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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Teachers showing favoritism, how to deal?


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Trust is a relational process. When a parent brings their child to dance, they make a deposit of trust. The dance school needs to steward this trust well. They have a fiduciary responsibility to all their students who made a deposit of trust. Every relationship personal, commercial etc. is bound to have trust issues at some point. If a dance parent senses that their trust is not handled well, they should be able to inquire and ask for answers. 


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Top Posters In This Topic

  • Momof3darlings


  • Eligus


  • MEWDancer


  • learningdance


well said, nynydancer!

Also, we must remember as parents that exactly how our child is acting/dancing in class we won't know. We would always like to think our child is listening, responding immediately to corrections, giving it their all. They may not be.

Oh, and the reverse of this.... a parents favorite teacher, may not be your child's favorite. It happens!

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Thanks for all of the input.  I think this is more of a 13 year old feeling sensitive issue and certainly not a huge deal to consider leaving a school over!  Pep talk ideas were my main goal in bringing this up.  She and most others are respectful and hard working.  Her past reviews have been positive.  I really don’t think it is a reflection on her abilities or potential in any way, just need her to understand this.  She is generally pretty positive, and, I think, (and past teachers think) good at applying corrections.  She had an example the other day where there was something that they did in a small group, and she knew she was doing something not right but the teacher pulled the favorite aside to help her and said nothing to dd.  Sometimes it is not easy to fix something without specific help.  Meetings to discuss recent evaluations are soon, I will have her think of some questions to ask ahead of the meeting.  It is certainly not anything I would ever bring up to a teacher or this school, I am not ‘that’ parent.  This teacher is very good technically and all of them have improved dramatically this year.  Dd has been working her rear end off and also been doing extra classes.  I think it is natural to have favorites, but a great teacher will not make it obvious who that is.  Example- end of year show has a section lined up by height, except one not short favorite stuck right in front).  There is a non-ballet class they take as well and one of the ignored kids from ballet gets lots of attention from that teacher, but it is obvious to DD that it is encouragement to a struggling student and does not bother her at all.  Maybe she views the ballet situation more competitively.  She took a class over break at a different school, run by a former teacher of hers from years ago when dd danced somewhere else, who used to be a Principal dancer at this company.  During that lesson she was given tons of attention and corrections.  (Which may have left others with the same feeling she has at her school).  We are going to try to drop in there every now and then for a confidence boost 😂

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It is important to remember, there is a difference in whether a child was taught and whether a child was corrected.  There really is a big difference in discussing the two based on the original question. 

Imagine a math class where the whole class did a specific Algebra problem but only one student was called to do the work on the board.  The teacher corrected the one student as they did the work and maybe walked to another's desk and pointed to an error while still addressing the class.  The rest of the class just made corrections on their own paper based on someone else's time in the spotlight.  They could also close their books and not work on their problem at all while this was going on and say only one person was corrected that day.  

If trends are any suggestion, the student in the front of the room is more likely to be called on to go to the board vs. the student in the back.  So, was the rest of the class not taught that day?  What about the student who if you called their name would start to tear up?  Should the teacher continue to call on them to make them cry at the board or should they just allow them to learn without feeling pointed out.    So many variables exist and the one the original poster brought up that sticks out is that the lack of corrections seem to be obvious enough that it has become a class joke.  Other than that, I'm not seeing a need to pull up ranks and leave the school yet.  


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Momof3darlings, this is a great analogy.  

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Thank you dancemom02. 

If this was my dancer, I would also tell her that if she had time and focus to count exactly how many corrections went to someone before they came to her, that she was not focusing in class or had expectations of what class is supposed to be about that might be off a little.  At this point, I would address the joking with Admin, but also address the lack of focus with DD equally.    

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momof3. . .that's a great point :).  Teens distracting themselves with drama.

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As I said, it is not a huge deal, no one is creating drama, just looking for kind words of wisdom to help my DD realize that just because the teacher shows favoritism, it is not a reflection on her abilities at all.

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Right. . MEW. . Not directed at your DD but just a larger comment to point out the trend in teens to overdramatize.

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Ah... I've got to disagree, Learningdance.  I don't want to put words in either your or MEWdancer's mouth, but I also don't want hurt feelings to develop from what might be fast posting.

I don't think this post is about teen drama at all (nor do I think Momof3 post/analogy implicated that) .  I define teen drama as emotional overreactions to unsubstantiated speculations. What MEWdancer posted about sounds more like "how do I help my teen deal with the unfairness that exists in the world." 

You and Dancemaven had a really interesting discussion about whether or not that unfairness SHOULD exist (or should be mitigated when it does exist), and Momof3 pointed out how a different perspective on teaching and the class could help with interpreting whether or not the unfairness exists.

To my mind, the struggle of teens (and adults, frankly) to see and understand unfairness is very real, and -- although tears have been shed in my house over the "how and why" of the unfairness -- I don't consider that reaction to be "drama." 

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Eligus, well said.  I admit I still suffer from trying to figure out the ‘why’ in too many situations.  It is hard not to take things personally.

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It really is, MEWDancer.  It really is. 

I've resorted to shrugging and telling my DD (as someone else's spouse on BT4D allegedly pointed out) "life is hard... and unfair."  That's one of those comments that make you laugh and cry at the same time. 

Seriously, though, the only way I've been able to help my DD through the "unfairness" is to point out a couple of things: (1) that there HAVE been times (fleeting, and not necessarily in ballet) when she has benefited from favoritism - so it happens everywhere; (2) those who are "favored" do not get to "choose" their position; and (3) favoritism has its own risks and problems. 

We were fortunate enough in our old pre-pro school to watch how favoritism potentially warped the thinking of the "chosen ones."  First, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on them to perform perfectly at all times, and to NEVER make a mistake... that pressure does NOT lead to learning or to good dancing, frankly.  Second, being a "favorite" does not lend itself to working hard.... if you are favored, you tend to expect the favoritism no matter your level of effort, and it can have the effect of decreasing your effort... a death knell for growth.  Third, the favorites are not always treated "honestly" -- so it can be hard for them to discern honest praise and honest criticism.

Did she still want to be a favorite?  Yes. 

But now that she's out of her pre-pro school and into a trainee position at a fantastic company, she realizes that NOT being the favorite was actually better training for the real world of professional ballet.  While "not the favorite," she developed an amazing work ethic and an ability to hear and assimilate criticism without melting down.  She understands -- viscerally -- that there will always be someone better than she is at (fill in the blank).  The fact that someone is better or favored does not change the fact that she still needs to work on her own individual weaknesses and play on her strengths.  In other words, the "unfairness" does not really matter.

And I am not saying that kind of sanguine wisdom is a permanent state of mind ... it takes constant and conscious effort to remember and apply.  Every. Single. Day.  Sometimes, hour by hour.  Her ultimate test will be at the end of this year (and the next, and the next, and the next.... ad infinitum) when she waits to hear if the AD wants her for NEXT year.  And if she doesn't win that favor?  She needs to find a different place where she *is* more favored.  Ballet life is incredibly difficult in that way... they are constantly having to put themselves in situations where they are judged and may be found wanting, and they need to do so with an open and trusting heart....  On top of that, they must remember that if they ARE found "wanting" and are not the favored one, they must understand that it is NOT personal.... 

It's a difficult but necessary lesson.  I truly wish you love and luck in trying to teach it.  And if you learn any "pointers", please share!


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One more thing, she also learned through the years....

EVERYONE is replaceable.  Everyone. 

Illness, injury, family events, life... anything can happen to anyone...  even "favorites" ...and even you. 

So... whether you are favored or not, train like you will need to go on stage tonight (because you just might) and if you DO get the chance to go on stage and dance, soak up every minute of doing something you love for the love of doing it.  Not many people are blessed with the opportunity to study what they truly love... dancers are, whether you are "favored" or not. 

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MEWdancer-think of it this way.  There are group/situational dynamics in life no matter what group or situation you find yourself.  5 people at dance, 5 people at school, 5 people at work, 5 people at church.  So when working through favor, have her think of the top student in her elementary school and the perceived teacher's pet.  If you have 4 elementary schools in your area that merge into two middle schools, did the same students keep favor throughout middle school or did they make adjustments when they were faced with those favored from the other schools?  What about after middle school when the 2 middle school students merge into one high school.  Were the same people favored or did other people gain their wings?  Now on to college, where everyone's best student ends up. 

Did it matter, did having that favor help or hinder?  Did it follow all the way?  Did it mean anything in the end?  Did it teach them the values we wanted them to really have as they enter college or the workforce?  Can we give them value ourselves so that when they meet that one person that negates their existence they can make sound decisions about what that really means to their goals?  Having graduated from high school with VERY good grades, a bit of favor both earned and not earned, that did nothing when I met Dr. Bond, my first college history teacher who was one of those "I don't care where you came from......only 3% of you in this room will pass" kind of people.  At the point I met him, I wish some of that favor had been used to teach me resilience.  :)


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Momof3 --

I had the same experience you did with your Dr. Bond (who apparently had to live up to his fictional namesake in intimidation, if not in profession) when I entered my graduate school.  Before my admission, the administration gave all sorts of speeches about how "1% of 1%" make it this far and how this particular educational experience will be different than any other you've experienced as a student before...  "yadda, yadda, yadda".... (or so my young, arrogant, inexperienced self thought). 

But in the middle of my first year, trying not to panic as I was adjusting frantically to a whole new set of expectations, demands, and criticisms of my "work" to date, I remember wishing exactly what you did... that I had learned a bit more resilience in my previous educational schooling.  It was when I was struggling to make a "B" in an educational setting where previously "As" were standard and regular that I realized with a bit of chagrin that I had allowed myself to put in minimal effort for a long time and had never been called on that habit. 

It is quite a rude adjustment to transition from "coasting" on your status to having to work seriously and hard for every tiny nod of approval.  Perhaps some of that adjustment is inevitable, given the transition from "school" to a "profession," but I do think the adjustment is made faster and with more fluidity if you have not been in a "favored" position for a long time.  So... "huzzah" for the "non-favored" ones... at least they know they truly earned whatever they receive, and they learn grit, resilience and work ethic along the way. 

I'm not sure how to explain those thoughts/ideas to a 13 (almost 14) yo, MEWdancer.  I know for my DD, it took YEARS of me pointing out instances where favoritism did not ultimately "help" the favored as well as her own personal experience of being both "favored" (and handling the pressure that brings) and "unfavored" (and having to work for the small crumbs), so maybe it's just a matter of time and perspective (something teens definitely need help with).

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