Bar Method studios have grown to more than 90 in number, and the quality of our classes, to hear it from our students, remains as high as ever. “I can always count on getting a great workout no matter who is teaching,” Samantha, a DC student, posted on our Facebook page. Fresno student Kristen told us in her post: “I’m in love with the concepts of bar method, also, the high standards that each location and instructor is held to.”
How does The Bar Method manage to keep growing and keep our teachers at the top of their game? We begin with a comprehensive training program, but our focus on quality really kicks in after our teachers begin teaching. That’s when The Bar Method’s unique evaluation and coaching system comes into play.
We developed our evaluation system five years ago when our family of studios was still small. I would travel around to watch classes and noticed something interesting. When left alone, teachers usually got better at some things, such as confidence and “flow.” At the same time, even our talented and dedicated teachers could actually get worse at other things, that is, unless they received regular feedback. One special challenge exercise teachers face is that they must repeat similar instructions class after class. Over time, that good bit of verbiage gets put on automatic, and teachers can stop hearing everything they’re saying. On top of this, they could develop “tics,” phrases unconsciously said over and over such as “that’s it,” “great job” and “good!” Teachers could also develop blind spots in their teaching. One example is getting into the habit of never looking at a certain part of the room. Any student who happened to be standing there was therefore not getting noticed. This slippage is not the teachers’ fault! All of us need guidance in order to stay alert and focused. What’s more, I was happy to see that feedback could play a positive role as well. Constructive guidance helped teachers to deepen their understanding of the technique, hone their flow, sharpen their observation, and become more creative motivators. This last component of growth gave teachers an exciting opportunity to become masters of their craft.
To these ends, every year, The Bar Method now sends a team of national evaluators to every studio to evaluate/coach, and give guidance to each one of our approximately 1000 teachers. Even though I founded The Bar Method, I’m evaluated the same as any teacher (and get just as nervous beforehand!). All of us get a score that is an average of what we receive on a list of skills. Those skills include how well we present the exercises, how well we connect to our students and help them with their form, how motivating and supportive we are, how fun and challenging our choreograph is, and how well we use the music.
As you might think, the evaluation process can be nerve-racking to studio owners, but they love the results. “We find evaluations an integral part of success,” says Atlanta studio owner Melissa White, adding that “We were all nervous. At the same time, as a studio, we came out better teachers.” Sarah Kuzniar, who co-owns three Boston-area studios, values the Bar Method’s evaluation system because it validates the feedback she gives her own teachers. “You guys reinforce what we’ve been telling them,” she says. ”To hear it from the outside is helpful.”
I want to say a last word about our 15 intrepid evaluators led by our VP of Teacher Development Sharon Demko and her team members, Sabrina Porter and Lauren Ford. Sharon and her evaluators go to great lengths to assure that every Bar Method teacher receives a thorough and supportive evaluation. They take red-eyes, fight through snow and traffic to show up at 6 am classes, watch teachers all day, then spend more time writing up their evaluations, coaching and giving guidance. Their work is the secret sauce that keeps our classes top-notch. Thank you, guys!