Teachers, we have all been in the position where we have taught for dance studios that started off as a wonderful experience; where we have invested a number of years only to discover that at a certain point, it’s time to move on. If you are lucky enough to find that dance studio where your teaching philosophy, creative ideas and overall mindset gel with the owner’s and grow together for years on end, then that is ideal. However, dance teachers are evolving artists and human beings where your professional and personal needs change as well. Sometimes you either feel like you’ve done everything you can do there or are in need of a new challenge, environment and goals in which to reinvent yourself and progress as a teacher.
Approaching the subject with your studio director can be less than pleasant, especially if you’ve been there for a long time and have a good rapport with them. Giving great thought as to “why” you are really deciding to leave the studio and being clear in your own mind will help open the dialogue and make for an easier transition (especially when it’s time to tell you students as well.) First off, be honest with yourself. Why are you leaving? Are you unhappy about something there that might possibly be remedied? Do you want to ask for a raise? Are your classes not fulfilling you the way you’d hoped? Is your schedule not conducive to your needs? Are you just wanting to cut back or need more hours? Is the travel to the studio becoming an issue? Are there personal reasons which are taking precedence over teaching at the current moment? Are you wanting to concentrate on your own performing career and the commitment is too stringent? Is there an issue on the table bothering you that you haven’t mentioned? Or are you simply in need of a change of scenery and different studio environment? Once you are honest with yourself and can clearly define why you want to part ways, the easier it will be to articulate your motivation to your employer in a diplomatic and amicable way.
Some things to keep in mind however. While the buildup of telling your studio owner you have decided to leave might leave you anxious about the conversation, don’t take it personally if the reaction is not what you had anticipated in your head. Yes, they may be disappointed to see you go, but if they don’t throw themselves to the floor in tears, begging you to stay, don’t take it too hard. Remembering, that while a valued teacher is priceless, everyone is replaceable. So, if a studio owner seems to take it in stride and doesn’t offer that raise to get you to stay or doesn’t care to hear that rehearsed explanation you practiced in your head, be professional and take it in stride as well. After all, they may have been feeling the same way about your employment for a while as well or sensed this was coming.
Furthermore, remember that professionalism is just as important from the day you walked into the studio to your very last day teaching. Be considerate and mindful as to when you are dropping this bomb and where you are in the year if it is at all possible. Leaving in the middle of the year when you are only half way done with numbers just because you can’t take it anymore is not a valid excuse to leave someone high and dry. You made a commitment, so unless it is unavoidable, fulfill your obligations as see things through to a respectable point of exit. Also, if you make the decision to finish out the year, semester, etc. then give the same 100% effort that you would any other day. Don’t start missing classes, showing up late and teaching class on autopilot just because you know you have one foot out the door. This will ultimately affect the dancers more than anyone else. Furthermore, think long and hard about going down the road to interview for a competitor’s studio right away after you leave. Be ethical and exhibit fair practice. And…. If you do have plans to teach nearby immediately, letting your current employer know and being upfront wouldn’t go amiss. However you decide to go about it, just be mindful that you one never know what the future holds and you might actually like to return one day whether permanently or as a guest artist. The dance world is a very small one and chances are you will cross paths again, so……always stay true to yourself but never forget the circles in which we move and network from.
Bottom line- At the end of the day, remember, you are going to be the best teacher you can be when you are happiest yourself in an environment that you thrive in and inspires you. Parting ways is never easy, but should always be met with professionalism, diplomacy and mutual respect for the partnership. Good Luck in your new endeavors!
See you in the dance studio!