The other day a colleague of mine turned to me and sighed, ‘If only all our students were orphans, this job would be so much easier.’ Well, I’m not sure about that, but it did get me thinking that this article was long overdue.
Yes, all these things have been said to me over the years. When I was a young teacher, I would just stare in shock at these comments. However, as I grew older and more confident in myself and my profession, I used them as teachable moments to explain to parents why these aren’t exactly appropriate to say to professional dance teachers. I learned that most of the parents weren’t trying to be rude or offensive; they just didn’t know how their questions and comments sounded.
Do you have a real job? Excuse me, but you did pay for your child to learn from me. Teaching dance, or any art form for that matter, is a calling that all of us teachers take very seriously…for us it is a very real job.
I know I don’t know anything about dance, but…. Please, stop right there. In fact, that’s usually when I hold my hand up. That’s right you don’t know anything about dance which is why you pay a monthly tuition for me to teach your child. If I say the child isn’t ready to be moved up a level, have pointe shoes, or dance that role, I am not saying that to be cruel or unfair. I’m saying those things to keep your child safe and because I know what I’m doing. If you don’t trust my expertise, judgment and that, just like you, I want what is best for your child, then you really should find another teacher that you deem more trustworthy.
I don’t appreciate you disciplining my child. The good news is that I have only had this said to me once in all the years I have taught. The truth is I don’t really appreciate the fact that your child needed to be disciplined. The arts are called disciplines. Dance, ballet especially, has a strict code of conduct that dates back from its beginnings in the 1500’s and many of those rules of etiquette still apply today. When you ask me to teach your child ballet, you are asking me to teach them all the etiquette that goes along with it. I am never cruel when I correct misbehavior, but it is my job to address it. I never raise my voice with my students; I never humiliate them or threaten them. I am very clear the first day about the rules in my classroom and I make sure my expectations are age appropriate. Besides, it is not all about your child, there are usually over ten other students in the class that are paying tuition as well and they need a quiet and structured learning environment and it’s my responsibility to provide it.