Q: Dear Rhee,
Advice for dance teachers | The hows and whys of class placement
I am frustrated by parents who question everything I do, especially the decisions I make relating to class placement, who is on the competition team, and who still needs to work before making the team.
These parents watch what I do with other children too. They tend to ask why so-and-so moved up or got something that their child didn’t. I am to the point where I’m afraid to make any decisions because of the negativity that someone will shoot my way.
I wish that parents would trust that I’m making the right decisions based on my decades of experience and my knowledge of what’s best for their children. How do I turn this problem around? I am finding it harder and harder each year, and it’s starting to make me want to get out of teaching altogether. What is your perspective on this issue? Any input is appreciated. —Renee
A: Dear Renee,
I do have some information that could help reduce the number of questions you get about class placement. Below is a letter that I have sent to parents regarding the hows and whys of class placement and some other solid points that parents need to know.
Sometimes we need to educate the parents more than the kids, and it’s important to take responsibility for making that happen. However, after you have done your best to explain in a professional way how you and your faculty make decisions, leave it at that. If parents still don’t understand, then you must move on with what you know is right for the children you teach.
Remember: you are the director; don’t let anyone take that away from you or intimidate you.
The school faculty meets regularly to discuss the students’ progress and/or placement. It is our policy to offer appropriate opportunities to every child.
Placement decisions are derived from many years of teaching experience. Often a child is placed in a particular group or class where he or she will feel confident, in order to develop his or her self-esteem. Some dancers who are placed in a higher level become discouraged, only to lose their passion for dance. Others respond to the challenge of being in a class with dancers who are more proficient by pushing themselves to work harder. Placement is highly individual and the factors that go into the decision are complex.
Looking to other students for inspiration is good; however, making negative comparisons distracts children from focusing on becoming stronger dancers. In addition, speaking negatively about your child’s teachers, fellow students, or other parents in front of your child—or other students—could result in problems far beyond your original concerns. Often children will imitate a parent’s behavior with other adults or authority figures.
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s dance education (such as progress or class placement), please discuss them with your child’s teacher or the director. Talking only to other parents can lead to misinformation and confusion. Please contact the school office to set up an appointment; do not approach your child’s teacher or the director between or during classes or make contact outside of the school.
If you do request a conference, please listen carefully to what your child’s teachers have to say. They spend a significant amount of time with your child and offer expertise in the field of dance education.
I hope this information is the start of a new outlook for your parents and less stress for you. Have a great season. —Rhee