by Rhee Gold
I am a dance teacher/studio owner, and I have come across the most persistent parents I have ever met in all my years of teaching dance (20-plus)—or school, for that matter. (I taught kindergarten for 12 years.)
These parents have a daughter who turned 4 last spring. They are angry with me and some of my teachers because I will not allow them to enroll their daughter in the beginning ballet class for 6- to 8-year-olds. My teachers and I have tried to explain that although the child is coordinated for a 4-year-old, she is not ready for the rigors of a class with 6- to 8-year-olds. She is not developmentally ready, emotionally or physically, even though she follows directions and is a good listener. Not to mention that there are eight parents with kids in the beginning ballet class who would not be happy if a 4-year-old were in there.
I am a strong believer in developmentally appropriate teaching and training. I pride myself on my school’s strong reputation in the community for having a quality preschool dance program. The 3- to 6-year-old age range is definitely my specialty.
These parents are convinced that their child is leaps and bounds above the other 4-year-olds in the ballet/jazz combo class, both in maturity and ability. They have been clients since their daughter was a year old, in the Mommy and Me classes, but I’m at the point where I want to tell them that my philosophy doesn’t fit with their attitude and that maybe my school isn’t a good fit for them. However, I always try to make things right for my clients and I want to educate them on proper dance training. And I don’t want their daughter to get hurt or learn bad habits that are hard to break.
I have spoken with the parents several times, as have my teachers. Is there an article or anything you can recommend that I can share with them? I know these parents want what is best for their daughter, and so do I.
Thank you for all your inspirational dance sayings and for all the fantastic ideas and information. —Barbara
Teachers often have to deal with parents who believe that their children should be moved to a higher-level class, but it isn’t often that the request comes from the parents of a 4-year-old. Exposure to movement that is physically inappropriate could damage her young body, not to mention how important it is to build a strong foundation if in fact dance turns out to be this child’s thing. You hit the nail on the head when you said you want what is developmentally appropriate for this child. Moving her up is out of the question.
It may be time to accept that your school can’t offer these parents what they are looking for, especially since you and your faculty have respectfully discussed their concerns without success. You point out that your school is well respected in your community for its successful preschool program. One student or her parents should not deter you from continuing to maintain your quality standards. Your integrity, ethics, and expertise have helped you gain the respect of your community, which is more valuable to your success than any single student. I know it is hard, but your instinct is speaking loud and clear. I wish you all the best. —Rhee