Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Put It In A Love Song"

It's that time of year again... the month where I put out ads looking for new teachers and get hundreds of resumes sent to my inbox!
I'm trying to get a faculty together for September now so that I can utilize the summer to really form relationships with these new staff while getting them on board with my studio philosophies. It will also help me sleep a bit better at night knowing that my classes are all taken care of when I have Early Registration in June!

I always post an ad on a website in Toronto that plays hosts to teachers and dancers a like looking for work. It's a really useful website and I'm happy to pay my membership fees to every year so that I have access to posting ads and meeting new people. Then almost immediately that day I'll receive dozens of resumes, head shots and bios from people looking for work.

I find it really easy to sift through them at first glance. I weed out out the dancers, who are looking for a teaching gig to help pay the bills. Those are the people I know are not going to be dedicated to my studio or really teaching the students, since they're still concerned with their own dance careers. You know... those 'teachers' that spend the entire class doing every move full out and only watching themselves in the mirror! Teaching is about educating the kids who are in that class, and that's the kind of person I'm looking to hire! I quote Rhee Gold on this one, "the weaker you become as a dancer, the better you are as a teacher!"

If you're applying for a specific type of job in any field, why don't you tailor your resume for that. Kind of like when you apply for a job at The Gap, let's say. You want to show that you have experience in retail or customer service, and some knowledge or comfort in fashion. So when you're applying to a studio as a dance teacher, why don't you focus your resume on your teaching/choreography skills. I don't care that you were a dancer in the cruise ship version of "The Pyjama Game", and neither will the kids in your class. If those experiences on the cruise ship have led you to become a better teacher, let me know about that. I'm not interested in how many pirouettes you can do, but how many you can teach the students to do!

I get a lot of resumes with an objective at the top, basically stating what they are looking to achieve. If your objective in applying for a teaching job is something like, looking to become a working professional dancer, that's a red flag to me. Try something more like, looking for a teaching job where I can apply my years of knowledge and experiences as a dancer to better the education of my students. Then I will get in touch with you for an interview!

So when you hire somebody for a teaching job, do you have them come in and teach a class for you? You should! It doesn't make sense to me any other way. I want to see how you teach, I want to see your style, I want to see your objective as a teacher first hand, and I want to see if you will be a good fit in my studio. Just sitting down with you over coffee and going through your resume tells me nothing. I'm going to be paying this person a lot of money every week to come in and teach students how to dance, so I want to see you in action before I sign a contract with you. I've been hired for several teaching jobs in my life where teaching a class was not part of the criteria. Luckily for those people I am a really great teacher, but they didn't know that when they hired me! People can sometimes be impressed with what studio you trained at, who you've taken classes from, or what competition awards you have won, but I'm not.

Most importantly in terms of interviewing prospective teachers at your studio I think you should offer them a bit of a challenge. I get a lot of people wanting to come in every year and work with only the competitive students. I get it, they're easier to teach, they're more advanced, they learn quicker... I hear ya! But, at my studio I've logged the hours to get those kids to that level and you're not just going to come in and choreograph routines for them. You have to earn those stripes with me! Letting a prospective teacher do a class with your Senior/Advanced Competitive class is actually not going to tell you anything about their teaching skills. They'll just do a combo, and the kids will probably make it look good. I want this teacher to come in and teach my Junior Jazz Class of 7-9 year olds who need discipline in class, structure and 100% of the attention. Let's see how good of a teacher you really are! You keep those kids amused and enthusiastic about learning for an hour then I really know what you'll be able to accomplish with the more advanced students.

At my studio I am personally looking to hire people who have expertise in at least one style of dance, but who can also teach other styles. I have a Ballet Teacher at my studio who teaches all the ballet classes. That way I know there is consistency across the board and I'm getting the same level of classes for every age. Some studios may have the luxury of having more than 1 great ballet teacher, but I'm a firm believer that somebody should be the leader of that group. Maybe that's the studio owner, or Artistic Director, but maybe even you can have 1 of the ballet teachers in charge of the others who sets the tone. So, when I'm hiring teachers I want to know what you're really great at teaching. You can't be a jack of all traits, but a master of none! If you bring several styles and skills to the table, it makes you more appealing to hire. My ballet teacher is also an amazing jazz and tap teacher, but that is not her focus. So, when I ask you what you are looking to teach, don't just say, I'll teach anything! It makes me think you're actually not sure of what your strengths are. Be clear, state the truth, and be proud of it.

I always write in my ads that my studio is looking to hire teachers for both Recreational and Competitive level classes, who are strong teachers and can choreograph as necessary. That way I feel I'm being open to the different types of people who can apply, so I can be more selective. I have yet to receive a resume or teaching reel highlighting to me that somebody enjoys teaching Recreational students, but I'm not really shocked about that. When you send me your choreography/teaching reel, know that I'm not looking to hire just a choreographer, or I would have just put out an ad for that. I'm looking for a teacher who can choreograph, for all levels (key point here!) I'm glad that you can choreography a foitee turn section to go with the music for a Senior Company, but that's not impressive to me. Why don't you show me a DVD of what the routine of this group of kids looked like 2 years ago and where you have gotten them to now. That's impressive to me... really impressive! If you've taught them strong technique, gotten them to progress really quickly and showed improvement with your choreography, then I want you on my staff. You're an asset to me and my studio. Maybe I should be more specific when putting out an ad, but I bet I'd still get the same number of resumes regardless.

In my opinion I think people need to be more creative when it comes to applying for teaching jobs. I probably just gave away a great tool there in presenting videos showing what you've done with a group of kids over a year, so hopefully someone will do that for me this year. I'd love for someone to walk into my studio with some originality, enthusiasm for what the prospects of my studio bring, and be happy that they get to show off how great of a teacher they are. I actually had one teacher once come in and hand me an invoice for them teaching for that hour of the interview right away. I don't normally pay a teacher coming in for an interview, since I don't know of any job interview where they pay you to go in and apply. I know some people might disagree with me on that one, but that's my opinion about it. If someone let's me know in advance that they do charge for teaching interview classes I am generally more than happy to accommodate them within reason, but I tend to steer away from that.

It's really telling to me when I ask someone what their expected pay rate per hour is. Of course, I get varying answers each year, but you as a teacher should know what you think you're worth. Don't just say, I'm open to whatever. Decide what you think your teaching is worth, or what your bottom line is at least. What is the minimum amount of money you feel you deserve per hour? For everyone that will vary, but it's a good thing to at least know. Are you going to be travelling far to work, gas money, transit money, planning time outside of class, it all ads up, so know your bottom line that includes all of that taken into consideration.

As an employer I don't like people who are uncertain of themselves or wishy-washy with their answers. It's not like the questions I'm going to ask you are so out there I've thrown you off guard. If you're going to a teaching interview they're going to ask you about your past experiences in dance, maybe your favorite/most challenging teaching moment, what your schedule is like and what you want to be paid. Know the answers to those questions! I've even started asking people those types of questions in response to their emails right upfront, or on the phone before I meet them. I like to get that kind of stuff out of the way, so when they come in they can focus on teaching the class and I already know in the back of my head what the answers are. That way I'm not shocked afterwards by your answers and I haven't mis lead you in terms of my studio expectations and what I have to offer you.

That's not saying I haven't received a few great resumes lately, but they are few and far between. This isn't meant to hurt the feelings of people who might have recently sent me a resume, but the reality is that this is a job like any other and I'm looking for some professionalism. Just because you're a dancer does not excuse you from having a proper resume. For me, I'm not biased when it comes to the age or sex of the teacher applying, I am just looking for quality people. You can be 19 or 39 for that matter and what is still the most important thing to me is that you love teaching and you have skills to bring to the table that can benefit my studio. It's not necessarily the person with the most experience on paper either, which a lot of people can confuse with skills. Maybe you've taught at 17 different studios for a reason, you can't keep a job at any of them!

I will share with you the best line I recently received in an email with a resume attached, applying for a job at my studio... I saw your studio competing at competition this year and I knew that I had to be a part of your teaching staff. Your students were well trained, you had great choreography and I loved their passion for dance. I think I have a lot of skills and experience to share with your students of all ages, but I also would love a chance to learn under you as a choreographer. Please find attached my resume, including words from my former employer, current and former students and their parents regarding my classes and my dedication to them.

Flattery won't always get you noticed, but I'll just point out that this teacher is coming in for an interview next week... just sayin'!

1 comment:

Alison said...

thank gawd you hired me when we were young and stupid!! hahaha