Recognizing bullying behaviors in your dance studio is crucial, but it’s only the first step to making your studio a bully-free zone (see Parts 1 & 2). In this article, we’ll delve into some of the positive steps you can take to make your studio a more accepting place for aspiring dancers to learn and grow.
Steps to Ending Bullying in Your Dance Studio
Explain to your students on the first day of class that you will not tolerate bullying. Demonstrate and describe the types of behaviors that you will consider to be bullying behaviors. Consider passing out a written statement of bullying behaviors which you expect students to avoid. If the bullying has been a big problem for your studio in the past, you may even want to have students and their parents sign a bully-free zone agreement stating that they will not engage in these types of behaviors.
Put policies in place that will help to transform your studio into an encouraging and welcoming environment. This could include a policy of applauding after all performances, even during practice. Teach students phrases to say to build one another up. Lead by example, especially when students make mistakes. Rather than berate or belittle them, give helpful tips and gentle correction.
Refuse to Tolerate Clear Instances of Bullying
Take bullying seriously right from the get-go. If you notice or someone informs you of an instance of bullying, immediately talk to the person who engaged in the behavior as soon as the class is over. Let them know that their behavior is unacceptable and that if it continues there will be clear consequences. Don’t allow any dancers to make fun of their classmates’ performances during or after class.
Teach Your Dance Students Effective Ways to Deal with Bullying
Even if you have the very best standards in place, there are likely going to be some students who will still try to bully others. There are several different tools which students can use when it comes to lessening bullying. Teach students how to confront bullying in a constructive way. Encourage your students not to go along with bullying behavior but rather to stand up for those who are being bullied. If someone who is being bullied is a shy person, she may choose to go the non-confrontational route of remaining passive yet not showing the bully the desired reaction. Sometimes this failure to respond to teasing leads the bully to give up their efforts.
If a victim of bullying has the confidence to stand up for herself, she could choose to respond in a direct yet non-aggressive manner. The goal is to deescalate the situation. A phrase like, “you don’t need to blow someone else’s candle out to make yours glow brighter” is a good example of a positive yet assertive response to a bully’s taunt or insult. It puts the spotlight where it belongs: on the bully’s unacceptable behavior.
Another possible response would be to use what’s called an “I statement.” The student says, “When you __________ I feel __________ because _____________,” filling in the blanks as the situation demands. For example, “When you roll your eyes and laugh when I’m performing, I feel distracted because I don’t think I have your support.”
Some bullies will respond to these kinds of confrontations positively, but oftentimes they will ignore efforts at reconciliation. In these cases, it may be necessary to get an authority figure involved in resolving the problem before it gets worse.
As a dance studio director or instructor, make it your goal to foster a culture of safety and encouragement in your facility. Preventing bullying is one of the essential elements of creating this type of atmosphere. It’s in this type of environment that students at all levels of training and ability will thrive.