Studio Owners, you work hard to take time to interview teachers and carefully select those who will make a beneficial addition to your team. The right-blend of faculty makes for well-rounded training for your students; creating an experience and exposing them to different vantage points and personalities. Seeking a balanced personality of nurturing and warm yet challenging and authoritative is a difficult feat. Consequently, often times you may find yourself dealing with one extreme or the other. As studio directors you want your teachers to invest and love the kids as much as you do, but what happens when that relationship starts to develop outside the studio as well? And, how comfortable are you with that?
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 wonderful “family environment” where students, teachers and parents all know each other and get along, as a business owner, if not careful, it doesn’t take long for a parent to turn when 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!
See you in the dance studio!