Ask The Experts: Dealing with Hostile Teachers

Q: How should I deal with a teacher who is hostile or defensive anytime I need to ask what’s happening in class or discuss a parent’s concern? How do you know when a teacher isn’t the right fit versus giving him or her another chance to follow your studio policies?

A: Building relationships with teachers and helping them feel like part of your team requires ongoing conversations that both offer praise and identify concerns. Create a culture of respect based on clear guidelines. It is important to put your expectations and methods of holding teachers accountable in writing with a contract or agreement. This way, teachers can expect communication regarding any issue that would interfere with the overall success of the studio or their classes.

In this document, identify the roles and responsibilities of the teachers, staff and management, regarding your studio policies and procedures, mission statement and code of ethics. Delineate the expectations you have for professionalism, such as ongoing evaluation and review of customer feedback. Consider adding an artistic direction clause that states all programs, methodology and conduct of the teacher are subject to evaluation from the director/owner.

If you already have a contract with clear guidelines and are still having issues, set a private meeting and give this teacher an opportunity to choose whether he or she is onboard with your employment terms. If this teacher generally has a negative attitude or difficult personality, the potential damage this may cause to studio morale must be considered. In that case, it may be the time to let this teacher go.

Kathy Blake is the owner of Kathy Blake Dance Studios in Amherst, New Hampshire. She and Suzanne Blake Gerety are the co-founders of DanceStudioOwner.com.

Photo by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety

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