General Dance Discussion > Power Struggles

Discussion in 'General Dance Discussion' started by pygmalion, Nov 12, 2003.

  1. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    The issue of teacher/student balance of power has been raised in a couple threads. Might be nice to discuss it at slightly greater length. Here's a story. Disclaimer: This story is about a former teacher of mine -- the worst teacher I ever had. The verbally abusive guy. Remember him?

    Okay. So bad teacher X was assigned a new student. The student had no previous ballroom dance experience, and wanted to get ready for a special event at work. So she asked bad teacher X to teach her some steps. LOTS of steps. She didn't want to work on even the most basic technique. Bad teacher X had been trained to give some technique along with steps. Plus, he used the motivation of learning new steps as an incentive to get people to buy lessons. What happened? Classic power struggle.

    First, he refused to teach the steps. Took his time, doing the basics. But when she repeatedly complained, he took the opposite approach. He taught her so many steps that she couldn't possibly keep up. It was awful and embarrassing to watch (but I did! :evil: :lol: )

    He later told me that he didn't like students telling him how to do his job, and that she deserved what she got. (BAD teacher! :twisted: )Power struggle, big time. He thought he should have the power. She thought she should have it. What do you think? Have you ever witnessed a teacher/student power struggle? Who wins? Who loses? Or who concedes?
  2. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    "I" pay the teacher. I'm not his boss, but I do pay him. I won't tell him how to do his job. I will tell him what I want.

    I do not have to like him or his personality. It's not a relationship of sorts!

    If I don't get what I asked for or I dislike what he is teaching I can leave, however, if I walk out before the alloted time, I still owe for that time. The time slot was reserved for me. I pay for that time!

    What I can do, is never take another lesson from him.
  3. Sarah

    Sarah New Member

    How extraordinarily unprofessional! A professional takes money and provides a service - if he finds that he is unable or unwilling to provide the service expected by the client, wether the client is being unreasonable[1] or not he should bow out while he still has some dignity left.
    `I'm sorry Ma'am, this is the method I use to teach dance. I've found it quite effective in the past, but since it doesn't seem to suit you, may I reccomend my esteemed colleague[2], whose teaching style may suit you better.'


    [1]read `stoopid'
    [2]read `most hated rival'
  4. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Oh yeah. It's clear that that particular teacher was an idiot. And it's an extreme example. But in other threads, a couple people expressed the opinion that teachers somehow automatically have a higher level of power in the teacher/student relationship than do students. Just thought I'd ask what other people thought.
  5. jon

    jon Member

    If you're referring to my comment over in the relationships thread, I said there was a power imbalance, which is not quite the same thing. The student has money, the teacher has knowledge and respect within the community. Inequality is built in to all student-teacher relationships. With romantic relationships the inequality exists in the dance community even when there's no teaching involved, because the teacher is likely to have many more connections and supporters in that environment (it's disgusting to watch prominent teachers cut a swath through attractive new dancers who don't know any better - at least it doesn't happen all that often - but I digress).

    This case, though, sounds like an unprofessional teacher combined with a student with unrealistic demands. Both of them should have known to call time out and either change their interactions or stop the lessons, instead of being so stubborn. I second Vince's comments.
  6. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    Nope, jon, although I did think of you, someone else talked about that power imbalance in much stronger terms. And with that, I really disagree, since we're talking about a student/teacher relationship between two adults (usually). Two adults, two equals, who are both bringing things of value to the table. That's just what I think.

    I also think the issue goes beyond romantic relationships. I've never had a romance with a teacher, but I've had all sorts of different power balances. I've had teachers who deferred to me, a teacher who abused me, teachers who respected me, teachers who liked me, teachers who looked up to me. All different relationships. So I figure it's worth talking about a little.

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