A comment on a post at My Tango Diaries got us thinking… The comment was in regards to Mari’s review of a teaching couple and it said: “I figured that I’ll watch this class, and decide whether I want to take the next one. But a few minutes later the other teacher returned to the room, and informed me that “If you don’t pay, you have to leave the room”.” The commenter was not happy about this and felt the teachers had an “emphasis on payment”.
As teachers, we understand that students want to test the waters before they commit. That’s what drop-ins are for. It’s rare that a teacher would not offer a drop-in option. Pay the $15 or $20 and then you can find out if you like the class. We often have students who come to the first class of the session and decide at the end of the class if they want to register for a whole session or only pay for that class. This makes sense and is fair to everyone involved. That said, it’s quite difficult to judge a class and a teacher in one lesson. As an example – and in reverse to the obvious “I didn’t like it in the beginning, but now I like it” idea… We initially really enjoyed the private lessons we were receiving from a couple in Buenos Aires. It was only after the 3rd or 4th lesson that we realized that the teachers weren’t giving us what we needed or wanted, and were in fact doing very little for our dance.
This is NOT about the money. This is about the principle of it all. This is about being fair and not being cheap. Do you go to the movies and say, “I’m just going to sit in and see if I like the movie before I pay?” Do you try foods in the grocery store before deciding to buy them? In this commenter’s case, she was listening in to see if she would take the next class. Does this mean if she had liked the class enough to take the next class, she would have also paid for the class she was sitting in on? Not likely. Maybe her excuse would have been that she had only sat in for 15 minutes.
We do not have an emphasis on money and agree with the comments that money can’t be the driving force in a Tango business. Tango must be a labour of love and if it’s not, it shows (at least if one chooses to be observant). That said, we DO have an emphasis on payment. What does this mean? It means we need to constantly chase after people to pay us for classes. We offer student rates and so we have had individuals who claim to be students when they’re not. We’ve had a request for a 10-minute private lesson in order to get a feel for us… for free!? This is our business (although not our primary source of income). This is a service we offer. This is something we ourselves have spent a lot of money on in order to be in this position.
Finally, the idea that listening to, and watching a teacher teach is not worth anything is absurd. We’ve written a post in the past to attest that, more or less, there’s no such thing as too much talking in a class. In fact, we are even planning to sit in on some beginner classes in order to pick up some new teaching strategies and evolve as teachers. Should we tell those teachers that since we’re sitting and not actively participating, we don’t need to pay for the class?