The video you have just seen demonstrates some of the attitudes we sadly see in the dance profession today, and although George has obviously been dancing a long time we see the attitude from people of all ages. This is not just an attitude from those who have been in the profession a long time.
Respect can be defined as having due regard and consideration for the feelings, wishes and rights of others. So let’s tackle the issues.
Professional Training for the people we work with.
Many dance principals develop their new teachers through the medal system. Medallists take their medals and become proficient dancers and then some express a desire to teach. We often take these on as helpers. Gradually we start to include them by allowing them to demonstrate with us in lessons and when they are proficient they might help us with a beginner who walks into an existing class. Often the aspiring teacher will already have an idea of how to teach. After all they have been watching the principal do it for a very long time. So how can we show respect for our profession and for the keen would-be teacher? I have heard many professionals bemoan the fact that an unqualified teacher has opened up a school somewhere. Is the profession in some way adding to this by not being keen to qualify the student teachers in our own schools?
I can hear the groan now. “I really helped someone in my own school and they took all my students and opened up just down the road nearly crippling my business”. But surely if someone was mean spirited and unprofessional enough to do this, wouldn’t they have done it anyway?
When things go wrong it is imperative that we examine our own responsibilities. What could we have changed about the way we operate our business and the respect we showed to the teacher? Were we a supportive leader and what did we do to build trust , honesty and respect in the relationship. People working in a supportive and respectful environment are much more likely to want to stay. What changes can you make about the way you conduct yourself that might make a difference in the future? Stop blaming people/ the world/ everyone else and look at your actions again. This will take you from feeling negative to feeling positive and hopeful for the future.
You can create a good working environment and trusting relationship by regularly asking for feedback from the teachers. How can I support you more? Are you enjoying working here? What are your ambitions and how can I support you in achieving them? Are we giving you opportunities for continuing professional development? Would you like to have an appraisal/meeting with me?
Should it come as any surprise that people who have learnt from us and worked with us might aspire to achieve the same things we have? If we have full confidence in our product and ourselves then we should not fear competition. Encourage the sort of professionalism which allows people to achieve their dreams but would stop people encouraging students to go with them. You might make their working environment so supportive that they have no reason to leave. After all not everyone wants the responsibilities which come from being an entrepreneur.
Respect for our Customers : No Rise and Fall?
We owe it to our customers to teach them to the best of our ability and to ensure that we remain engaged with continuing professional development and the dance industry. A good friend of mine, Andy Instone of Urban Strides (http://www.urbanstrides.com) gets rightly upset with people who profess to teach subjects like Streetdance without really finding out about its history and progression. There are Streetdance teachers who learn their routines from YouTube but cannot identify a basic action. This also happens in Cheerleading where teachers have been known to give their young dance students a pair of poms and wave them around as they are dancing a bit of line dancing. This is highly disrespectful to those who have taken the time to understand the complexities of the subject and highly disrespectful to students who are learning.
To treat our customers with respect we should be honest. If you have not attended a Congress, read anything, or attended a lecture in years then you could be seriously out of date. A teacher has an ethical (if not legal) duty to show a high level of care, application and skill in their subject. This means that lifelong learning is an imperative.
Respect for our colleagues
We can do this by building a good sense of community in our working lives. We should be a supportive team, abiding by the working practices of the school and supporting colleagues in times of need. Treat people as you would like them to treat you and remember that the outcome reflects upon the whole team. We should be a community working towards a common goal. Have you taken the time to give someone you know a compliment about the way they are teaching or handling something within the school? How did it feel when someone told you that you do something well? Aim to create a respectful environment between staff and students, between students and other students and between staff and other members of staff.
I will be doing some more blogs about team building, professionalism, and teacher training. Right now I am going to have a nice cup of tea and work out what I can do better in my own working practice. For me it’s all about lifelong learning.