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Dealing With Teacher-Student Socializing Outside The Studio

Type:

Studio Owner Article

Category:

Improve Staff and Customer Communication

In this technological age of social networking, the ability to connect with students outside the dance studio is literally just a push of a button away. What most times may be innocent interaction and communication, opening up yourself as a business owner to this can lead to serious ramifications if something is misconstrued; thereby opening you up to unnecessary complication.

While some may have the type of "family environment" where students, teachers and parents all know each other and get along, as a business owner, it doesn't take long for that parent to turn if one word in one conversation is taken out of context. The other thing to think about is... why do your teachers need to text or Facebook with your students or be sending them emails? What is so important that can't wait to ask them at the studio? Or if it is urgent, give you a call to check with that student? Is it appropriate to be commenting on each other's social "status" and is it appropriate for students to be privy to the on-goings of a teacher's private life? Does it blur the line of teacher-student relationship to friend-friend relationship? Does it open trust issues as well; leaving a door open for parents to then contact teachers to discuss studio business and make complaints straight through them rather than speaking to you, the owner? This in turn can then lead to a whole bevy of trouble concerning teacher loyalty and where priorities lie. Now the alliance is blurred.

While students are always going to feel "cool" for being able to add a teacher to their social-circle, as a studio owner you really have to be on top of this and need to give this sort of interaction great weight. In a time when things are not perceived as innocent as they once were, also give thought to the potential legal ramifications this could potentially lead to when dealing with male teachers chatting with teen female students or vice versa. Again, although most often completely harmless, most teachers with the greatest intention could simply see it as taking a sincere, invested interest in their students' lives; there to give advice and support and create a close rapport. This is wonderful, but is it better to be safe than sorry?

The best way to go about this is to make your expectations clear upon hiring, that way there is no confusion. Gently letting a new faculty member know that the studio prefers and asks its teachers to refrain from social networking of any kind outside of class with the students until they have graduated, is a fair request. Quite honestly, any teacher that has a problem with this or can't understand and see that you are also protecting their best interest is possibly someone to give pause to anyway. Keep in mind however, that many teachers do have public, professional "fan pages" that students can read…and that is one happy medium. Here, students can follow the work of their favorite teacher but are still denied access from interacting and following the in's and out's of the teacher's private life.

Unfortunately, we do live in a world today where the best intentions are sometimes misconstrued and we need to error on the side of caution; especially in protecting our business, students and teachers from themselves. Do be vocal about your feelings on this issue with your students, parents and faculty and have a meeting to discuss it through. Make sure students and parents also understand your expectation to not put a teacher in an awkward position as well, in reaching out to them outside the studio. Explain why this is inappropriate and ALWAYS and most importantly remind them that everything you do is in their best interest as long as they are training with you. Best of luck to you!

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Author

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 danceteacherweb.com. For more info, visit her website at www.jrizzo.net.

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