Saturday, November 19, 2011

In Search of a New Class...

What a day.  I dropped Sadie and Paul off at the dance class and headed to Joann's Fabrics with Mae to take advantage of the super coupons I got last time I was there (purple velvet!  shiny silver!  green velvet! More holiday headcoverings on the way!).  When I got back Paul and Sadie were waiting outside.  Upon climbing into the car Paul said that when Sadie had come out of the class and he'd asked she'd said she had fun, but a little while later she'd said:  "I didn't have fun at dance class today.  I got in trouble."  In a very small voice.  Paul was a little suspicious because when the teacher had come out he'd been waiting to ask her a question, but she avoided eye contact and avoiding talking to him.  

We've had dance related problems twice before today (today makes it three times in three months).  After a month of being gleefully happy about going to class the teacher had come out and said that Sadie was being wiggly, and she wanted to know what word I used to get her to hold still.  Two months in (last month) they'd called and said she had been better for a while, but was being wiggly again (this was around the time I was sick and in the hospital). The teacher agreed to bring Sadie out to me if there was a problem, for a short time out.  After that we started working again on "staying on her spot" and listening to the teacher.  Still, after the last conversation I'd just about had it.

We'd picked the class because it was supposedly a fun, non-competitive class for 3 year olds.  The other three year old class in the area I looked at required an "audition" (I'm not kidding).  But now the teacher was making comments about how it wasn't important for her to be able to memorize the routine until after Christmas.

That made me really wonder about what the future expectations were going to be and whether they were even vaguely realistic.  In my 13 years of dance I never saw a 3 year old class perform on stage in a situation where a teacher wasn't off in the wings, showing them what they were supposed to be doing.  I'd seen plenty of very cute routines, but they were often cute because of the mistakes and the giggles and wiggles.

So... fast forward to this afternoon when Sadie and I went shopping.  While we were in the store I tried to get Sadie to tell me more (in the car she just looked sad and whispered and said she was in trouble and that class wasn't fun anymore).  Finally, after avoiding and telling me she wanted to lay down and that the teddy bears that were in the dairy aisle were soft, she spilled and started talking.  With her little arms crossed across her chest, looking down at the floor she began to answer my questions.  No, she hadn't been in time out.  She hadn't been running around.  She said she'd been listening.  And the teacher had yelled at her and she didn't know what she'd done.  She finished with what? what? what?  As we walked down another aisle she said that she didn't want to go back.  "Don't make me go back Mommy" was repeated at least twice down the freezer aisle.

I knew that there was obviously more to the story, but by the time we left the store I also knew that we wouldn't be sending her back to the class.  Sadie tends to be honest to a fault when asked about having done something wrong.  She confesses to pretty much everything.  I'll be in the kitchen cooking and she'll walk in and say: "Mommy, I pulled Mae Bae."

When I was talking to her it was pretty obvious that she had no idea why she'd been in trouble (I'm guessing that's a big part of why she was so upset, because when she's done something she usually confesses, apologizes and accepts being in trouble without a word of complaint).

Paul called the school and left a message and a nervous sounding message was returned on his phone saying that when Sadie was sitting on the ground she'd been wiggling and kicking her legs in front of her and had kicked her neighbor and that they'd said "Sadie please keep your legs still out in front of you" but that that was all that had happened and that they were sorry she hadn't had fun.  When asked if she'd kicked anyone Sadie was adamant that she hadn't.  I can definitely see her bumping someone with her leg when she's wiggly.  But I also am pretty sure by the way she's acted pretty much all day that it was more than just a few words telling her to stop.  From what the teachers said she was talking to her about wiggling pretty much every week in October and Sadie was never phased by being told not to wiggle.

Paul called back and removed her from the class.  I'd really like to find a Mommy and Me class of some sort where the don't take the kids into another room and close all the doors and windows.  I'm hoping we'll find a place that understands that a three year old class is about fun and that three year olds tend to be a little wiggly.  And hopefully it will be a place where the teacher will come out and get me or Paul if there's a problem, instead of avoiding us after class.


  1. Some teachers just have a way of spoiling the fun. I had a piano teacher who nearly ruined my love of music. Luckily I also had wonderful choir directors who fed that love of music and let it grow. I didn't attempt to play another instrument for a long time due to the bad teacher experiences.

    Dance is supposed to be fun. Have you looked into a baby gymnastics program? I even had a ballroom instructor who was all for my bringing my small children to my private lessons so they could copy our movements and listen to the music and begin to learn the steps by watching mommy learn. I haven't been able to do that but it would have been very fun.

    I also have a few dance videos (mostly ballroom, one basic belly dance) that I pull out at home now and then. The Little Tiger loves to watch me try the moves and then the Little Tiger tries them too.

    Hubby and I dance sometimes too, when the space is cleared enough, and the Little Tiger loves to watch and dance along nearby.

    Locally there are various exercise and dance related mom and child classes.

    My older daughter loved both dance and martial arts. Some places have classes that begin at age 4. I always enjoyed the gracefulness of martial arts much the same way I enjoy ballroom dancing.

    I'm glad you took her out of that class. It sounds like it was a very bad fit.

  2. Both of our daughters danced from the time they were 3 or 4; there is no way that 3 year olds are not going to be "wiggly".

    The school where our girls danced also has a very good ballet company that stages full-length ballets, so ballet is serious business at the school...but the "Toddler" class is FUN! Now, the teachers don't tolerate children bothering each other, but I'm sure that Sadie didn't kick anyone. It sounds to me as if that particular teacher doesn't relate well to very little ones.

    I hope that you find a more child-friendly class, as ballet is such a wonderful discipline for children. I credit the many years spent in class, rehearsals and performances as helping make our girls the wonderful young women they are (no time to get into any trouble...too busy!) ;)


  3. We had a similar situation when my oldest daughter was that age. In that case, it was a summer class (only 2 months) and the teacher was clearly not really used to children that young. And her expectations were too high.

    Auditioning for 3-year-olds? Are they kidding?

    We let dance go for a couple of years. When she was 6, we moved to another area and found a studio that "gets" that at that age it's more about engaging the children and having fun. While they don't let the kiddos run wild, they know little ones need to wiggle. And have potty breaks. And sometimes miss Mommy. They do have class behind closed doors (with monitors outside so parents can sit and watch, I always know what my daughter is doing). The closed doors do help the kiddos focus. The monitors give parents peace of mind.

    She's now at an age where technique gets more focus, but her teacher still understands wiggles.

    One thing they do is give the kiddos stickers and coloring pages after class if they pay attention and listen. They reward them for being attentive rather than punish them for being distracted.

    Consider looking for a retired dancer who gives private lessons. Or a dance student who's looking to give private lessons if you can't find a studio.

    Or wait a bit. Rent some ballet dvds and let her dance along.

  4. What a shame. Yeah, definitely sounds like a different class is in order. Just what does she expect from a 3 year old for crying out loud?!?

  5. Have you tried a YMCA? I know we have lots of "Family classes" at our YMCA.

  6. Oh, I just looked at your YMCA and I'm not very impressed. Ours has lots of great activities and even a homeschooling program for art, dance, and PE electives.

  7. This is pretty much why we don't put the kids in anything organized until they are a little older. And when they do get older, life gets competitive pretty fast. Those first years are a really nice time just to be mama's buddy. :) It's also a good way to make sure that some ridiculous adult doesn't make my preschooler feel naughty for being the way God made her.

  8. That's so disappointing. Do you know Ruth from Philothea? I think she teaches ballet classes to that age group; I could give you her info if you want. I don't think she has quite such unrealistic expectations for 3 year olds!

  9. Poor Sadie! We were very blessed to find a dance school where the owner really does emphasize the fun in dancing. She wants them to have a good time and you often hear giggles from the room while they practice. Our first year was hard because our daughter is very energetic and had a hard time sitting still but she does great now! And I agree, the adorable factor with the 3 year old dances at the recital every year is watching them stand there with hands in their mouths, doing every dance step 5 seconds late and waving shyly at mom and dad! At this age it shouldn't be about perfection! I hope you'll be able to find a new school that she likes!

  10. Like Dr. Laura says, Moms are the best teachers for toddlers.


I love comments and I read every single comment that comes in (and I try to respond when the little ones aren't distracting me to the point that it's impossible!). Please show kindness to each other and our family in the comment box. After all, we're all real people on the other side of the screen!