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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Parent/Ballet School Relationship


Guest Watermill

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Guest Watermill

I've always wanted to ask other parents what they considered as appropriate parent conduct toward ballet school instructors and administration when issues such as the following arise:

 

1 ) Favoritism by instructors (real or perceived)

 

2) Possibility of injury due to over stressed young (growing) bodies

 

3) Possible verbal or psychological abuse by instructors.

 

Obviously there are many othe issues that can come up, but these are just some examples.

 

I know that many parents feel it isn't their place to speak up to the school about these things, but they complain vociferously in the parking lot to eachother. As a result no adjustments get made by the school and things just get worse. Obviously, many eager parents feel that to "cause trouble" might hurt their child's chances to move up a level or get a solo in the Spring Recital. But not speaking out can lead to festering inner resentment. And we all know where that leads...

 

Has anyone struck a balance with their school of proper parental concern and distance?

 

Any thoughts?

 

Watermill

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Gee, I've never hesitated to take my concerns to the appropriate person -- the instructor or the director, usually. I try to state my concerns neutrally, and to provide examples. I also suggest what course of action I'd like the individual to take.

 

Here's an example: "Susie feels that Ms. Jones has been giving Angelina more attention than the other students. In yesterday's class, Angelina was asked to demonstrate eight times, and none of the other students was asked even once. I know that Angelina is a fine dancer, but the other students are feeling they are not getting attention and corrections from Ms. Jones. Could you observe the class and determine if my concerns are justified? If so, perhaps you could discuss proper class management with Ms. Jones."

 

Well, okay, that's the sort of language I would use if I were e-mailing the director. Face to face, I'd probably say, "Susie's really feeling like Ms. Jones pays more attention to Angelina than the other students, and it's really bothering her because she feels she works harder when Ms. Jones gives her lots of corrections. Could you look in and see if there's any real concern?"

 

I'd let some things slip more than others. However, I would definitely speak up about an abusive teacher or a practice that seemed injurious. I'd always do it with an open mind, though -- maybe an exercise that seems injurious to me actually has a long and healthy history to it.

 

If the school is defensive about its bad (injurious) practices, or appears to retaliate against justifiable questions, then it is time to look for a new studio. If, however, one is the ONLY parent voicing these concerns, and one is voicing them regularly enough that the director heads out the door every time s/he is approached, then it is time to look for a new life ...;) :)

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Guest BalletFlaMom

My daughter herself has requested meetings with the Principal of our Academy and/or the appropriate teacher when the RARE (perceived?) "problem" appears to her. Including a concern of hers last year that she felt a teacher was asking her to "force" her turnout. (She was not, my daughter is hypermobile and the teacher was unaware of that, she (the teacher) made the appropriate adjustments to my daughter's corrections)

 

I, while realizing I AM her parent, do not feel it is my place to address issues that may have been raised in a dance class in which I was not a student and, therefore, not in the studio.

 

Usually, the Principal will tell me later what the meeting was about and the outcome. I am lucky though, in that my daughter attends the Academy of the Professional Company that I work for.

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Well, the most important thing is to stay away from parking lot talk! But you know that. There's nothing worse than a group of parents whooping each other up over perceived problems at the dance school (or soccer field, classroom, basketball court, gym floor, etc.)

 

My general rule of thumb is to not go to the director or teachers with complaints myself. This, of course, depends on how old the dancer is. But I think that by the time a dancer is 12 or 13, she ought to be speaking with her teachers herself if there's a problem, esp. if it concerns favoritism.

 

The best way to approach a teacher or AD about the "F" word ;) is for the student to request a meeting and then ask what she can do to be noticed in class, or be considered for a role, etc. "What do I need to work on?" This has the combined result of letting the teacher know the child doesn't feel she's being given the attention she desires and it also communicates that she wants to learn. It's not negative, it's a positive way of showing that she wants the attention, respect and consideration. Of course a parent can approach a teacher in the same way but if the child's an adolescent, I always think it's better done by her.

 

Does this school offer conferences with parents and/or students? My daughter's AD holds conferences with the parents at least once a year when the kids are young. When they're about 13+, the conferences are with the student also. That's when I ask my questions or voice any concerns. Use the "I" message: "I'm concerned about my daughter being on pointe before her bones have ossified? What do I need to know? How do you handle this issue?" etc. I really think that a well-placed comment voiced by a parent who doesn't complain all the time, within the context of a regular conference, will hold far more weight and be given more consideration that that of a parent who's frequently complaining about this or that. That sort of parent gets tuned out. Use your voice sparingly and couch it in as positive a way as you can.

 

If you really don't trust what the school's doing, it's time to look for another school. I think it's perfectly fine for a parent to say, "I'm the parent and while I don't know ballet, I DO know my child. She's going through a growth spurt and I'm concerned about injuries". I do like to think of it as a collaboration between the parent and teachers to the benefit of the child. I offer you my child to train but I don't relinquish my rights as her parent.

 

Regarding the verbal abuse, that's a tough issue. If you know for sure, not through hearsay, that a teacher is truly being verbally abusive, then you really do need to take a stand. But again, there's a way to do so that won't harm your daughter. You can speak to the teacher directly and say, "I'm sure you have no idea but when you say_______, it really affects my daughter. I thought you should know because I'm sure you'd never want to hurt her." I had to say this once to my son's schoolteacher, my fellow staff member no less. It was very hard but she was being quite abusive verbally to him and others and she needed to know it. It was one of the hardest things I ever did because she didn't know how to stop being that way. Ultimately I had to take it to the principal. He tried to work with her but eventually she had to be let go.

 

Not every school is going to do anything about a bad situation and if that's so with your daughter's school, then you may have to look elsewhere. You really do have to weigh the pros and cons. If this school's policies are threatening to the students' physical and emotional health, you might be at that point already.

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I try as much as possible to encourage my daughter to go in and talk to her teachers or the studio director with issues she may bring up. That way she is able to convey exactly her feelings and they are able to convey theirs to her directly. There have been a couple of situations where I've had to go in to the teacher or director myself but they are RARE.

 

When I have had to go in, I usually go to the studio director but teachers all live a good distance away and the director acts as a go between. About 3 times a year, she will buzz through the lobby and announce "If you have issues about the studio you'd like for me to address, please bring them to me. I am the one who can fix them and unless you personally tell me, I can't do that".

 

Now as far as physical and mental abuse, if I felt those were real questions, I'd be in the director's office immediately and looking for a new studio.

 

missy:D

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I think a great deal of good advice has been given here...especially that part about having the adolescent dancer taking responsibility for voicing his or her concerns to the director or teacher. I like Vagansmom's advice about how to phrase things and couch them in a positive way... very good diplomatic life skills well worth developing!:)

 

If one's dancer's studio/school does offer a face to face meeting at least once a year, that is a perfect opportunity...although it could drive you crazy to wait! ;) I have yet to experience any official conference in my daughter's dance education, however I am looking forward to that day and hope does spring eternal!...Perhaps it will be this year. ;)

 

As for the verbal or physical perceived or not... that is, as they say, a 'horse of a different color'!

 

P.S. You are right about avoiding the tongue wagging aspect of it all...though it may be difficult to do at times... Always handy to have a good book or an urgent destination. ;)

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Watermill, I thinks it's important to address the questions to mention.A good school usually cares and wants your feedback.If your child can speak with the instructor about class issues that can be good.When it comes to favoritism-that goes on to a degree everywhere.If you have a situation where the teacher has their eyes only on one dancer all the time, that's when you can step in and speak to the director.Verbal abuse,such as fat insults or put-downs should not be tolerated. I think parent feedback along with support makes for a better learning environment.

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Guest Watermill

Thank you for sharing your "parenting techniques". Remarkable examples of directness, restraint, and careful phrasing: all proceeding from your love of the child as you try your best to shephard the body and soul of the magnificent young individual in your care through a 19th century discipline in a 21st Century world.

 

Ballet parents are amazing!

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  • 9 years later...

I am happy to see this thread. One of the main reason we are changing schools for our child is that her current school has a failure to communicate. The arroagance that we should just hand over our children and pay tution is mind boggling. They don't return phone calls and claim to have standards in the handbook but no such thing excists. We are far from rich and pay about $3000 a year for our child to study and that is unacceptable regardless of how much you pay. The parking lot chatter excist because you have no one to talk too. There are no parent conferences and I don't think any of the students speak to the teachers for fear of being penalized. It's a school that is living of its reputation honestly of 8 years ago. I spoke to my child new school that she will be changing to in the fall and the people were so accomodationg and were like anytime you have a question feel free to ask us. We are here to help our students. What a difference? Zero tolerance for an abusive teacher while the current place didn't remove one until parents complained. They more interesed in maitaining control then improving communication. Maybe I am that rare parent but I can't and won't hand over my child blindly to anyone. Let's not talk about favoritism. As a parent I say trust your instincts. Don't have anyone make you believe they are they only means for your child to get training. There is always an option trust me. Bigger is not always better. I'm so glad that my husband and I said enough is enough. Thanks for the above information.

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