FireDrums: What are Instructors Upset About?

Posted on March 7, 2014 by



After publishing the article, “FireDrums: Disclose Your Financials?”, people have asked, “Why do people care what the instructors are being paid?”

If I could draw an analogy, I’d say I suppose I don’t need to care that there is <racism, sexism, discrimination, slave labor, homophobia, <insert some other problem here>> in the world. Of course, it’s much easier to ignore something happening to a different person or on a different continent rather than something happening to my colleagues and I in every day life.

  • As an instructor, I care because I instruct.
  • As a civic minded being, I care about what I perceive to be “just” and “fair” in the world that I might “be the change I want to see in the world.”
  • As a conscious capitalist I care because I know the only thing I can truly do is educate myself and others around me and shop from a place of knowledge rather than ignorance. Conscious buying is the gift that capitalism brings and I want to buy consciously — and I hope you do as well.
  • And as a community member and leader, witnessing other people co-creating a dynamic they later despise when they learn of it makes me feel somewhat ashamed of myself for not standing up against injustice.

Maybe you don’t care about these things and I honestly can’t speak for why other instructors care. Still, every reason I listed above, with the exception of the instructor one, I hope is something that applies to the humans with whom I share community.

And really, if i don’t speak, who will?

If you don’t care, don’t read or listen.

And, if in this exchange you considered an idea you hadn’t before, my caring was worth my time because I did what I am here to do: educate and created change, however small it is.

For me, it’s not about how much people are getting paid to teach. The issue is that every attendee attending gets more value for their money and time than an uncompensated instructor who not only loses time giving to the festival by teaching, and therefore missing out on taking classes themselves, on top of that, they STILL have to put in their volunteer shifts.

The FireDrums team has created a dynamic where an instructor is being made to pay to go and work (which is what mandatory volunteering is) and are then being asked to work even MORE than the average attendee while missing more of the event.

On top of that, unlike the other volunteers who can show up to their shift brain dead and half asleep, it actually takes something to run a class. This means even when you’re at the festival “playing” you have to ensure you stick to a schedule and remain energetic enough to run your class that you prepared prior to arriving at the festival. Yes, that’s right: you work before you get to the festival to create this gift you then (pay to) give away while missing out on having other fun because you wanted to give back to your community.

From where I sit, people are being negatively rewarded for giving of themselves.

Maybe you haven’t considered that. I have and it really sucks. Because people, in some cases, do come to a festival because of me and then they get more benefit from it than I do and I’m working while there and paying to do so.

Now I get that giving feels good. And I get if you’re new in the community and only spinning for a few years you might be shitting your pants with joy at the opportunity to teach at a FireDrums.

At the same time, I can’t help but note how many negative comments I’ve read on line about the situation and the results the festival organizers are creating. One person wrote about how their instructors didn’t show up to teach and when they ran into them later, the instructors reported that since they weren’t being compensated, they didn’t bother to teach because they didn’t feel like it. Several folks wrote about the poor quality of classes, if the instructors showed up at all. Here’s one blurb pulled from on line on the subject which sums things up well:

I have decided not to go to FireDrums this year for a few reasons, but the top one is: I pay $150 [Editor’s note: FireDrums is actually $160 this year] to go to an event that I have to work at (and when you only really get one vacation a year, this is a big deal), only to have poorly taught classes, classes that are TOO full and you can’t learn, or classes where the instructor never shows….and the fire circle is too cramped to spin. The price is no longer equal to the value of the festival IMO.

Yes, I defend FAI and their right to run FireDrums however they choose to — they can do whatever they want. At the same time, they can’t expect people to not be upset by something like this and continue to support their event when they feel lower value on the consumer end and taken advantage of as an instructor. Ironically, if the instructors were valued more, they likely would show up to more classes, create more value and the consumers wouldn’t have the complaints they do.

If you read through all of this, you’ll see an instructor is valued LESS than the average attendee. I just don’t see how that is fair or community minded, particularly from an organization that portends to be created community events.

Shop consciously and, if you’re inspired, demand more with your dollars. At the very least, if they are not already doing it, encourage your festival to count teaching shifts as a part of their “mandatory volunteer” time for attendees.

Stay tuned for more on the topic and check the articles section of this website.

Written by Temple of Poi founder and visionary, GlitterGirl, who has been a full time flow arts coach and instructor since 2002. If you seek professional guidance associated with creating a safe performance, obtaining a permit in San Francisco or other personalized coaching, contact GlitterGirl directly for a free consultation (GlitterGirl <that pretty little at symbol> TempleOfPoi <daaaaaaaught> com).

Posted in: Articles, Festivals