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bad evaluation


housell

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My daughter just got her evaluation from spring semester which I knew couldn't be good since they usually don't send them until nearly the end of SI. Sure enough, she was not moved up (for the first time) and it didn't say much except that she had excellent attendance but had trouble coping and keeping up with tech. and didn't stay with the group at barre nor center and was off doing her own thing often. Then the rest of it was practically blank with a big arrow pointing down and at bottom they asked for a conference in person. They still sent forms for reg. for Fall but I'm not sending anything b/c I'm worried that they don't really want her there anymore. Her evaluations have been somewhat rough in the past, so I was really surprised when she was one of only 4 girls from her class moved up last year. (Everyone else was kept in that level for 2 yrs.) This year they typically do 2 yrs as well however there are 2 sections that are clearly A & B and she was kept in A. (B has longer hours.)

 

I know this is getting long but I feel I must give you all the info. in order to get sufficient feedback from the experts on this board since I am just a mom and I was an athlete myself (track), not an artist. In talking to other parents last yr for the first time in 4 yrs of being at this school, I've heard that many of the evaluations are harsh. We are only allowed to view our students twice a year. My daughter has been complemented often to me by other moms for her flexibility and poise so I know her tech is not awful b/c two of the moms are former dancers and one owns a dance school. I know my daughter is not a very focused student (has emotional problems but is medicated) but she has given up scholarships at other venues (against my advice) to focus on ballet. I allowed her to do this only b/c it is a pre-proffessional school so I figured she earned her spot. She still attends the original ballet school she started with since she was 4 and they have nothing bad to say about her. They give her large roles and solos in their productions. Meanwhile, she has yet to be cast in the pre-prof school's Nutcracker after trying twice. She has an amazing body and all of the parents are always commenting to me about it and asking me about it. (It's purely genetics.) Yet the school is always on her back about her "belly". (She has a 19" waist but she has the little girl belly thing still, despite having a six-pack.) She is 10 yrs old but only 44lbs. and about 45in tall. I see some overweight girls in her class and wonder if my daughter is getting this kind of pressure, are they? Sometimes I wonder if her tech. is suffering b/c theyare always on her back about her posture!

 

I called to set-up the conference but they haven't called me back yet. I read my daughter the evaluation and she was crushed. She didn't expect it at all. She says when she is off "on her own" she is concentrating and practicing what they have learned. I guess I'll just have to see what they say. I don't know what to think anymore. I know that my daughter performed beautifully at the one performance that they had and did not look "behind" and that at the spring parents' days she did not look like the worst one in the class. She asked for a barre all year long and we recently finally got her one and installed it in our kids' playroom and she has been using it faithfully everyday and stretches on her own every morning. That doesn't sound like someone to me that doesn't cope well with ballet demands.

 

Should I take her out of the professional school even though it has "the name" and stick to the smaller "no-name" studio or should I fight for her in the conference and develop a thicker skin and push her to do things "their way" instead of "marching to her own drum"?

 

Anyone been through this?

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Wow, housell, you've had a rough day! I'd feel discouraged too, if my dd received that evaluation.

 

However ... I hope once the initial shock and disappointment wears off, you'll realize that this doesn't mean she has no future in dance. She's still a youngster! Lots can happen.

 

As a classroom teacher of 10-year-olds, the first thing I wonder about is how this evaluation compares to what her academic teachers say. Do they give her the same kind of comments? I'd be thinking about whether this is your child's overall style, or whether it is something particular to ballet.

 

If it is an overall style thing -- and I guess I'm surmising it might be, keeping in mind that you did mention emotional issues and medication -- then I would be thinking about what the best learning environment is for this child. Ballet is by its nature a fairly rigid activity; it demands lots of focus, and a certain ability to follow the program. Schools vary in the degree of latitude they allow: some are very strict, and others can tolerate a certain amount of "give" as long as a student is not disruptive. Where does this school fall? If it is on the "every toe must be exactly HERE" end of the spectrum, and your child is not, it might not be the best place for her right now -- no matter how good a reputation it has. She might need a place that sees its mission as getting all kids dancing, for example, instead of producing professional dancers.

 

On the other hand -- some kiddos who have attention issues in other settings thrive wonderfully in the disciplined atmosphere of the studio. (And do forgive me if I'm reading the situation all wrong, but you did mention the behavioral issues and not any issues with technical proficiency or promise.)

 

If I were in your shoes, I'd want to work myself into the mindset of seeing this conference as an opportunity to work with the professional teachers to decide what kind of program is best for my child. Maybe it's a program they can provide, and maybe it's not. But I'd try really hard not to feel as though my "square peg" child was a failure because she didn't fit into the studio's round holes. And I'd also try to remember that my kiddo is really young still, and that a lot can happen as she matures.

 

 

Editing to add: I just read some of your previous posts and saw that you too are a teacher! So, you probably understand what I'm saying. I also saw that you have had previous doubts about this academy (which you ID'd in other posts). Anyway -- count me as one vote for not thinking you are crazy to consider the non-pre-pro school. My kids dance at a smaller, friendlier studio than the two well-known ones in town. We have been willing to trade the precision and better technique for an atmosphere that truly encourages all students to dance to the best of their ability (but still provides quite good training).

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Thank you Treefrog. Yes...it's the teacher in me that makes me re-consider fighting this battle any longer right now even though everyone else that does ballet in this city is desperately trying to get their kid into the academy and would think me crazy to pull her out without a fight. We live about 2 miles away so it's a convenience for us and my daughter was lucky enough to have gotten in 4 yrs. ago. I haven't heard of anyone actually admitting they've been "dismissed" but I've heard of several quitting under the similar kind of pressure and I've heard of others being held back in the same level for up to 3 years where it clearly states in their rules that more than 3 years in a level will require re-evaluation of placement in the academy. One girl in her level has been held back for the 3rd time for being too tall according to her mother! I wonder what has happened this time...

 

Her teacher at the small school is in her 20's and danced professionally with the company of the professional school so I know she's getting good training there too. It's just not an accred. school like the professional one. I guess if my daughter behaves the same at both schools, it must not be getting on her nerves. You are correct in assuming that she also behaves this way at academic school. Despite that, she has been in gifted and talented classes and scores high on standardized tests. She even wins academic competitions. People just have to know how to reach her. Not every teacher is willing to deal with these types of students and unfortunately, she doesn't click with every type of teacher. It was at this smaller school that a jazz teacher noticed her and offered her a scholarship to a separate school altogether. We did it for one semester. I guess she didn't get on her nerves either. They were sad when we told them we couldn't come back b/c of ballet. She also had a full, renewable Musical Theatre scholarship (that she had to audition for) for a couple of years that we finally had to give up b/c of time constraints. They were crushed when we left for ballet.

 

My dd says she wants to be a professional and I just want to give her the best opportunity. I hope I don't mess up by her. I can't just force her to change her personality either though!

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Well, housell, we'd toss the official BT4D Crystal Ball over your way ... except it hasn't been working too well for any of us these days ...

 

All you can do is make your best judgment about what seems right for her now. You can't predict the future. But rest assured, each and every one of us parents understands your dilemma. We've all been through the "What if I make the wrong choice?" stage. The best I can tell you is that the odds of making it to the professional stage are vanishingly small. I think it is better to decide what she needs right now, in order to keep her dancing happily and progressing in her art, than to worry about what she has to have in order to get to some unspecified point in some unspecified future.

 

Perhaps one question to ask in your conference is whether, if you leave now, they would consider taking her back as a student after she has "matured" a bit (you can use whatever language suits). Their reaction may tell you quite a bit about her career potential.

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housell, without knowing the nature of your daughter's emotional issues, it is hard to advice about the suitability of a highly structured company school. While Treefrog mentioned attention issues, I don't consider ADHD/ADD to be an emotional problem, but rather a neurological one. So, I'm not sure if your daughter's learning challenges are related specifically to ADHD or rather her lack of attentiveness is instead due to the emotional issues you mention.

 

After reading your post, my first reaction was to wait and see what the faculty says in the conference. Come ready to ask specific questions about the nature of their concerns. Ask if they consider these concerns to be insurmountable or if they are willing to work with you to resolve them. You will learn alot about their commitment to your child by the answers you receive. If her facility is as well suited to ballet as you describe, it is very possible that the school will be anxious to work with you and help her achieve her potential.

 

Do come prepared to describe her emotional issues and the way they manifest themselves. Teachers cannot be expected to show empathy, if they have no idea about the challenges a particular student faces! Ballet teachers rarely have any formal training in working with students who have special challenges and so you will need to explain the nature of her emotional problems and also how her academic teachers cope with the challenges, ways you have found to help her modify behavior, etc. As a teacher, I'm sure you know that you are your child's best advocate! Go to the conference armed with information about your daughter's challenges and needs, listen carefully to what is said and not said in the meeting. Don't be afraid to ask questions, but resist the urge to go on the defensive. Approach the meeting as Treefrog suggested: as an opportunity to form a team with the school faculty that is dedicated to helping your dancer succeed.

 

If you come away from the meeting feeling as if the faculty is not interested in working with you and your daughter to overcome her challenges, then it is time to return to the old studio or look for another one that offers pre-pro training in an atmosphere that is more suited to your daughter's needs. If you are in a city with a pre-pro school and company, then there are likely other good, solid training venues available. Don't be too quick to close any doors by settling for sub-standard training. Your daughter is very young and with maturity, many/all of her classroom challenges may disappear. If her interest in ballet continues, you will want her training to remain at a pre-pro level, in a school where she will not be learning any bad habits that can be difficult to correct or where the training will put her behind her peers in technical ability.

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Knock, knock, I have an over -13 (but also a 12 year old niece who dances). My niece goes to a very demanding pre-pro in Florida. She was very petite for her class/age, and received what sounds like a very similar evaluation two years ago. She was held back while the rest of her class went ahead (and onto pointe). Oh man, the tears! She had always been a little prodigy child, perfect body, etc., but because of her awesome facility, she had slacked off just a little in paying attention. She was also too tiny and physically not ready for pointe and a heavier schedule. She stayed at the school, but grumbled a LOT! Then she grew, got stronger, got the wonderful experience of being the best in her level - by a LONG shot, and this spring was double promoted, given the long awaited pointe shoes, and is doing the intensive, taking pointe classes, and is the star of the class. Sometimes, another year (or two) in a level is simply a "wait and see" or a "let's let your body catch up to your potential." On the flip side, my DD took a lot of flack when we moved about choosing the smaller, less established local school, rather than the pre-pro everyone knew about. Now, just two years later, her "smaller" school has as many students, great performances, and just as many advanced level dancers who are actually planning professional careers, going off to SI's on scholarships, and the other indicia of success. Sometimes, the less formal school can be a blessing. DD has greatly benefited from individual attention, teachers who will stay after class or come in early to work with her, teachers who have the time and energy to focus on each kid, and a growing school that is very excited about fund-raising, guest teachers, and other success-oriented activities. I wish we were in a city that had SAB and ABT, but for where we are, the small school has been a huge blessing!

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Also, everybody remember that this is a 10-year-old we're discussing.

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Housell, your anguish over all of this comes right through the computer screen, and I wish mightily there were something I could do to help ease it.

 

I'm on my way out the door for the day, so will just say one or two things now, but I will return to this later tonight when I come home; I do have quite a bit to say.

 

So, a couple quick thoughts:

Treefrog's question about how her behavior in the pre-pro school compares to her academic life was the very first question in my brain as well. It's a very important question.

 

My gut tells me that you shouldn't think of throwing in the towel at this pre-pro school despite the current difficulties. I've seen many kids experience the same kind of road bump yours is going through at about the same age, and come out just fine on the other side.

 

I don't see that you said her problem is ADHD/ADD. If it is, as you probably know, an ADD/ADHD issue nearly always involves an emotional aspect, especially by the time the child is 10. Because of the constraints put on these kids day in and day out in school, they nearly always develop some poor coping strategies that then fly back into their faces socially and academically, creating the emotional difficulties.

 

I know that you mention your daughter's natural facility - flexibility, right body, etc., and boy, oh boy, is she lucky about possessing that - but there's a big difference between that and technique. Her body is her instrument, and it's a fine one. But just as with playing a musical instrument, you can have the very best instrument, but still won't be able to play it well without learning the technique.

 

Another question: Is her ballet teacher the same one she's had since she started this pre-pro school or a new one?

 

A couple more quickie comments:

*So much of your daughter's behavior could be attributed to normal bumps in the road, just coming a little earlier.

*Age 10 is a cognitive turning point. It's the beginning of a real shifting from concrete thought to abstract thought, so it's where learning difficulties, both academic and social, rear their heads. It's often when we see the most difficult emotional issues surface.

*Hormonal influences could be driving the worst of her behavior if , in fact, there is a behavorial factor going on. Perhaps her teacher is not equipped with the skills to handle a kid going through a rough patch? I can't tell you how many times a 10 year old starts behaving very poorly, or already difficult behavior worsens, and it turns out that their bodies are ahead of the others hormonally, even when there is no outward sign of anything going on, and the child might even look younger than the others.

 

Lots more to say,and a bunch of questions and suggestions, but in any case, my biggest advice is to simply make that appt. for a face-to-face conference. Do a search here and read through the several very good threads about talking to teachers at conference time.

 

I see you don't have PM privileges yet. If, for privacy reasons, you prefer to not say too much on these boards, I'd be happy to help you off the boards. My email is jackigr@gmail.com. Since you're new here, you may not know my background: I teach classroom management and parent/teacher/child relationships courses to teachers and school principals at teaching conferences and a teacher training college. I also run my own year-round courses for teachers, and separate ones for parents. As a Montessori teacher turned tutor, my students are the ones who didn't have success with regular tutors, so neuropsyches refer them to me. My kids' difficulties run the gamut from ADD to serious brain disorders.

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*Hormonal influences could be driving the worst of her behavior if , in fact, there is a behavorial factor going on. Perhaps her teacher is not equipped with the skills to handle a kid going through a rough patch? I can't tell you how many times a 10 year old starts behaving very poorly, or already difficult behavior worsens, and it turns out that their bodies are ahead of the others hormonally, even when there is no outward sign of anything going on, and the child might even look younger than the others.

 

Age 10 is when the adrenal glands start kicking into gear, and they supply a good portion of what we think of as the reproductive hormones (estrogen, testosterone). So, absolutely, it's possible for bodies to be receiving a good hormonal kick without visible puberty being anywhere on the horizon. My graduate advisor called this phenomenon "adrenarche" -- onset of adrenal activity, similar to "menarche", onset of menses.

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I would also chime in and caution you that you may not want to withhold registration if your studio does in fact fill up classes. You will want her to have a "place" if things can be worked out in your conference. Registration fees are generally small enough that you can afford to "lose it" should you choose to go elsewhere. Speaking of the conference, I would call again if you have not heard back in a week. This time of year, people go on vacation, schools have their SI's and phone messages can be pushed to the back burner. You may try to email as well. (and yes, you do discuss any medical issues concerning your DD. It can only help teachers understand any limitations she may have or if no limitations, then how to better serve her as a teacher)

 

But one thing to also add to what others have already done to help, is that once you are at a pre-professional school, it is hard to equate what is "true" when comparing placement/ability while at the home studio and placement/ability while at a pre-pro school. That is comparing apples to oranges. At a smaller home school, it is far easier to have compliments "shined upon" because the pool is generally smaller. A big fish in a small pond so to speak for the home school and a small fish in a big pond at the pre-pro. That has to be taken into consideration when you "listen" to what other say (which can be very dangerous!).

 

Good luck to you. But remember, she is 10. Being held back a level at 10 does not ruin a career, in fact sometimes it enhances it. My own DD was held back at the same age and it had nothing to do with ability. It was because the other kids already 11 would start pre-pointe the next January within the class. They didn't feel my DD would be big enough (bone wise) so they just held her back. It worked to her advantage, she was stronger a full year later when she started pre-pointe and did not struggle "getting up" as many who had moved up the year prior to her. All about leveling isn't bad. If we as parents can learn that, we can help our children tremendously!

 

vj

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But remember, she is 10. Being held back a level at 10 does not ruin a career, in fact sometimes it enhances it. My own DD was held back at the same age and it had nothing to do with ability. It was because the other kids already 11 would start pre-pointe the next January within the class. They didn't feel my DD would be big enough (bone wise) so they just held her back. It worked to her advantage, she was stronger a full year later when she started pre-pointe and did not struggle "getting up" as many who had moved up the year prior to her. All about leveling isn't bad. If we as parents can learn that, we can help our children tremendously!

 

vj

 

My point exactly; thank you, vj.

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Everyone,

 

Your suggestions are helping my thinking tremendously and I am calming down now. My husband is working in another state for the summer so I feel kind of alone dealing with this and am grateful to have found this group before this happened. Since the SI hasn't started yet, I haven't seen any of the other moms so I haven't been able to "vent" to anyone else (not that they could help much). THANK YOU!

 

To be honest, I am tired of running around with her and was wanting an "out" sometimes but when I got that evaluation and call for a conference and saw her reaction I realized that I wasn't ready to give up on her if it's what she really wants.

 

I know she's only 10 and I'm not unrealistic about that issue. It's not the "holding back" that I'm worried about. I'm worried that they might not be willing to deal with her idiosynchrosies any longer BECAUSE she's getting older. Several of you mentioned that 10 is a cognitive turning point and as educators WE know that, but at this academy, I think that most of the kids are abnormally perfectionist kids across the board as far as academically gifted, etc. so they don't have the slightest behavior issues (according to their parents anyway). Most of the kids go to private prep-schools or Catholic schools, and the ones in public schools seem to all be in gifted and talented classes.

 

I'd rather not get into my daughter's emotional problems, however, I will say that she is not disruptive to anyone in class. She can be very passively stubborn though and that is when she and teachers butt heads. Not all teachers have this problem with her though. It's wierd. In fact she tends to get a lot of attention everywhere she goes (against my wishes) for her cuteness. She's very immature for someone going to 6th grade and it's partially b/c people don't treat her like a 10 yr. old b/c of size including her peers. Originally we did go to this academy for their more rigid structure b/c I thought it would help her. I didn't even know it was a big deal to get accepted until the actual audition when I saw everyone dressed in a certain way and she was one of two kids dressed wrongly. I was surprised then that she actually got in. (This is showing how much I've had to learn along the way.)

 

Even though I'm a teacher, I got my certification later. (My degree is in something else.) Those of you who posted all of the advise based on education were very helpful. Thank you. Please keep it coming...it's all helping...

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Thanks for the additional clarity. It is one of the most solemn responsibilities of this forum and the whole board in general, to try to discuss real-world problems in a real-world manner. So far, so good.

 

Don't borrow trouble by worrying about what this school might say in a conference, but it is also wise to prepare oneself for the exchange. I think it a bit thick of the school not to advise the student and/or parent of the general tenor of an upcoming meeting. It is a fine line between preparation and worry, and nobody needs the Old Army booshwah, "The First Sergeant wants to talk to you."

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... so they don't have the slightest behavior issues (according to their parents anyway). Most of the kids go to private prep-schools

 

Hoo-boy! I teach in a private prep school. Don't you believe for a second that those kids "don't have the slighest behavior issues"! I can cite a very wide range of things that I see every day, every year.

 

Hang in there, housell. Sounds like you have your head screwed on right. We're happy to be your sounding board.

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Thank you Master Johnson. That makes me feel better. I think that's what really upset me. I'm tired of being treated this way at this school. I clearly told the teacher last October when she called me with concerns about my daughter and I explained to her that I needed more frequent updates than just written evaluations so that I could actually help them. The teacher even said she wanted to "reach" my daughter as it was "not the same student she had just seen in last summer's SI". Of course, since I got no feedback as requested, I thought all was fine. They don't make their e-mail available to us so I sent a note in December asking for feedback and got none except the Fall evaluation like everyone else. As a teacher for 11 years now, I have gone out of my way many times to make parent communication a priority when I see a struggling student in my school, particularly when the parent requests it. I don't see how this is any different. I teach science in an inner-city public school too where no one pays tuition!!!

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