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Difference between training/discipline and abuse?


DancingtoDance
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When does it cross the line and how do you tell?

 

I also have a dance teacher at school who has smacked students on the bottom. But I think it has only happened a couple of times, though I think she may do that to her students outside my school especially as they are more 'professional' - but I am not sure and kind of doubt it. So should I just leave it there or tell someone if it happens again. Also, the student reacted by laughing so... And the teacher may have been being playful, is it okay then

 

So what's the difference between abuse and ballet training/discipline? When does it cross the line?

Edited by DancingtoDance
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I think if it made you or anyone else who was present feel uncomfortable then the line has been crossed. Repeated instances of this sort and a culture where problems and emotional discomfort cannot be discussed through fear or repercussions is the beginnings of an abusive relationship.

 

There is a place for constructive physical feedback in teaching if everybody accepts this and understands the boundaries, and there can be a place for humour and 'mock outrage' to emphasise a point if everybody understands that this is what is happening.

 

But and it is a very big BUT, it is very clearly unacceptable (and potentially a safeguarding issue) to behave towards a student in a way which makes either they or their fellow students feel unhappy, anxious or unsafe. You described the situation in your scenario as a smack, and seemed to be confused as to how it was intended and not comfortable to ask the question of the teacher. It feels like an uncomfortable situation to be in and not a very positive learning environment. I would hesitate to suggest anything further purely on the back of a few lines of information but clearly if you conclude that what you experienced was abuse of others then it must be reported even if they do not wish to, or feel able to do so.

 

There are many different teaching styles and many many positive places to learn. I hope you are able to develop your dancing somewhere where you feel comfortable. You should be able to feel so secure and emotionally safe in a learning environment that you do not have these nagging questions gnawing away at you.

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Thank you for your reply Yorkshire Pudding; I think the 'smack' was not hard and intended to be playful? The student did say though, 'it's illegal!', but in a laughing manner. Another time I think it was the same and a Year 7 girl looked shocked when the teacher hit a Year 9 girl (the class is for all years; we mainly do repertoire in the class). Perhaps the Year 7 girl's reaction shows it has crossed the line? But people are often shocked about many acceptable things as well, not to excuse the teacher's behaviour if it is not acceptable. The teacher is not a teacher of ballet.

 

I think sometimes even when the students are comfortable the line could be crossed; they become so used to it they feel comfortable with it.

 

My main purpose for asking this question is not for advice about the above but to understand when the line is crossed.

Edited by DancingtoDance
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I think if it made you or anyone else who was present feel uncomfortable then the line has been crossed

That's the thing isn't it? Something like this could be shrugged off as meaningless by one student, but another person in the same class might feel quite differently about it.

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DtD, you might also like to have a look at this thread: http://www.balletcoforum.com/index.php?/topic/11666-ruthless-is-ok/

 

Being of an older generation, I don't necessarily automatically have "abuse!" warning bells going off when I hear of or see smacking, but it's clear that it is, at the very least, ill-advised in a teaching context these days. Yet you say the student was laughing? It can sometimes be difficult to know what is real and what is done in jest, just as it can be, for example, when boys fight - are they serious, or just mucking around? I know I had a tendency to take things at face value, and try to make allowances for it. I'd certainly bear in mind that this has happened, and keep alert for any other indications.

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Yes, I think it may have been done in jest - but then the teacher I think in Year 9 pushed my forehead or something if you feel that is unacceptable but that is long ago, I don't think there are any other indicators. So perhaps telling people would cause more problems instead of less.

 

I don't think the teacher really pays attention to me, she did for a time but then didn't pay much attention to me, maybe because I don't perform the movements so well or maybe because I am slow to pick up choreography

 

I also come from a culture where many parents use corporal punishment and are allowed to hit with objects etc but is not allowed in schools; young girls sometimes play 'mommy and daughter' with the mother spanking the daughter - but corporal punishment is illegal in schools, as far as I understand

 

I would also probably not tell on this teacher - I think she is good and don't see the point in potentially getting her into trouble

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You also have to bear in mind as well that abusers will often try and cover up the abuse by making it out to be playful or harmless. Abuse can be Physical ,Emotional,Sexual,Neglect or Financial. I would imagine that someone who abuses someone else,in whatever way, would be very clever ,manipulative and controlling. Such a person would be more than capable of making a victim question themselves as to whether they had actually been abused or whether it was all just harmless fun. I`m not for one moment saying the person you are referring to is like this. But they might be.

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I would say it crosses the line when it does not have the consent of the person "abused"

 

It's a difficult one because the whole context of a relationship has to,be taken into account.

 

However the above statements would probably apply to two equal adults....for me that's 16 plus.

 

It does get a whole lot more complicated when dealing with adults and minors.....a minor for me being anyone under 16.

 

Although the school leaving age is now 18 I think if the Law says a person can leave home and set up on their own at 16 then this should determine when someone becomes an adult.....when they don't need a Parents consent any more.

 

Where Adults and minors are involved it's not wise for teachers ....who are the adults...to smack children ....even in jest ....and even if there is a generally a good relationship between the teacher and child because it's such a minefield.

For example if for some reason the teacher and pupil were to later on not be on good terms for some reason a teacher may be accused of assault even if it was not meant as such. Keeps hands to yourself is the best policy.

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It just wouldn't happen in schools in Britain. No tapping, slapping, dragging etc. Certainly no touching bottoms as in tapping a bottom, we have clear boundaries.

In a ballet class permission is usually asked before touching a certain body part.

In answer to your question, if you were in the British system and any of the above happens, then yes a line has been crossed.

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Thank you for your reply Yorkshire Pudding; I think the 'smack' was not hard and intended to be playful? The student did say though, 'it's illegal!', but in a laughing manner. Another time I think it was the same and a Year 7 girl looked shocked when the teacher hit a Year 9 girl (the class is for all years; we mainly do repertoire in the class). Perhaps the Year 7 girl's reaction shows it has crossed the line? But people are often shocked about many acceptable things as well, not to excuse the teacher's behaviour if it is not acceptable. The teacher is not a teacher of ballet.

 

I think sometimes even when the students are comfortable the line could be crossed; they become so used to it they feel comfortable with it.

 

My main purpose for asking this question is not for advice about the above but to understand when the line is crossed.

I would definitely agree with Dr Dance children and adults will and laugh when nervous anxious and or embarrassed. This behaviour is really unacceptable from an adult nowadays whether teacher or not and this person will be aware of this as is the young people in the class to make a comment about it being illegal. The line is being crossed and this could be deemed as a form of grooming. This adult could be testing the waters and making it seem acceptable however there seems to be a relative amount of uncomfortableness within this arena. If it is a centre this class is attached to there will be somebody who you can voice your concerns to otherwise it would be worth mentioning to the child's parents or the manager of the place where these classes take place.

Smacking is still used in some families however this is a public place where children are going to enjoy a hobbie and it's unfair if children are being subjected to the possibility of being singled out and treated in this way.

Amber21 x

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It just wouldn't happen in schools in Britain. No tapping, slapping, dragging etc. Certainly no touching bottoms as in tapping a bottom, we have clear boundaries.

In a ballet class permission is usually asked before touching a certain body part.

In answer to your question, if you were in the British system and any of the above happens, then yes a line has been crossed.

Errrr unfortunately it does happen! And lines do get crossed and they shouldn't

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It just wouldn't happen in schools in Britain. No tapping, slapping, dragging etc. Certainly no touching bottoms as in tapping a bottom, we have clear boundaries.

In a ballet class permission is usually asked before touching a certain body part.

In answer to your question, if you were in the British system and any of the above happens, then yes a line has been crossed.

Hmm - my DD was 'hit/slapped' with a flip flop. This by a respected teacher. It was also the home, non-vocational teacher of the young man in the news article of the other thread, which may explain why he thought his treatment by his vocational teachers was fine. I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to say this - mods, please edit my post if not!

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Although the school leaving age is now 18 I think if the Law says a person can leave home and set up on their own at 16 then this should determine when someone becomes an adult.....when they don't need a Parents consent any more.

The SCHOOL leaving age is still 16 in England, but the EDUCATION leaving age is 18, which may include staying at school/college, participating  in an apprenticeship/traineeship, or part-time education/training in addition to working or volunteering at least 20 hours a week.

 

In other parts of the UK the school leaving age is still 16, or 17 depending on your birthday and where you live in the UK.

 

https://www.gov.uk/know-when-you-can-leave-school

Edited by DancingtoDance
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My point was in my post though to clarify when a child is minor and when an adult .....which as I said was 16.

 

It's still very young of course but at some point in Life it has to be determined when you can make your own decisions and draw up your own boundaries. However if I had a child who was 16 I wouldn't be too happy if they came to me and said they wanted to live in a flat with others at 16 ......even though they could if they wanted (if they had the money of course!!!!)

But the Law is the Law and I couldn't stop them at that age!

 

Even as as two adults there are rules determining to some degree what acceptable behaviour is but rules protecting a minor are much clearer......and especially in a teacher child situation.

A teacher has a special relationship to,his pupils and this carries a lot of responsibility and even if you are the nicest teacher in the world it's best to not slap/tap....etc ....even in jest.

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You are a "Young Person" - what used to be called a Minor - until the age of 18. 16 year olds do have certain rights but for many things - including leaving home, I believe - they still need parental consent. By law, an Adult is anyone 18 or over.

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A teacher has a special relationship to,his pupils and this carries a lot of responsibility and even if you are the nicest teacher in the world it's best to not slap/tap....etc ....even in jest.

I take it you mean no slap/tap in jest or because a student did something wrong/are naughty but that it is okay as a dance teacher to tap a part of a body to correct

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I think we were posting at the same time AnnaC so was replying to DtD and didn't want to get into an argument about the school leaving age as it is not relevant in this context but whether a minor or adult is.

 

 

However it does appear a person of 16 can leave home WITHOUT parental consent at 16!! It's also the current age of consent etc so would be surprised if deemed a minor still in Law......but it is all a bit complex!

 

Personally I just wish they'd make everything 18!! Being able to drive ....have a drink in a pub ....leave school... leave home ...be able to vote......even including the age of consent .......which might not please some young people!! At least it would be clear!!

 

Re the Dance teacher being able to tap or have hands on to correct positions etc yes....this could be okay if the teacher has asked permission first......which most do in fact. In a normal school type teaching situation this would be unnecessary of course.

 

Also coming back to DtD 's original post ....if you know a group of people really well you would know whether they were laughing from nerves and embarrassment or whether it was okay in the context of that particular relationship.

 

However I cannot stress enough that it is just not wise for teachers to do this no matter how excellent their relationship may be with a pupil/pupils and especially if the children they are working with are under 16 (although in school environments better to say 18)

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I think it crosses the line when it's done as a consequence to an action and whether or not it is done in jest, if it has the effect of embarrassing, humiliating, intimidating the actual person being hit or the people who witness it (as in, 'you could be next').  It's a way of excluding people from a group even in a jokey manner, and alienating people from their peers. 

 

I did some reading into grooming after the smacking thread and a lot of things fell into place for me. It has the implication and the effect of testing someone's passiveness and can be part of a need or wish to control someone. 

 

Put it this way... if the student said "it's illegal" then that immediately shows a level of awareness.  By allowing it to continue without speaking out or taking action in some way, then the testing (and effectively grooming) begins. At least this is how I have read into things, and this is what I have personally be concerned about as a parent.

 

I know other parents don't worry so much and don't have these concerns but I feel it's important that I give my dd strong messages from a young age that any kind of behaviour like this is not appropriate whether it's from a dance teacher, an employer, a work colleage, a partner etc. 

 

Good luck in handling things and take care :)

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Your point on criticism and when it's over the line.

 

Criticism (I think) should always be to the point and have some instruction within it on how to improve what is criticised. It should not descend into a PERSONAL attack.

 

I will try to give a dancing example .....completely made up I stress to illustrate. A completely hypothetical situation.

 

Let's say a pupil just isn't using their plié in jumping.

 

The teacher may say : A I can see you are still not using your Demi plié...can you just show me a Demi plié on its own? Is that your best one just show me again ..aha that's better that's very Good. Now I would like you to try to use this Demi plié when you do your changements. Why do you think you need to use your Demi plié in jumping (etc etc) (hopefully pupil learns or re learns something here)

Now let's do the changements again and I want to see everyone really trying use their Demi plié much more

The teacher then looks and comments with praise ...on the particular pupil especially ..and others who have tried to do this. If that pupil still doesn't use the Demi plié that well the teacher may say: nicely pointed feet Good but not quite there yet with plié we will really work on this for the next few weeks as I can see you have a really good jump coming.....if you can only get that Demi plié going.

Scenario two

 

The teacher may say something like:

A you are not using your Demi plié still. How many times have I said how important this is. Why can't you remember it? The girls in my Primary class are doing it better than you. How many years have you been doing ballet now. You will never make it through to the next grade if you can't nail this. What's the matter with you today anyway you're just so lazy!

I won't ask you to do it again now as I haven't got time if you just cannot be bothered to do what you know!

 

Now I've exaggerated a bit of course......and I'm NOT a dance teacher .....but you can see how the second example the teacher is losing her cool and descending onto the personsal level with put downs etc etc.

This is when I think criticism crosses the line as you put it DtD

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Completely agree LinMM (sorry I don't seem to be able to use the quotes function properly ????

 

I don't teach dance, but I do teach music and have studied music education pedagogy. I think much of the same principles would apply.

 

Criticism of the work offered by the student is ok, criticism of the person is not. After all the student is offering their work for constructive criticism by coming to a lesson. So (using a music example) ' the arm weight in that phrase needs to be lighter' rather than 'YOU played that too heavily'.

 

Effective learning happens when a student is sufficiently comfortable and emotionally confident to be able to allow their mistakes to happen as part of their progress. That moment where someone lets go enough and goes for it is both the moment where they are most likely to fall over, and most likely to go 'Aha!' I get what I did wrong! Now I can fix it. ????

 

In my opinion training can be extremely disciplined, and unambiguous in its expectations and unyielding in the standards of behaviour required and still be enjoyable, healthy and positive. However where students feel uncomfortable to make mistakes because they feel THEY are personally being criticised or belittled they are less likely to learn. By extension an environment which is unhealthy, critical, belittling or intimidating and where a student's discomfort or confusion cannot be verbalised creates an environment where abuse can flourish.

 

You ask how can you tell? I tend to think that 'if it feels not ok then it's not ok'. It's as simple as that. And the teacher's job is to create an environment where everyone feels ok - not acts like it's ok, but actually FEELS ok. Of course you can't know how other people, feel, but if it doesn't feel ok observing the treatment of others, or being treated that way yourself, then it's not ok.

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There is one simple thing that you need to have with the teacher and student - trust. The previous post from Yorkshire Pudding (what a great name!) absolutely nailed it!

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There is one simple thing that you need to have with the teacher and student - trust. The previous post from Yorkshire Pudding (what a great name!) absolutely nailed it!

 

I agree that there needs to be trust, but I also realise that sometimes students are TOO trusting of their teacher leading to abuse - so I can't say that trust is the only thing - like how a teacher might cross way over the line, yet the student thinks it's acceptable because they trust everything their teacher does is right

 

I will also say I don't find YOU played too heavily etc out of line, but being called lazy or stupid may be, not necessarily abuse but humiliating and out of line, but it's difficult to know because ballet is old and in some respects maybe ballet hasn't moved forward with the rest of the world, and also true emotional abuse is less likely to be realised - but if you look closely, you would know if it is true emotional abuse

 

Sorry if I don't make much sense

Edited by DancingtoDance
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