I have written many articles for Dance Teachers about issues with unruly students and how to get them over the hump and in line with the class structure. Students who are problems from a behavioral point can disrupt your entire class, ruin your flow and destroy your class karma.
The key is to find out what’s causing the situation and then deal directly with the problem at hand. This, in most cases, is not that difficult if your problem exist strictly with the student. A bigger problem exists when the student is being fed nonsense from their parents. This is a tricky issue—some may say a slippery slope—because once you head down that road, you are in for some ride with no place to go but down!
This is a problem that most, if not all, dance teachers will deal with at some point. The reasons are varied, but all too often at its heart is a mom who is living vicariously through her child. This creates a whole series of issues that start to corrode the student-teacher relationship.
This problem usually starts to manifest itself when the student is being fed ideas by a parent on how YOUR class should be run, how the student is being used/taught and how he or she is being corrected. Everything is put under a microscope for examination. So now, instead of you teaching and the student being in a place of learning, you are being critiqued and everything you do is being analyzed.
Unfortunately there is no easy fix to this issue. We recommend that a sit down takes place with student, parent and teacher—and if you are not the school owner then he or she needs to be there, too! Try to see where the parent’s head is at and what is the cause for their displeasure. Some may answer you that there is nothing wrong and others may open a full-blown attack! The key is not to take it personally. Yes, I know that is easier said than done, but it will be a big factor in whether you can move forward with your relationship with this student.
Once you get to the heart of the problem, you can then come to some type of decision about how (or if) you can move forward. It may be that this parent, through their child, is just going to be more trouble than they are worth. If that is the case, it is better to calmly explain that you are concerned that they can no longer be happy with you as a teacher and that they should move on from your class or studio. Having a spilt is hard, but it will help you keep your sanity and the integrity of the entire class. As that old saying goes that 'one bad apple spoils the whole bunch'—don’t let one bad apple (or parent) spoil your class or studio.
While you may be someone who does not like confrontation, it is very important that you build up a tolerance to deal with this kind of situation. Once you face an issue head on it will be a real revelation to you. You will experience a new sense of self-empowerment. The reality is that not all issues have solutions. But it is better to face each one head on rather than ignore it, hoping it will go away because chances are it will not without affecting you, your teaching or the business.
6 Signs An Issue Is Brewing
1. The student will not look at you when being given a correction. They seems annoyed when you give her one or has a sharp reply back to you when you are correcting.
2. The student begins to question your corrections. This is one of my all time pet peeves! I have zero tolerance for this and I recommend that you do, too.
3. The student begins to show up late, is not well groomed and seems unprepared to take class. This is further compounded when you ask what’s up and the student has no reply or just gives you a dirty look.
4. Parents come to you to say that another parent is going around causing trouble—this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed with the trouble making parent as soon as possible!
5. Students come to you to complain that a certain student is not being nice to the others and may have even said some less than complimentary things about you.
6. The student is completely out of control and no longer interested in hearing anything you may say in regard to corrections or discipline. Should you ever find that the situation has gotten to this point, you’ll need show them to door!