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Ballet Talk for Dancers

School caved in to an agressive dance mom :(


nynydancer

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Wow, I have a really strange situation and am looking for advice or maybe empathy.

 

I go to a lovely school where my DKs, who both have professional aspirations, are handled and coached very well. I am very grateful for this and as such, I do volunteer a lot. I feel appreciated by the school for my work, and feel like I have a very good relationship with the staff.

 

There is a mom who is pretty difficult and has been for the past couple of years. She complains often about how things are run at the school and thinks nothing of setting up a meeting and talking to the AD for an hour at a time about her grievances or her kids progress. This mom has tried to be friendly with me, and I have been friendly back, but the relationship became more trying over the years as my dd was moving far ahead of hers. I finally had to cut her off when she was complaining bitterly about Nutcracker casting this year. It was just too much to bear as she complained yet again about the school, and how her dd not being treated properly. I tried to break things off gently, but she got quite angry with me. But honestly, her daughter has become indifferent to ballet (choosing other activities, missing class) and confided to my DD she hopes to be kicked out of Nut. Mom can't get this.

 

One family- whose child is an amazing dancer-- very nearly did not return to our school this fall because they were upset about some backstage antics perpetrated by the daughter, and they had issues with the Mom too. My own DK also suffered at the hands of this kid. We also had volunteers complain about this mom backstage. The AD had also enough of this mom!

 

The school assured the family who almost did not return they were doing something about it and tried to block the crazy mom from backstage access, and would work to make sure Mom knew she had to get her kid under control.

 

This mom got very upset about the backstage access ban, and pretty much began a campaign of harassing emails and texts to the school. I also received several angry texts and emails. She blamed me for ban even though the administrators assured her this was their decision. I was told by they were hoping she would unenroll her child and move on. They intended to deliver a stern message.

 

However they caved and now have her working directly with youngsters again for a certain event. And to make this worse, they took me off of the event as a volunteer, I think more to protect me. I hope! Or maybe it's just more caving! I am still treated very well and was assured they know she is a complete basket case. They have also reached out to make sure she is not trying to bug me.

 

I feel like they are enabling the insane behavior of this person. The school has been incredible to my kids and I am deep into Nut volunteer work, which I will do of course. But I feel very let down that they caved to this person. She is not a wealthy donor, and her kid is very indifferent and not doing well and seems to not want to be there, according to the teachers. So why? I don't get their end game at all and am trying to have faith. I've heard from other parents that the school does not handle conflict well.

 

I cannot imagine even questioning the school or pulling what she did. Im seeing the school in a new light and I don't like it. It's like someone pulled the curtain back on Oz and revealed these revered ballet teachers and AD to be mere mortals who can let some loony person run riot over them. :(

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Honestly it sounds like this doesn't affect you a whole lot (practically speaking). And there's nothing you can do about it anyway. My strategy is always to be friends with the crazies. Keep your enemies closer...

 

Edit: I'm not trying to downplay how frustrating this is, rather suggest for your own sanity that you only focus on what directly affects your dd. I know it's not easy!

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Frustrating for sure.

 

In this situation though, I would try to be the adult. Sure, she should absolutely be gone, but it sounds like her daughter has one foot out the door already. These people usually self implode. Have you ever asked the school why they have allowed her to stay? I wouldn't assume you know the entire situation.

 

I guess you have to decide if its worth leaving the school over? Do you really want one person to push you out when you otherwise have a good situation? In the end, like all of us, you are paying for good ballet instruction, and it sounds like your DD is getting it. Everything beyond that is icing.

 

I am not trying to belittle you or your experience, because I know how it makes the day-to-day dealings with these people annoying to say the least. Just rise above it and vow not to get involved if you can. Good luck!!!

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Nynydancer,

There are a couple of things that bother me about what is in your post. But before that I do want to say that you have my total sympathy. It is hard when having to watch other parents behave badly.

 

What concerned me is this: you said at the beginning of your post that you volunteer at this school, which is wonderful and I'm sure greatly appreciated. What I don't understand is why the AD and teachers would be so forthcoming about what seems to be very personal information regarding this other parent. When you say that according to the teachers the child is indifferent and does not want to be there, that they all think she is a basket case, that the AD has had enough and that the school has received threatening emails and texts, this sends up red flags to me. Regardless of the situation, this seems like a severe breach in basic privacy in regards to the child and mother. If the teachers and AD have said this, even 'just' to you, I would wonder what they were potentially saying about other students. Looking at this from someone who owns my own studio, no matter how difficult, I would never openly discuss something so personal with anyone unless it was in direct relationship to the other person and then ONLY in the briefest of terms. The hour long conferences with this mother should be private between the AD and parent and unless it is the mom airing what was said should never have been discussed with another parent. It bothers me. When I was a student I had the unfortunate luck to have started with a teacher who regularly 'gossiped' about other parents and students. Luckily I was never one who was gossiped about but did hear her often comment on how crazy one parent was, or how terrible another student was. It was terribly unprofessional and although she was a good teacher where technique was concerned, she fostered the negative environment that so many parents and students found themselves.

 

As for a school caving to parents, there may be information you and others aren't privy to. A few years ago we had a mother that resembles the one you described perfectly. There were many times we were questioned about why we didn't just kick them out of the school. We have always tried never to punish a child for the parent's bad behavior. There was also a lot going on in this child's life that made ballet the only real stability she could count on. We did limit what the mother could and could not do in regards to volunteering, and when there were direct complaints we dealt with them as best we could while still protecting the child as much as we could. The mother did finally loose it and they left. Yes it was a relief in one sense but very sad in another. Maybe a few parents might have looked at it like we were caving. But it is always hard to make assumptions when not knowing the entire story. The child in our school also seemed indifferent in class at times. But it had very little to do with ballet and everything to do with a very sad home life.

 

So yes all teachers and AD's are mere mortals. There are a lot of things we deal with daily and I wish things were so black and white, but they rarely are. I'm not trying to dismiss the difficulty of your situation but do encourage you to step back from it. Your daughter is young, 11 I believe. You will find that as she progresses in ballet there is a lot that isn't what it seems. Focus on what you can control, which is making sure your dancer is getting the best possible instruction from caring teachers. Don't worry about the rest. But do ask yourself if the comments made by the faculty, were the shoe ever on the other foot, would be appreciated or cause more fuel to the fire.

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After reading fraildoves' response, I decided to edit/delete my original response.

 

I'll just say, I've survived a couple rounds of this sort of thing, and eventually it does come to an end. If it's really unbearable, then maybe step back from volunteering in the future. But I would not discuss it with the AD/Teachers/Staff any further.

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Youre getting some great advice nynydancer.

From an outside point of view, the AD talking about another student to a parent volunteer to the extent you've been told "they were going to block this crazy mom" and have "had enough" and that they know "she's a complete basket case" is highly unprofessional.

We just left such a studio where the parents who volunteered frequently were privy to information from a gossipy studio owner, and I can tell you it is (was) a very unpleasant/toxic type of environment.

 

To clarify: my DD is over age 13. Sorry mods if I'm not allowed to post here.

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Guys, this is really great advice. I'm looking at this differently now and realizing I should have closed my ears long ago. I was wrong. And yes I am surprised I'm getting such insider info from the school on this situation. Maybe they want me to understand the backstory since the person was getting a bit hostile to me, but it is making me feel worse. And yes maybe there is something more to the story! It is sad for the daughter. I dont want to know anything anymore. And yes, I think everyone knows where this is headed and it's a matter of time.

It doesn't impact me so much, really. I suppose theyre human too and heck maybe they just caved because they were worn down!

And yes I can see how this could lead to a toxic environment of insiders and non insiders. Come to think of it, there actually WAS a recent non related thing that hurt several really nice parents/kids once a "secret" got out. Hmmm.

But I'm going to step back from volunteering for sure and make sure I keep a more formal relationship with the staff. I do respect them but just dont like the peek I had behind the curtain so much.

Thank you very much- I was very uneasy about this. I'm definately going to take the high road and will make sure Im not involved in these discussions anymore! Really truly thank you!

I love the staff and respect their artistic work very much. But yes this side of things, ive had enough!!!

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My child's ballet school does not have parents volunteer, but I find in general it's been good for me to not be around very much (now that my kid can self-transpo this helps a lot). It seemed really easy to get sucked into the crazy. I check in regularly with my son to make sure nothing is going on that affects him and it's been sort of nice for me to get some distance. I hope the situation is resolved soon for all the kids at your studio nynydancer.

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Like others, I do not want to lessen the impact you may be feeling from dealing with this situation. But, you do seem to have quite alot of "inside" information that should not be privy to parents, volunteer or not. Yes, I know that the studio lobby is no more or less an information network than the soccer field, or the stands at a football game. But, I learned at some point along the way that I didn't want that type of information anymore so I began to situate myself where I was less likely to overhear those type of conversations, engage in them or have insight into them.

 

As others have stated, this does not seem to affect your dancer or her training. It's just an irritant. Everyone will be floored if they knew the day to day interactions a school might have outside of simply (ha!) teaching class and casting shows. So, you have to learn to deal with this person or remove yourself from them. Usually when they no longer have an "ear" they move on.

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Nynydancer, one thing to keep in mind, the studio gossip could be impacting the kids more than you realize. After pulling my DD out of the toxic environment, I now see that the gossip among the parents/AD made its way to the kids and created some very hurt feelings among the dancers in her level.

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nyny. .. stay above it all. It sounds to me as if there may be some other reason that the school must be caving to this person (big donor? influence? prominent? deep pockets-paying full tuition).

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nyny, We experienced something similar at dd's first pre-pro school. It's not fun and I can empathize. One thing I could never figure out is why ballet school felt different than academic school. When things got too intense at ballet school, I would try to envision it as our dd's academic school, an intense college prep school, and thought about how I reacted to the demanding, entitled family that dominated our dd's class. Mostly, I ignored both the mom and the dad. I also looked at how the administration handled that family, one with vast resources and influence in the community. Complaints about the child or the parents were handled privately and there was no discussion with other parents regarding the issues that arose surrounding the child and particularly the mother. There were glimpses that the child was held accountable by teachers in class and when the mother did volunteer (rarely), others just steered clear. When the child began bullying classmates by publicly excluding them from her sleepovers and parties by handing out invitations to the chosen ones in class, the class level teacher and school director put an end to invitations being handed out at school. It minimized the drama.

 

Looking back, the big difference between the two schools is that the teachers and administrators at the academic school were trained to educate and had studied childhood development as part of their education. They had tools to handle poorly behaved children and their parents. The teachers and directors at ballet school were trained to dance. The teachers were very good at teaching ballet as were the directors. However, the directors lacked the education and training to manage a school in the same way as those academic administrators who had upper level degrees in education. Perhaps they lack the knowledge and the tools to avoid the dramas that people report in ballet school. There are of course, many exceptions to the school that we and you have experienced. There are teachers and directors at ballet school who have either received additional education/training in teaching or just have a clear vision of how to run a school that operates professionally. We were blessed to experience that with dd's second school. It was a breathe of fresh air. If you continue to experience drama and it begins to creep into your everyday life, you may want to consider other schools. Hopefully, the directors will control the situation and their own gossip and you can stay but if not, there are always other options as your dd gets older.

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