The REAL Reason Students Leave...
"She's going to take a break from dance".
Those are some of the most heartbreaking words a studio owner can hear.
Not only does it represent the loss of a student from our dance family, someone we've enjoyed seeing in class week after week, but it represents a loss of potential.
Potential for what could have been.
- Milestones never reached.
- Technical skills never developed.
- Recitals that were never danced in.
- Student friendships that will never happen.
Of course, when a student quits, their tuition goes with them creating a financial loss for the studio as well.
When a student leaves the studio, no matter how old they are, it's a loss and it hurts.
So why do students leave?
Is there anything that can be done to prevent what sometimes feels like a revolving door of new students?
The good news is- YES! There are several very specific ingredients that contribute to how long a student stays enrolled at your studio.
Together, these ingredients create an almost magical effect that makes leaving your studio close to an impossibility.
I call these the "4 Secret Ingredients To Retention".
Secret #1: Variety
The first secret ingredient is variety. Students need new and fresh material in class regardless of their age, but the younger the students, the more true this is.
If you're teaching the same class week after week, with the same playlist... it's not going to be long before your students are going to feel bored.
And once they're bored, they're just one step away from quitting.
Instead, you HAVE to find a way to keep classes fun and exciting. You MUST find a way to continually give students something to look forward to next week, next month, at the end of the season.
Monthly themes are a great way to add variety into your classes. For younger students, the themes can be seasonal or holiday-related. For older students, the themes might be genre related or skill-related. Everyone loves a theme!
Variety really is the spice of life, and unless you find a way to keep your classes fun and fresh you will continue to lose students from boredom.
Secret #2: Progress
The second secret ingredient to preventing students from quitting is to make sure they feel like they're continually progressing. Students at any age want to feel the thrill of accomplishment and the joy of reaching a new milestone. Success feels good, no matter how small the step forward.
Consider how you can establish milestones for your students: every month, every quarter, every year.
How can you track and measure that progress in a way that's age and level appropriate. Ideally, it's done in a way that doesn't create any pressure or competition (especially for younger students and beginning-level students).
A simple sticker chart listing the skills you're working on that month can be a simple, no-pressure way to acknowledge the progress going on in your classes for example.
Lastly, how can you celebrate reaching those milestones? How will you share your students' progress with their parents?
I'm a big fan of the occasional in-class parent demonstration for students of any age. Why wait until the year-end recital? Invite parents in for the last 10-15 minutes of class and explain and demonstrate a few things you've been working on in class and the progress the class has been making. Parents LOVE to hear about their child's growth and progress and it makes students feel good too.
As teachers, it's our job to help our students (and their parents) realize how far they've come, even when they don't notice themselves. Without that realization, it's easy to get discouraged and want to quit.
Secret #3: Relationships & Community
The third secret ingredient to preventing students from leaving is to foster a sense of community and connection in each of your classes.
When students feel a part of something bigger than themselves it adds immeasurably to their experience at your studio. Classes transcend "technique" and "skills" and become like a second home to students.
When students feel their dance classes are as much about being with their friends as it is about improving their skills and technique, they're much less likely to leave over a short-term gap in progress or the occasional loss of interest in dancing.
The fun social factor can help smooth over the occasional rough patch students might go through and will go a long way in preventing students from dropping out of their classes over minor issues.
Again, those occasional in-class parent performances can be a wonderful (and easy) way to foster a sense of community and connection between students, parents and teachers.
Secret #4: A Personal Experience
The fourth secret ingredient to preventing students from leaving is to be sure to give each and every one of your students a personal experience.
While it's true that students want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, they also want to feel noticed and acknowledged as an individual.
Everyone wants to feel important.
Of course, there are simple things you can do like making sure to make eye contact and use each student's name in class every week but there are other things you can do as well to add a personal touch to each of your student's experiences during the year.
For older students, it might be an individual, year-end progress report letting them know how far they've come and what they can continue to work towards.
For younger students, often times it's simply giving them something physical and tangible that they can take home. Something that's JUST for them. That might be a dance-related coloring page to hang up on the refrigerator at home or a personalized award certificate to celebrate the completion of a recent theme.
Without providing a "personal touch" for each of your students, it's easy for them to feel like one in a crowd. When students don't feel important they lose their sense of belonging and it's easy for them to want to quit.
So there you have it!
The secret antidote for the revolving door of new students.
One part variety + plus some well-measured progress + a scoop of community + a personal touch = a studio full of long-term students who you can help reach their fullest potential on and off the dance floor for many years to come.