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, Salute to Dudley Moore at Carnegie Hall, guest-dancer with the World Famous Pontani Sisters and IMPULSE Modern Dance Company. Jess has been a faculty member for the Perichild Program & Peridance Youth Ensemble & taught contemporary and jazz at the historic New Dance Group and 92nd Street Y in NYC. She was Company Director at the historic Steffi Nossen School of Dance/Dance in Education Fund and in 2008 traveled to Uganda where she taught creative-movement to misplaced children. The experience culminated with Jess being selected as a featured instructor at the Queen's Kampala Ballet & Modern Dance School. She has conducted workshops for the cast of LA REVE at the Wynn, Las Vegas and recently taught at the 2011 IDS International Dance Teacher Conference at The Royal Ballet in London, UK. She is also on faculty for the annual Dance Teacher Web Conferences in Las Vegas, NV. Currently, Jess is a faculty member at the D'Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Centre and master teacher & adjudicator for various national and international dance competitions. Recently, she has finished her NYU Master’s thesis research on the choreographic process of technically advanced adolescent dancers and is the creator of “PROJECT C;” a choreography-composition curriculum for the private studio sector. Jess is also faculty member, contributing writer and presenter in the choreography and “how to” teaching segments on the celebrated For more info, visit her website at

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