This post isn't filtered in any way, just thoughts I've accumulated over the years as a dance teacher. This is not just directed toward parents, but to anyone with a student in their lives. In fact, I would dare say this applies to any adult:
|photo by Susan Yee during our first photo shoot together.|
Speak kindly to children, for that is how they learn how to speak to others. And you.
The quickest way to lower a student's confidence is to bring them late to class. They're already behind and they know it. Don't expect them to "try harder" to make up for what they missed. When they're young, they're too little to be held accountable for that.
Trust the teacher. Even if you don't like the teacher, there's still something to be learned from him or her. I don't know if my mom particularly liked my ballet teacher growing up, but she respected her role as my teacher and never voiced her opinion. She knew I loved dance and didn't want to interfere with my training. She knew that creating doubt in a child's education was detrimental to the learning process.
That said, know the teacher's rules and abide by them. Children are following our examples, so if we don't follow the rules, the students won't- but it's the students who get in trouble, not us. I overheard a complaining parent ask why her daughter (who was standing next to her) needed to have perfect hair if it's just practice. I can't tell you how frustrating it was to hear that. I'm still reeling a bit.
My mom was a great example of a good dance mom. She was supportive but didn't meddle. She listened to me vent about my ballet teacher but usually (if not always) sided with her. She didn't fix my problems for me, but helped me try to think of ways to make the situation better. She handed the power and control over to me to better my life. I can't tell you how empowering that is as an adult.
My mom also forbade me to quit anything in the middle of the year. "You made a commitment," she would say.
Let students make mistakes.
Yelling is not discipline. Discipline is love and patience with a bigger vision. Discipline is understanding and encouragement to do better. Yelling is merely a reactionary emotion without purpose.
Ballet is strict- more strict than any other training on the planet. There is a specific etiquette in the ballet world, one that we try to instill at an early age. Don't be surprised if a student who has perfect behavior in school gets in trouble in ballet class. I once got in trouble for leaning on a bar because I looked bored. It hurt, I was embarrassed, but I learned to look more attentive in respect to my teacher and the art of ballet.
The students who succeed are those who love dance. And when I say love, I mean love. Nothing will stop them from dancing. Not injuries, heartbreak, frustrations, mean teachers, bad experiences, or lack of time or talent. A dancer will be asked to overcome all those things, sometimes on a daily basis. You need grit, strength, and, above all, love to get through that. It sounds difficult to some (for me, it sounds like an inspiring challenge), but the rewards will be greater than ever imagined.