This had been weighing on me even now that it’s over. A couple of you know the situation, some don’t. But I am always about setting the record straight. Or at least trying to.
Some people who know me feel that I handled leaving my teaching situation badly. I think they are right.
I purposely planned for a contingency in case classes did not work out at the school I was with to teach my students elsewhere, continuing their study with me in the particular form of Tai Chi and Chi Kung I have been teaching them. I never even though of any of this as going behind my school’s back because of the ambiguity in the relationship between school, students, and teacher.
The program wasn’t working out according to expectations I laid on the table when I started — I said months ahead of time I would most likely be leaving at the end of the year (2005) unless there were more students. (This discussion was just between me and the owner at that point, and sadly the start of friction between us.)
I didn’t outright tell the school owner that I was considering teaching elsewhere (a bit after this), ironically for fear of bad feelings from such lack of tact. I regret not being forthright about this, with or without reasons.
And as deadline approached and the program changed, I also took it upon myself (as a teacher hired to do the program) to inform my students what I felt was their right to know, speaking to them apparently against the wishes of the owner of the program (school), such as planned schedule changes, possible future changes, and the future of the program itself.
That is where I realized the owner and I did not agree on the limitations of my responsibility as far as takling with students about the program. We were both shocked at the other. To him I was only a hired gun; to me he was the one who handled the business enabling me to teach like I have in so many other environments in exchange for income for his school. I thought we had come to an understanding of this before I started teaching, but we had not. What should have been a win-win situation turned sour. More changes were made that I was not consulted on or bargained for. But they were not my decisions to make, and I know this.
My decision was wether or not to continue (“quit” from the owner’s perspective), and to some extent with or without him, what was going to happen to my students after I left. In fact, they are the only reason I didn’t call it a day months ago, and the only reason I looked at other options, with the possibility that the situation over our heads would not improve.
And I understand what I did and how I did it might have been wrong, even if for the right reasons under the circumstances and with the personalities involved. But it was not without difficult ethical consideration. And if there is any question about this, these are the things I would want anyone who respects me to know:
(1) I would not have approached my students about teaching elsewhere if the school I taught at would have continued the program with another teacher. It was made clear the program would end with me. This is a BIG difference in my position, and it would have been stealing clients if they had any relationship with the school apart from my class, which they did not. None of them were even from the previous teacher’s class in the program; one was a student of mine from a previous community education class.
(2) I felt I was cornered into leaving or switching locations by teaching in conditions I did not agree to and had no say in. If I felt at all that discussing options with the owner more than I had already tried would have been productive, I would have done so. We simply didn’t agree on basic points the more changes were made, and don’t think we would have changed our minds with all the talking in the world. We are just two different people with different values and agendas.
(3) When I knew the program would probably end, I did not originally plan on teaching elsewhere at first. But my students showed a lot of devotion this last year — I realized that if we could keep learning together AND I had the opportunity to teach more people, it would be worth going on teaching. In other words, a new venue was worth exploring.
(4) I never invited my students to study with me elsewhere without making it clear that when the program ends, there were lots of options BESIDES ME. The school’s owner made suggestions independent of mine (many the same recommendations), and I told my students to give his suggestions the respect of consideration as well as mine. So this really wasn’t about stealing customers. I never cared who they studied with, as long as they get what they need.
(5) This needs to be really clear. I did not end the program because I found another location. But it might look like that is what happened, which would make me a heel. In fact, an option I last discovered looked like much greener pastures, but I would not have even taken ANY better opportunity if the current arrangement had not changed or failed. In other words, if even some of the issues had been worked out, out of respect I would not have dropped it for a better scenario. And any teaching I would consider to do on the side would have to not be a conflcit with an existing program. I always follow these general rules.
These are the values and ethics I have always taught by. I do not blame anyone for the program not working out in numbers, and I know that the school had to be run by business decisions made by its owner — that is the way it should be. But it wasn’t what I wanted and it didn’t work out, and not keeping my mouth shut to my students may or may not have been the lesser of two evils. Looking at other options and making them available directly to students? Again, I weighed my relationships with my students and the school according to my own values, not someone else’s.
So the owner has every right to be mad at me for contacting his customers without him. And I have every right to communicate with my own students by my own determination. I didn’t do any of this for my own benefit, and I would like to believe that the owner has the students’ best interest at heart as well. There’s no black-and-white here. We both acted according to our own conscience. For better or worse, I have to live with mine. And I will.
[SIZE=1][NOTE: To anyone coming across this, the above is NOT a criticism of the quality of the school I was with (Horizon Martial Arts). The school and its owner are respected in their fields, locally and internationally. I wish the owner and I could have been friends or at least amicable colleagues, and wish we could have done business under different circumstances. My rant is only about an unusual, difficult situation and ethical dilemna from my own perspective.]