Teach Inspire Motivate

"I See, Let Me Think About It..."

How many Dance Teachers Can Relate to this?
One of my dance moms asked if she could see me for a few minutes after class. Having just had a great night of classes and a few minutes to spare, I said yes. (Our studio procedure was for people to schedule a meeting time through my front reception desk and meet with me during my regular office hours).

We walked into my office and sat down. She complemented everything about my studio. I thanked her, as it is always pleasant to hear good things about your work, experience, and organization. She then asked if I would do her a tremendous favor since we are such good friends. Okay, I didn’t know we WERE friends, but I replied: “How can I help?” She took that as an agreement that I would do this unknown to me favor. I made a quick mental note to myself to in the future respond with something less committal like “What’s on your mind?” As she was thanking me profusely, I said with a smile,”Before I can agree to do a favor, I will need to know exactly what it is.” “Oh! (she was loosing some of her friendliness) I thought you just agreed a moment ago.” I said, : “No, I’m sorry for this misunderstanding, but I just asked to know HOW I can help, I didn’t mean to imply I CAN or WILL be able to help.” Her face went from irritation to overly friendly as she composed herself and readied herself to fill me in on the specifics of her request. “This will be so much fun for both of us, (she enthused) You will just love this! “ Uh oh, I was already regretting that I didn’t follow my own procedure with this impromptu meeting. “You know, I’m involved in community theatre. I danced a little in high school and would like to choreograph our musicals myself to save the expense of hiring a choreographer. If you would work with me just one night a week to teach me some basic dance steps and all the tricks of the trade of choreography, I’m positive I am creative enough to do this. You could show me what steps you would place in the specific musicals we are planning. I know YOU are too busy to choreograph our musicals . I’m just asking for one night a week. We will have some laughs, I can assure you” It took me a few moments to fully take in her request and formulate a response. “You want me to give you a choreography class once a week?” “Well, not really a formal class, just two friends getting together.” “You do realize we are booked solid on weeknights and that I teach at least 15 hours a week?” See, thats what I thought, you only work part time, so you can spare one night a week for a friend and to help the cause of community theatre. You can come over and we can do this in my basement” My head was spinning, I wearily replied: “I see, Let me think about it, check my schedule and get back with you.”

Although it wasn’t the response she wanted, she cordially smiled and said she looked forward to my call. After she left my office I finished making some progress notes on my lesson plans and headed to the waiting room. As I was approaching the door to the waiting room, I heard this mom remark to another mom “…after all, this is not like a REAL JOB, or CAREER, this is just something she does for fun. Besides, I pay her enough for my daughters lessons, that I would THINK she could do me this one little favor. The other mother responded with “Well , you know they have to be making a fortune here. I wish I could be paid for just dancing and playing around with kids a few nights a week” and they both laughed and walked out the door. One of my teachers sitting at the reception desk smiled when she saw me and blurted out “You should have heard what MrsX and MrsY were saying.” “Yes, I think I heard most of it.” “Well, she thinks you should give up one whole night of prime time to teach her for free or fun or something. She thinks she can learn everything about dance and choreography in a few easy lessons, like that can even be done! She also said, your answer would clarify whether or not you are in this for the art or the money! I wouldn’t even call her back. That is ridiculous! “ My young dance teacher was in my corner at least. I smiled and said I would have to call Mrs. X tomorrow, and that what she heard them say did reflect a not too uncommon perception. As we went about closing the studio for the night, my young teacher continued to express her anger at Mrs. X & Y, and how she hopes I set her straight about the real world, or something to that effect. I told her not to worry, I would try to think of an appropriate response tomorrow, and wished her a goodnight as I locked the studio door. We cpuld see Mrs X & Y still talking, standing next to their cars. They waved wildly with over the top, toothy smiles when they saw us. I waved back and headed to my car.

The next day as I left for my studio office hours, I had figured out exactly what I would say to lovely Mrs. X. I called her first thing with this. “Hello Mrs X, I thought about your request and checked my schedule. In 3 weeks I will have 2 hours opening up on Friday evening. I have a favor to ask you as well. I thought I could help you for one hour and you can help me for the second hour.” No response on the line, you could hear a pin drop. “You are a graphic artist, and I dabble a little at drawing. I have written a couple of children’s books that need to be illustrated. I would love to be able to illustrate my own books rather than hire a professional illustrator who might not understand what I envision for the books. It would be a quid pro quo.” Still no response. “I share my expertise with you for an hour, and you can share yours with me for the next hour. We will both have fun, give of ourselves, and benefit. …Long pause. Then. “ Pat, (she almost spit it out) you do understand I am a professional graphics designer, I am paid as a professional, it has taken years of training and hard work to get to where I am in my career. I just can’t believe you would think I would spend an hour a week teaching someone to draw. Really! after a slight pause. Let’s just forget the whole thing. Friday isn’t good for me anyway. Would one of your teachers be able to help me? “ “ You may ask them, but, I’m sure they will want to be paid for their time and effort.” “ All Right, I’ll try to find a high school girl to help, after all this isn’t rocket science” and she closed with: “Thank you Pat, for getting back to me, see you next week for little X’s dance class. “ and I replied, “You are welcome, good luck with your theatre project, I look forward to seeing some great plays.” The connection clicked, and I did a happy dance all alone in my office.