I made a mistake, I broke my own rules. I let someone in and got carried away with it all. I let them get away with what I shouldn't have and then I didn't deal with it very well. I wasn't professional because it became personal. And it shouldn't have. Pole should have been and should remain a business to me. Pole is my one love and my hobby but it is also my job and it's how I make a living. Professionalism is important to me. Things should be done right and safely. I'm in charge and what I say goes because I am the instructor, it's my business and it's my insurance.
When students become friends things become personal...and when things become personal you can get caught up and behave solely based on your emotions. Particularly if you are the kind of person who easily gets caught up in your emotions anyways. My students are all fab individuals with their own distinct personalities. I genuinely care for each of them. But boundaries still need to exist and friendship incurs new responsibilities and entanglements that shouldn't be involved in your business.
Due to the nature of pole, how fun, informal and inclusive it is, it can be easy to run your studio in an informal way also. But this is for the most part a huge mistake - students fall out with students, students fall out with instructors, instructors fall out with other instructors, studios hold grudges against each other. Sometimes studios treat their own instructors badly. Most of these things stem from making pole personal and informal. I can feel hurt, upset or angry at a friend who behaves badly but not at a student as they have no duty to be loyal - I can tell them how they should behave and they can take it or leave it. There is a line, somewhere, and it's up to you to decide where it is.
I am saddened by what happened. I know that ultimately I could have deal with it better. The lack of professionalism and distance on my part mixed with a serious clash of personalities and values caused this. I saw it coming from the beginning. This isn't a time to bitch or moan about individuals or explain what happened and ask people to take sides, but an opportunity to learn from my mistakes. Maybe you can too?
I'm not saying don't have fun. Have fun but in a boundary filled professional way!
5 Tips to keep things professional:
- Your students are your students - not your friends. Regardless of how you feel about them it is important to keep things professional and certain boundaries in place. They must understand that in the classroom that you are boss, even if you might go out drinking cocktails together on a Friday night. Your instructors may be friends but you also need to keep some boundaries in place. Treat them with respect, talk through any issues calmly, if you're the boss then make sure they know that what you say goes.
- You are running a business so giving away too many freebies or inviting students to train with you is a bad idea. You put them on your level and you let them think they are entitled to free shit that they're not. You still have to make a living. Keep training sessions for instructors, or students who are regularly paid to perform with you, only.
- Put class rules in place. I talk about class etiquette and rule making in an earlier post, here. Unfortunately when I said "what kind of instructor lets their students run riot anyways?" I must have been referring to myself. My bad.
- Enforce those rules. If you say one thing and do another your students will soon catch on. Don't feel bad telling someone off - be fair but be firm. If it needs a quiet word in private then do so, if it needs to be expressed to the whole class then do it. They'll respect you more and classes will be less stressful to teach and attend.
- Let your students know you're there for them but don't get caught up in their own personal dramas. I had a student come to me and tell me that another student had been bullying her in the workplace. I listened, I told her I understood how she felt and would keep an eye on things in the classroom, and that she was welcome to change classes if she felt uncomfortable or upset. I had a word with the other student to express that they were also to come to me if at any time anything happened or anything was said and asked them also if they'd prefer to be in a different group. I didn't take sides but I made both students aware that I was there for both of them but that I wouldn't put up with drama. I never had any issues. I'm not going to pretend they became friends, but there were no impromptu cat fights in the studio either.