Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Real Live Prima Donna

So Peanut took ballet lessons last year at a local dance school. She loved the classes, loved her teachers, and loved the girls in the class although you would never know it during class. She always looked as though she were headed for the guillotine, but afterwards she would re-enact the entire class with her dolls and she'd dance around the house. We figured that if she was still talking about ballet after a summer without, we would enroll her in a class again this fall but we'd try something a little less expensive. I can only stand so much watching her stand there motionless while I think about how much money this is costing.

So we signed her up for a Sunday morning class at the local rec center. I thought Honey could take her and we could see if maybe there was a difference in her participation level depending on who was waiting outside. The first week, we all went to check it out. And we stood around for a while, the kids ran around the room, the parents aimlessly checked their iPhones...and nothing. One dad said that they had taken classes with this teacher before and she was always late. Not good. But we gave it some time, and then finally a parent went to the front desk to inquire as to our prima ballerinas whereabouts. Turns out they couldn't find her, handed out rec center family passes and dismissed us, saying we'd hear if the class was cancelled - otherwise show up again next week. I asked if there was some music we could dance to so we could avoid having any kids leave crying that they didn't get a chance to dance, and we had a dad hook his phone up to the sound system and play Disney music for a bit. The girls spun around the room and we all left happy. This is the one and only time I will praise Disney.

Week two, Honey goes with Peanut. The teacher is a few minutes late. Peanut goes into class, she dances and has fun, she falls in the middle of class. The teacher asked that Honey come in to help, and so he did. Peanut then asked him to stay, and so he did. He could hear what was happening now rather than just see it, which turned out to be a very good thing. There was another parent in the room as well, but everyone else was waiting outside the glass door. When they came home, Honey said he thought I should go next week and sit in because he felt that I would not be pleased. He said the teacher just seemed mean, and didn't seem to like kids. He also said that there was one girl who didn't want to participate and was crying, and instead of encouraging her, the teacher told her and her dad they should just leave.

Week three, we all go to ballet. Oh yeah - meanwhile, we've had to go buy tap shoes too since she mentioned the need for them as she expected the kids to be changing into them midway through the class last week. I went and sat in the classroom, as far from where I was told the teacher had been last week. Another mom sits next to me, and all of the other parents are outside. The teacher arrives a few minutes late and a mom speaks with her about it, gesturing to the clock. I notice the teacher has on a shirt that reads "I'm worth it" on the front and "me, me, me" on the back. Maybe a poor choice. Another parent comes in and helps their child get settled, and asks if she should stay or leave, and she is told to leave.

From across the room, the teacher, without approaching or introducing herself, tells me that I should leave. I said I'd be staying. She says she doesn't let parents stay past the second class. I said I understood that, and I wasn't here last week, and I'd be staying. She continued from across the room to tell me that she was the teacher and she made the rules, and she became quite huffy with me. I said I was the mom and I'd be staying. Then she starts the music (way too loud) and has some problem with it, and says "would you watch them?" gesturing to the kids as she walks out the door to get help. I looked at the other mom sitting there and said "really?" Turns out she is there because she felt the same thing last week - that this may not be the best class for her kid since the teacher seemed really mean.

So the kids get rolling finally, it's like 10 - 15 minutes into the class time now. This is why you arrive early as a teacher - you prep the room and the music, and whatever props you may need before hand. You greet and introduce yourself at least to the students. You have time to learn their names. You have time to lay out any ground rules. So I already know this is not a teacher of small children. She continues on with a warm up that revolves around baking a cake and eating it. There is a lot of praise for a group of children who are not even remotely doing what is asked of them. "Good Job" is handed out like candy, while specific instruction is left behind.

She calls the kids "girl" and "you". She rolls her eyes when one asks to go to the potty. She yells at the parents when another asks to go tot he potty. What are they going to miss their Swan Lake audition because they went potty while they were supposed to be learning to releve? Come on - take yourself a little less seriously. She watches the clock. She used at least three songs that provide dance instruction so she does not have to. She has the kids run out to change into tap shoes, having the parents do it since she can't be bothered to spend the five minutes it would take to have the kids learn to do it themselves and help each other. Another mom decides to stay after the shoe change. We still have not heard her name. Miss Ballet teacher realizes about halfway through, that a large folding table is leaning precariously against the wall, and stops the kids mid tap to fix it. I am more and more annoyed as I realize she has no lesson plan and is just thinking about how she can make 5 more minutes go faster.

At the end, she just stops. There is no ending, and when the girls just stand there, she says - "OK girls you can go". I get Peanuts shoes out and set her up to change back into them, while the teacher pokes her head out the door to tell parents that under no circumstances will other parents be allowed to sit in her class. As I start to walk across the room, the teacher grabs her things and practically runs for the door. I had to call from halfway across the room "ma'am - I'm sorry - I didn't catch your name." She did not answer, so I called again "ma'am!" - and she turned to me in the doorway and told me she was very tired and would not speak to me now. I asked her name again and she walked away. I asked if anyone else knew her name and no other parent had a clue. Rude? Yes. Inappropriate? Yes. Prima donna? Yes. Teaching my kid again? No way.

After much discussion with the other parents and the obtaining of the program coordinators name, comment cards, etc. I continued to relive the events of the morning. I could absolutely not believe the whole thing. If she had come over to me and asked if I felt comfortable leaving and explained why she was supporting that way of doing things, I would have still indicated that I'd like to stay, but it may not have started a huge show down. If when I approached her afterwards, she smiled and shook my hand to introduce herself, I still would have taken Peanut out of the class but I would not have been sure to outline every issue with her boss the next day. it could have been different, if only she were a teacher and not a prima donna.

I called our old ballet school, signed Peanut up for a Monday afternoon class, and she was dancing with her old teacher the next day. Dollars be damned, I almost cried when I watched. Miss Tiffany actually teaches - she is animated and fun, she enjoys helping the kids get the steps right, and has a lot of great metaphors that don't involve candy and baked goods. She knows every childs name, and uses their names when she gives direction. Everyone was having fun, and the one little girl who was crying was allowed to sit with her dad at the side of the room until she was ready to join the class. She spent a good 5 minutes with the hand stamp at the end of class (which honestly i could do without, but I appreciate the discussion about the reward) telling them what the stamp said (Star!) and why she was giving them each a stamp. Since class on Monday, Peanut has been wearing her ballet and tap shoes and just dancing around the house.

I really dislike ballet and the whole dance scene, but if my child is into it, then we will do it. And I'll tell you - this is the only way I'll do it. I know so many of the parents with kids in the rec center class have never seen anything different, so they probably think I am nuts for being so annoyed. Until you can compare the two classes, you have no idea what you are missing. When you know it you know it, and that woman - Oh, I finally found out her name is Miss Carla - should not be teaching kids anything.

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