Ask the Experts: An App for Communicating with Parents


Q: What's your recommendation for an app to communicate with parents?

A: Good communication leads to good relationships, and we all strive to have a positive relationship with our students' parents. It's also best to keep your personal and work lives separate, so giving your cell phone number to every parent isn't necessarily the best idea. Remind is one of the most popular teacher-communication apps to solve this problem, since it allows you to send messages privately to individuals and groups, but there are others out there with more features—plus, they're free. Like Remind, Bloomz has parents join and allows you to do private or class messaging. If parents don't sign up, you can still e-mail through the app. Bloomz also has event-scheduling capabilities, so you can use it to set up parent-teacher conferences, organize sign-ups for volunteer activities or request items you need.

Celly (which works through a web portal or an iPhone) has you create your group—called a “cell"—and then connect via e-mail, text or through the app. You can also conduct polls or surveys. Celly can share photos and files from your cloud storage, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, as well. Its standout feature is that you can use it for fundraising, just like any other crowdfunding site, except you don't have to hit your target goal to get the money.

As I've said in the past, advocacy is a big part of any dance educator's job, and one of the best advocates you can have is a parent of your student. I've mentioned using blogs as a way to get parents excited about what you're doing, but these apps work, too, especially when you use them to send photos or videos, so parents can get a peek into your class.

Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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Dancer Diary
Claire McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

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