It’s very common for students to take lessons from different teachers at the same time. There are several reasons for this:
- Students assume the more teachers they have, the better they will learn.
- Frustrated with their progress, students hope a different teacher can take them further faster.
- Students are curious about another teacher because of his/her reputation, championship title, or other accomplishment.
- As an experiment to leave their current teacher for a new teacher.
- Some schools use the buddy system, assigning at least two teachers to a student.
In any of these cases, there are times when the student’s perception is that they are being told different things. In some cases this is true. But very often it is a misunderstanding by the student—two teachers are saying the same thing, just using different words or explanations.
I’m currently teaching a couple in this situation. They frequently say things like, “Billy [another teacher] says we need to swivel our hips more on the cha cha,” or “Jane [another teacher] told me to turn sooner than you told me to turn.”
How does a teacher handle this kind of discrepancy responsibly and ethically? Here are three examples:
- “Oh, I see. Oftentimes it seems what two teachers say is contradictory when they’re actually saying the same thing, just using different words. Can you show me how Billy told you to dance it?”
- “Your other teacher is wrong. There’s no time to swivel your hips on the counts of “4&”. How long has he been teaching? He sounds like a beginning teacher who is misinterpreting what he sees. The way I’m telling you is correct and will allow you progress much faster.”
- “There are many ways to stylize and dance cha cha. Several styles are acceptable and are marked well on the competition floor. How about if we experiment a bit and find what looks and feels best on you? First, dance it the way Billy suggested, then dance it the way I suggested. I’ll give you my opinion, and we can discuss what YOU like the best. FYI, you’re not alone on this path of choosing between styles. Think of it as learning more about dancing and discovering how to make decisions on what’s best for you.”
I hope it’s clear that 1 and 3 are the ethical and professional responses, and that 2 is a disrespectful cheap shot.
It is ALWAYS better to speak respectfully of other teachers. Since we were not at the lesson to hear what the other teacher said, we don’t really know whether the other teacher is advocating a different technique or the student simply thought it was different.
What reputation as a teacher do you want?
- He is so respectful of his students and fellow teachers.
- She likes to gossip about other teachers.
- He has his own style and believes it’s the only right way.
- She’s both confident in her own teaching and speaks highly of all the teachers in the area.
It’s important to recognize that EVERYONE has a reputation. And if we want a good one, we cannot fall into the trap of making ourselves look good by dismissing or belittling other teachers.
This issue will come up long as you are teaching. I support you in dealing with it thoughtfully and respectively each and every time.
Has Something Like This Happened to You?
Dancers: Has one of your teachers responded in a way that positively or negatively influenced your opinion of him/her? Share your story in the comments.
Teachers: Do you have a story or tip about how you’ve handled this successfully (or regrettably)? Share your story in the comments.