Last week’s article “Managing the Sneak Teacher” received a lot of feedback. (Thanks to all of you who shared your thoughts.) One question, in particular, seemed to be on everyone’s mind: What’s the best way to address sneak teaching outside of a class?
A response to unwanted sneak teaching can vary depending on two main things: the Sneak Teacher’s delivery and the “pupil’s” outspokenness. Here are a few tips.
1. Know your intentions
Are you going out to dance in order to practice what you know, learn more, or just to dance? Having a goal helps you craft your response when you become a sneak-student-of-the-moment.
2. Know Before You Go
Find out as much as you can from different people about the venue you are going to. Is the venue for social dance? For practice? Do people typically bring partners? Does the crowd mix and mingle? What is the etiquette for the dance that you are doing? For example, you might find more Sneak Teachers at a dance studio-based practice than at a dance social where partners do not mingle very much.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Remember that Sneak Teachers do what they do for lots of different reasons. Assuming s/he has a negative motive may not help you find the right words to handle the situation gracefully.
4. Be Clear
By responding to a Sneak Teacher straightforwardly, you not only help him/her understand your expectations of your dance floor experience, but you also help to minimize future sneak teaching opportunities s/he might sieze.
5. Be Polite
Well, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If you become a Sneak Teacher’s pupil, being polite (albeit clear) about ending the unwanted instruction will go a long way.
6. Do Not Feel Obligated
It’s ok to not want to learn outside of a group class, private lesson or workshop environment. If you encounter a Sneak Teacher and you don’t want to be the pupil, you can decline both the instruction and more dances with him/her.
Here are a few suggestions for responses to unwanted sneak teaching.
a. If you don’t mind, I just came here to dance.
b. I guess we’re learning different technique.
c. Thanks, but I think it’s better if my instructor explains this to me.
d. If you’d rather sit down or dance with someone else, I wouldn’t mind.
e. I appreciate you trying to help, but maybe I might be better dancing with someone at my level.
f. I like dancing with you, but would prefer if you wouldn’t try to teach me new things.
Here are some responses that I’d advise against.
a. I know this stuff better than you do.
b. Shut up.
c. Who died and made you my instructor?
d. You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.
e. Don’t quit your day job.
f. *&#@ you!
And as for you Sneak Teachers out there, here are a few thoughts:
Unless you have been asked for your comments and criticisms, you might consider keeping them to yourself. People have just as many reasons for wanting to dance as Sneak Teachers have for wanting to provide instruction. Assuming that everyone wants your feedback is probably not the strategy you want to take. If you do feel like you need to share some of your experience and knowledge, ask first if your partner wouldn’t mind. Be respectful of the answer, even if it isn’t the one you wanted to hear.