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SSQQ VOLUNTEERS

-----Original Message-----
From: Rue
Sent: Friday, April 15, 2005 9:19 AM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: Observation about Volunteers

"More than four out of every 10 Americans is a volunteer. It's no wonder. The late Michael Argyle, a pioneering social psychologist from the U.K., found that volunteering and other charity work ranked second on a list of group activities that result in happiness (Only dancing ranked higher!)"

Don't you have people who volunteer in your studio by being dancing partners?  Those volunteers should have moved from happiness to ecstatic by now!  :)


INTRODUCTION TO THE 
SSQQ VOLUNTEER PROGRAM. 

SSQQ Dance Studio is very unique in its approach to the Dance Business. During our 30 years, we have developed a good reputation for our ability to take large groups of students and train them to dance very well. 

The Dance Industry maxim is that Private Lessons are the best way to train students. While there are merits to that point of view, SSQQ has proven that well-organized Group Lessons are a highly effective way to train people to dance well at just a fraction of the cost of Private Lessons. Besides the economic advantages, Group Classes are a tremendous amount of fun. When combined with another SSQQ feature - Practice Night - Group Classes create an amazing social atmosphere that some describe as a subtle form of Magic.

Over the years, SSQQ has been fortunate to have some very gifted people join our Staff. Not only have we been blessed with teachers who are excellent dancers, many of them are very gifted communicators as well. SSQQ is most proud of the fact that our teachers genuinely enjoy teaching. The SSQQ Staff is the studio’s greatest strength!

A Volunteer is someone who helps our dance classes in 3 ways.

First, Volunteers help balance the boy-girl ratio so classes run more smoothly.

Second, Volunteers make suggestions to the teacher if something needs further attention.

Third, Volunteers are sometimes asked to give special attention to a student who is struggling or came in late and needs to catch up.

Volunteers form the pool from which we draw future SSQQ Staff members.


HISTORY OF THE VOLUNTEER PROGRAM. 

1978-1987: Rick Does it All.

SSQQ was a one or two room show for its first 9 years. We sub-leased two back rooms from a Jazz Dance Studio until 1987 when we assumed full control of the location. 

1988:  We Learn to Hire our Best Students 
to become SSQQ Instructors

Going from 2 rooms to 5 rooms created an instant growth spurt. During this expansion, we tried hiring experienced dance instructors who had received their training elsewhere. Unfortunately we had one miserable experience after another hiring people from outside our program to work here. We discovered the new instructors had trouble adapting to our format because SSQQ is so “unusual” in its approach to the dance business. Finally we concluded the best people to hire were the most talented dancers among our own students. This was one of the best decisions we ever made! 

If you are interested in becoming 
an SSQQ Volunteer, 
please contact Rick Archer via 
email for further information. Thanks!

dance@ssqq.com


1992: The Assistant Program Starts

By the late 80s we had perhaps a staff of 10. Whenever a Staff Member left, we would pick the best student and convert them practically overnight into an Instructor. We would work with them right before class, then throw them in the water and hope they would swim. As you might gather, this method was very stressful for the new teachers. For example, back in 1988 Sharon Crawford was so nervous at her first class, she could barely speak above a whisper. 

Sharon of course survived, but suggested there might be a more humane way to train dancers teachers than simply throwing them to the wolves. We thought Sharon was exaggerating a little, but eventually agreed there might be a better way to do this "new teacher" thing.  

Starting in 1992 we began to train new teachers using the “Apprentice System”. These people were basically Teachers-in-Waiting. The most talented students were hired to help to veteran Instructors. Called “Assistants”, they learned via on-the-job training. When someone would resign, we would simply promote one of our Assistants to become an Instructor. This system worked much better. 

1996: The Volunteer Program Begins

Our "Assistant" innovation worked well, maybe even too well. As our program continued to grow, Assistants became so valuable that the Instructors began to fight over who got to have an Assistant and who didn’t. At first we had one Assistant on a Friday night. Then we had an Assistant on every night. Then we had two Assistants on every night. Then on some busy nights we went to 3 Assistants. However with 6 rooms each night, Economics prevented SSQQ from hiring an Assistant for every Instructor on every night. With 2 or 3 Assistants for 6 Instructors, the Instructors began to argue over who got an Assistant and who didn't. 

So in 1996 SSQQ introduced the “Volunteer Program”. We encouraged our Instructors to recruit one or two students to help them teach their classes. Unfortunately our teachers soon discovered that finding a good Volunteer was not that easy to accomplish. 

Reliability was a big issue. Many people would show up one week, then wouldn’t show up the next. It was difficult to depend on someone who couldn't be counted on. Other people who volunteered were a little too interested in the attractive students and not very interested in actually helping. Some Volunteers were nice people, but not strong enough dancers to be able to teach. And some very good dancers were unfortunately too shy to realistically become effective teachers. And let's face it, not everyone who volunteered was interested in becoming a future teacher either. Some people would volunteer for a month, then move on to something else.

So we learned to promote people one step at a time. Each new Volunteer became a “Helper” first. When it became obvious that our new Helper was reliable and actually “Helpful”, the Helper would be quickly be promoted to “Volunteer.” After a Volunteer gained enough experience, they were promoted to a “Volunteer Assistant” which made them an SSQQ Staff Member. Although they were not paid, these people had just as much status as any other Staff Member. They could also take classes for free. Whenever an opening for a “paid” position came up, one of our Volunteer Assistants would be considered for the new spot.

2000: The SSQQ Instructors Take Over the Volunteer Program. 

This in a nutshell is the background story of the SSQQ Volunteer Program. Now in 2000, due to the further growth of our studio, SSQQ is at the point where we need to re-organize our Volunteer Program. It seems that every Leap Year, a good idea needs to be updated. In 1988 we stopped hiring outsiders and threw people like Sharon to the wolves instead. In 1992 we decided to train future teachers in a more humane fashion by hiring Assistants. But by 1996 these Assistants proved so valuable we added the Volunteer Program. 

Now here in 2000, there are so many Volunteers, we actually need to start keeping track of everyone. We also need to begin to make it more clear what our expectations are from our Volunteers and what they can expect from SSQQ.  Most of all, it needs to be understood by Volunteers and Staff alike that there are no longer any "free-floating" Volunteers. 

Starting in June, 2000, each Volunteer will report directly to a specific Instructor on a specific night. 

Helpers and Volunteers need to understand that "Volunteering" carries responsibilities. 


What SSQQ Volunteers Should Do

  1. Help balance the Boy-Girl Ratio in a Class (if need be perhaps dance with someone of the same sex).
  2. Demonstrate patterns with the Instructor.
  3. Quietly make occasional lead/follow suggestions to students who have made a mistake when dancing in the Circle.
  4. Tell the Instructor areas where the Volunteer feels the students are weak or uncertain about.
  5. At the Instructor’s request, take a latecomer or a struggling student and work with them on the side.
  6. Answer student's questions on a one-to-one basis. You are now a representative of SSQQ Dance Studio. You are welcome to give any information about the studio and its policies when asked directly. However if you are not sure what the answer is, please refer the student to someone who is more likely to know.
  7. Report to your Instructor when you cannot make it to class. In this age of email, it takes 10 seconds to keep people posted as to what is going on. 
  8. Be prepared to show up 3 out of every 4 nights. In addition you should inform your instructor ahead of time for nights when you can't make it. 
  9. Be willing to switch to another class in a emergency. Hopefully you will not mind helping out in another class that needs you much more than the one you are in. However you will never have to switch classes if you do not wish to. Switching will be strictly "Voluntary" on your part - you will never be ordered to switch classes. 

What Volunteers Should Not Do

  1. Do not attempt to teach Anything in class without the Instructor’s permission.
  2. Do not attempt to lead, or show-off Advanced moves in class without the Instructor’s permission
  3. Do not address the class directly unless the Instructor has given you permission to do so. You may be asked directly by the Instructor for your input in which case you should offer your opinion. If there is something you wish to say, clear it with the Instructor first. 
  4. Do not attempt to dance with same-sex students without the Instructor’s permission and a  verbal announcement to the class explaining your unusual role.
  5. Do not coach students at Practice Night on Any Move other than what was covered in that night’s class. 
  6. Do not give a student Permission to do Anything. That’s not a good idea - tell them to ask the Instructor instead.

What Volunteers Can Expect from SSQQ

  • A Heartfelt “Thank You” from the Instructor and the Students you have helped!
  • Mysterious, Intangible Spiritual Rewards from doing a good deed sometimes known as “Good Karma.”
  • DROP-INS get the current Practice Night for free.
  • BEGINNING HELPERS get Practice Night for free on the night they are helping. Your probationary period will last 2 months.
  • HELPERS get all Practice Nights for free (when presenting ID Card). After 2 months, you are eligible to be promoted to Volunteer status. However this step will depend on the Instructor's recommendation and your attendance record. 
  • VOLUNTEERS get all Practice Nights, Parties, and Crash Courses for free. In addition you can bring a date or a spouse for half-price. (Exception: Certain parties like Halloween, New Year's Eve, and parties with live bands are half-price.)
     
  • VOLUNTEER ASSISTANTS are considered SSQQ Staff Members. They have their name listed as part of the Staff. Although Volunteer Assistants are not paid, everything at SSQQ is free including all classes. In addition, Volunteer Assistants are given automatic consideration for any new paid position that comes open on the Staff.

What SSQQ Expects from the Volunteers

Volunteering is a Two-Way Street. A person who takes their role seriously is an incredibly valuable addition to every class. Many moves are learned best by "feel". Each Volunteer is in a position to help people learn to dance faster and more gracefully by extending the number of trained dancers in each class. 

However if you are unreliable, you aren't helping to accomplish very much. Volunteers are expected to make 3 out of every 4 classes each month. Exceptions of course can be made, but only if you inform your Instructor of what the situation is. You need to stay in touch with them if you are forced to absent. If the 3 out of 4 commitment is too much to expect, then you should probably not do it.

If you are interested in becoming an SSQQ Volunteer, please contact Rick Archer via email dance@ssqq.com for further information. Thanks!

  TERMINOLOGY
 
 


Drop-ins” are stray cats who show up occasionally to help, then disappear, then come back when the moon is full. Although a Drop-In can be helpful for the evening, overall it is very disruptive to have people wandering from room to room looking for a class to help in.   We discontinued allowing drop-ins somewhere around 2006.

A “Volunteer” is someone who becomes an integral part of each class. They usually hook up with one specific Instructor who as time passes begins to rely on them a great deal. 

A “Volunteer Assistant” is a former “Volunteer” who has gained so much experience that they are ready to assume a limited teaching role. At this point they are asked to become a member of our Staff. Promotion beyond that depends partly on their skill and mostly on the availability of new positions.

An "Assistant" is a paid member of the SSQQ Staff. As such they are expected to be ready to teach in an emergency if an Instructor does not show up. In addition Assistants have the glamorous responsibility of helping to sell drinks at Break Time and staying late twice a month to help clean up after Practice Night. 

An "Instructor" is the person in charge of running the class. Typically an Instructor knows both the man and the woman's role thoroughly. Some of the more complex levels have two Instructors.

 
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