Uh oh… Your son or daughter, who absolutely loves dancing, has come out of class looking frustrated and upset. You ask them what’s wrong and they mutter the words no parent wants to hear…
“My teacher is picking on me!”
Your heart sinks. Your mind races and your inner mama-bear gets ready to roar and jump to your child’s defense.
Well hang on a sec, hold your horses. Let’s think logically and figure out exactly what your darling dancer means. In the playground at school, if someone is being “picked on” it generally means that another individual is going out of their way to annoy or tease or bully this person. This kind of behavior is deliberate with the intent to upset the other person.
In my years of dance teaching, I am yet to come across another teacher or principal who has taken such a dislike to a student that they would put so much time and energy into making that child upset.
A dance teacher is generally somebody who is very passionate about dance and who equally loves working with children, they may even have their own! Dance teachers are joyous, energetic people. They have taken an active interest and invested their time and energy into the growth and development of your child and the hundreds of children that they will meet in their dance teaching career. They are one of the lucky few whose passion and career came together. It would be a bit out of character if they started “picking” on children now, wouldn’t it?
What your child probably means is, they often hear the teacher say their name in class. This is actually a positive thing and great teachers make a conscious effort to say every single student’s name multiple times a lesson so they feel included in the class and important to their teacher. Your child might feel like their name is the only one being called out but that is likely because they are only tuned in to hearing their own name and not their classmates.
But why do they keep getting called upon? Here are some reasons your child might be being “picked on” by their teacher.
- CORRECTIONS: It doesn’t matter if your child wants a career in dance or comes to class for fun. A teacher’s job is to TEACH dance. This means correcting mistakes so that your child, the student, can LEARN. It is important the teacher corrects mistakes so that your child can progress and make improvements week to week. It also helps to reduce the risk of injury when your teacher makes a correction on your child’s technique. Often, it would not be safe for a student to continually perform something incorrectly. Sometimes these corrections can be generalized to the whole class however, often children are progressing at different rates and need and deserve individualised attention from their teacher. They also pay attention and remember corrections more when they are directed to them and not the whole class. An example of what your child might hear is: “Stretch those feet Sally”, “Don’t forget to bend your knees before you jump Tess” OR “Mary, keep in time with the music”. If your child says they are being “picked on” they are probably just receiving corrections which is a positive thing and means they are learning. If your child’s maths teacher asked them what 2+2 is and your child answered 5, their maths teacher is going to correct them. Are they being “picked on” or is Mr. Maths doing his job?
- “MY TEACHER YELLS AT ME”: There is probably some truth to that. Sometimes the teacher will give their students corrections in a quiet and gentle manner. Other times they need to be firm and direct, so that the students understand the importance. Being loud or changing their tone of voice will emphasise the key points they want their students to remember. In general, dance teachers are loud and excitable people. If your dance teacher yells, it is because they are extremely passionate and they are trying to get all of the energy, excitement and joy they feel out of their bodies and into their students! Also remember that quite often in a dance class environment, the teacher will be competing with loud music, chatty kids, the air-con or fans and even tap shoes, so they may yell or talk loudly because they want your child to hear and understand them. A dance teacher who yells is a dance teacher who cares. The important thing to remember is that they are not yelling AT your child but out towards the whole class so that everybody can hear them.
- POTENTIAL: Perhaps your child is progressing just that little bit faster than their classmates and has moved beyond the generalised corrections that are given to the whole class. Perhaps their teacher recognises your child’s potential and wants to give them a challenge. Your child might say “Miss Chloe keeps telling me to kick my legs higher and keep my back tall but she never tells my friend Alice!” Well, Alice might not be up to that. Alice might still be focusing on stretched feet and knees and your child has already shown improvements in that area and is ready for more. If your child isn’t given corrections or being “picked on” in their words, they might become bored at dance because they don’t feel challenged.
- YOUR CHILD IS DISTRACTED: There is so much stimulation in the dance room; loud music, their favourite songs, their dance friends, pretty pictures on the wall, students coming and going. Your child might get caught up in a conversation with their classmates or be thinking about what’s for dinner or how much homework they have to do when they get home. A good dance teacher can always tell when a student isn’t focused or not listening. The teacher might say your child’s name or speak to them directly to bring their focus back to the dance class.
- POOR BEHAVIOR: Yes, maybe your child’s behaviour is not perfect all the time. This doesn’t mean that they are a bad kid, a terrible dancer or that their teacher doesn’t like them. While dancing is fun, it comes with a set of rules and disciplines. Respect needs to be shown to the teacher, the dance room and their classmates. This means being polite, not talking while the teacher is addressing the class or the music is on, not “playing” during class and wearing the correct uniform. Dance class is about so much more than just learning steps and tricks. Your child will learn social skills, work ethic and the importance of teamwork. When your child misbehaves or doesn’t adhere to the classrooms set rules, their teacher will pull them up. They might say “Lisa, where is your uniform today?” “Please don’t speak while I do Matthew” or “Erin, the dance studio is not a playground, please don’t run around.” The teacher may say these gently at first but if they need to remind your child repeatedly, it may be necessary to be firm. Dance class is a structured activity that can take children a little while to adjust to. It is quite normal for kids to slip up and forget the rules and get carried away having fun with their friends, so don’t stress too much if you think this might be the case. If the dance teacher believes your child’s behaviour has become too disruptive or dangerous for dance class, they will have a private conversation with you about addressing this behaviour at home. Until then, just leave it to the pros.
When I was a student, I like many others, complained that I was “picked on” by my teachers. Every class there was correction after correction, nothing was ever perfect. I viewed this as a negative thing. That was until I entered a class where I was completely ignored. Made to feel invisible for 1.5 hours a week, every week. I’m not sure if this was intentional or just negligence but now when I take class, I appreciate every correction directed to me and the whole class and I ask for more if I feel like I’m not getting enough. When I’m teaching, I attempt to make sure every student knows that I can see them and that I care by giving encouraging, constructive and individual attention to each of my students. This principle is instilled in each of the Main St Funk teachers. Without it being actively enforced, the MSF team are naturally invested into every single student that walks through our studio doors.
It is well-known that dancers are some of the most mentally strong and resilient athletes and it all starts at their very first dance class. So next time your child thinks that they are being picked on, dig a little deeper. They might just be super lucky and have an awesome dance teacher. Someone who is passionate, someone who cares and someone who believes in your child because behind every great dancer is a dance teacher who picked on them.
By Chloe Jobson.