Good Communication Is Good Business
Gold, Rhee, Cuming, Gloria Jean, Dance Magazine
FOR MANY dance educators, dealing with their young students' parents is the hardest facet of the profession. One secret to success in this sensitive area is good communication. Remember, you're all on the same side; the common goal is to secure the best dance training and high-quality education for the student.
Make yourself accessible at certain times (not during or just before class); don't hide, but keep control of your time and focus. Make it a point to get out into your waiting room and talk to the people who sign the tuition checks, transport the students to class, and are potential word-of-mouth advertisers and references, volunteers and community activists, school support systems, and devoted audience members.
Most parents want to be a part of their children's education. Help parents or caregivers feel comfortable when they ask a question or express a concern; smile or nod to let them know you hear them. If you don't have a ready answer, jot down their question on a handy notepad. Remember that you are the professional providing a service, while they may never have taken classes or experienced the culture of a dance studio. In the world we live in, a concerned parent is a healthy asset. Most parents do not go out of their way to give you a hard time, but unanswered questions can grow into nagging concerns. Caregivers become uncomfortable when they don't understand, and they will eventually seek more comfortable and communicative surroundings.
Since you operate a dance school, conferences are no less appropriate than at an academic school. Students and parents are entitled to know the progress that is being made in classes, where more attention is needed, when it is time for advancement, and whether class placement is appropriate. When students approach performance level, further counseling should surround the audition and casting process so that the long-term best interests of the students are insured.
Sometimes we encounter parents who believe their children are more talented than we know them to be; this is often the most difficult issue to approach. While the elements of hard work and dumb luck cannot be underestimated in any dancer's future, emphasize that you are expressing your best judgment in light of your considerable experience. …