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Approaching Your Teacher

Posted Nov 17 2008 11:49pm

Image by thinq4yourself

Image by thinq4yourself

I recently received a question from a reader who is interested in approaching her studio owner with a proposal. She felt that she and her fellow students could use a designated time each week for conditioning their bodies in addition to regular dance classes. Her proposal was to volunteer her own time and lead this conditioning class and wanted advice on how to best address the matter with her teacher/studio owner. I won’t get into the details of her particular situation or address whether or not a student is qualified to instruct such a class. Without knowledge of the student or the specifics, I cannot properly judge. However, I thought it was worth exploring this topic for the blog, not only for others who may be interested in a similar proposal, but for any student who may be unsure how to approach their teacher with their ideas, questions, concerns, and suggestions.

Be Prepared

When offering ideas or suggestions to a teacher (or boss, coworker, etc.) it is important to anticipate and consider any questions that he/she may have about your proposal. There are several reasons for this:

  1. It helps to solidify your proposal. Sometimes we can be so excited about or positive of the value of our own ideas that we are blinded to some of the obstacles or negatives involved. Trying to think ahead and be the devil’s advocate will help you to discern the true value of your proposal.
  2. It will increase your confidence when making the proposal. When you’ve looked at an issue from all sides, you are more equipped to handle scrutiny regarding your idea. You’ll feel better about the proposal itself and about addressing your teacher.
  3. It will earn more respect for you and your idea. This is because your preparation will show that you have put time and effort into your idea and that you aren’t just complaining about what isn’t being covered at your dance school.

Questions To Ask Yourself

Here are some questions that may be important to consider before approaching your studio owner with a new class proposal. They ask the essential - Who, What, When, Where, How, and Why - that anyone creating a proposal should be prepared to answer or address.

  • When will the class be scheduled? (day, time, frequency)
  • Who are the participants?
    • Is it for anyone above a certain age?
    • Only for ballet students or competition/company students?
    • Is it mandatory for certain students?
    • Open to recreational students or those with non-dance fitness goals?
  • How will the class be advertised or “sold” to students and parents (particularly if it is going to cost extra money)?
  • How much time are you willing to spend to see this put in place (especially if you are doing it for no pay)?
  • What do you think would be a reasonable cost for this class, and if you suggest offering it for free- is it free for anyone, or just students that already take so many classes per week?
  • What kinds of exercises will participants be doing and how are they beneficial? (If you are hoping to lead the class, you should definitely have a plan or syllabus of goals and exercises).
  • Why does the studio or its dancers need an entire class devoted to conditioning?

Often when one makes a suggestion, they think that the suggestion is enough and that it is up to the person in authority to figure out the details. However, I’ve found that it always helps to have thought through these details if you plan on offering your suggestions. Again, it looks a lot less like complaining when you can back up your ideas and also, as I said in my article on professionalism, it is a sign of leadership.

The Approach

Photo by Deannster
Photo by Deannster

Put yourself in the shoes of your instructor. Would you rather hear about what is lacking at your school, or listen to a student that wants to give back and has thoroughly thought about ways in which he/she can do so. The former only gives the impression that you think your teacher is not doing a proper job in training, the latter is encouraging. Your instructor will feel that he/she has helped produce a thoughtful and dedicated student. Keep this in mind as you speak with your teacher - how would you like to be addressed?

Timing can be everything. Don’t approach your studio owner during hectic times of the year. Schedule a time to sit down and talk with him/her so that your proposal will get the full attention it deserves. Don’t wait until right before the new season or school year begins to propose something that needs planning and coordination of efforts. Your instructor will appreciate these small but important considerations.

Present yourself in a professional manner. Speak with clarity and confidence. Show that you have done your homework and even dress the part. While you don’t necessarily have to wear your best “interview” attire, your appearance during the meeting with your teacher can make an impact.

The Outcome

Be prepared for any outcome and be respectful even if things don’t go your way or the way in which you expected.

  1. Your teacher may love the idea and give you the green light. She’ll want to know that she can rely on you if she allows you to go ahead without much of her own input.
  2. Your teacher may really like the idea, but she may not have the time to put the extra effort behind it.
  3. Your teacher may have her own ideas to contribute or want to fine tune your suggestions. Be flexible in your vision and you’re more likely to see it happen.
  4. She may like the idea but feels she or someone else may be better equipped to lead the class. Decide if you are willing to see this done even if you are not the one teaching and/or be prepared to state why you are qualified to teach this class.
  5. She simply may not like the idea and, since it is her school, that is her prerogative. You should be prepared for that response also.

What are some additional things this student could consider?

Have you ever been in a similar situation? What was the outcome?

How are my thoughts applicable to situations outside the dance studio?

Posted in For Students   Tagged: class, communication, dance studio, professional, question, relationship, respect, studio owner, suggestion, teacher   
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