Ask the Experts: Dealing with Disrespectful Teenage Students

Q: I am really struggling with disrespectful teenage students, some who are bullies and some who think they have a say in how I run the school. I’m ready to tell them: “This is how it’s going to go, or find another school.” Any advice?

A: Respect must be the foundational culture of your studio. Set up a student-parent-teacher conference, and include another staff member in the meeting with you. Have your staff member take notes to determine what resolution can be reached and whether the student wishes to participate further on your terms.

Regardless of your studio rules and guidelines, unless you hold people accountable for their behavior, it will not end. If you tolerate bullying or negativity as “typical teenage behavior,” the nastiness will keep escalating and have an effect on your studio. Warning, scolding or threatening usually results only in tirades from parents about your unprofessionalism and insensitivity. Instead, there must be real consequences, stated in writing, for actions that negatively impact you, your business or other students’ participation.

Identify what behavior would result in dismissal from your class, team or school, and be prepared to follow through on the consequences. Do not let the fear of losing students stop you from doing what is best for your business. Yes, you may have some difficult issues to work through. But once your students know what will not be tolerated, you will create a much more peaceful environment.

If a student chooses to leave your program, understand that while you cannot control what will be posted on social media or in reviews of your business, you can be prepared with a professional statement from the studio regarding any decisions or actions that were taken. Ultimately, you will be glad you set boundaries and stuck to them.

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 by B Hansen Photography, courtesy of Suzanne Blake Gerety

Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.