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richieN

How to Spot Bullying Teachers - Dance Magazine article

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Posted (edited)

Its Mental Health Awareness week soon. This is a great article about the dangers of unprofessional conduct. 

 

https://www.dancemagazine.com/bullying-teachers-2581811648.html

 

Most of these points are obvious (as we've probably all seen them on the playground as children), but there are some good red flags for DC's and parents alike to watch out for: 

Edited by richieN
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This is a great article - thank you for sharing! 

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I feel I bit sick reading the article. I witnessed this behaviour many a time.  Times are changing thank goodness. Another form of bullying is to completely ignore the student. 

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1 hour ago, Tulip said:

Another form of bullying is to completely ignore the student. 

And repeatedly praising some students and not others.

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7 hours ago, Tulip said:

I feel I bit sick reading the article. I witnessed this behaviour many a time.  Times are changing thank goodness. Another form of bullying is to completely ignore the student. 

 

Yes. My dd always said she’d rather constant correction than being ignored.  I have seen (thankfully only a few) examples of unacceptable behaviour over the years at “hobby” schools and Associates/full-time school and it can be quite subtle but still damaging and unacceptable with hindsight.

 

Thank you for sharing this, richieN. So important to be aware of these red flags, especially in the oh-so-small ballet world where I think sometimes parents and students fear either losing a school place or even being given a reputation of being “troublesome” - when one wouldn’t dream of accepting any form of abusive behaviour from staff at a state academic school.  

I think things are changing for the better but I wonder if there is still - and may always be - an element of “you’re lucky to be here; don’t complain because there are 20 other students/dancers who are willing to take your place”.  

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This has really truly struck a nerve with me. And I’m an adult student - I don’t know if that makes it worse or better. Luckily I’m now somewhere I feel much happier.

The one thing I would want to pass on to anyone in this situation is that there are always other options - don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise. That’s something I wish I had realised sooner

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Unfortunately it’s not getting better it’s getting worse and until we have an independent governing body that can have powers required to investigate serious complaints against dance teachers ( I am talking independent part time schools) then our children are subject to atrocious behaviour both mental and physically harming. We have several schools that have styled themselves on a famous oversized American woman!!! And as this teaching method of bullying has been celebrated on tv some individuals think it is the only way to succeed 

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4 hours ago, Danceforfun said:

We have several schools that have styled themselves on a famous oversized American woman!!! And as this teaching method of bullying has been celebrated on tv some individuals think it is the only way to succeed 

I agree - people tend to believe what they see on television, and think that this sort of thing is acceptable and necessary in order to get results.

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Agree that there needs to be a independent body with teeth. That will investigate grievances and conduct inspections. The article attached to this thread pales into insignificance compared to some of the examples I am aware of. And people are too afraid to complain openly. It is regrettable that individuals have posted comments in the past that have led to locked threads and a prohibition on discussing certain schools. But probably driven to it by the lack of other channels. 

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Yes, great article and an independent body to investigate concerns would be a great idea. We’ve witnessed a few of these and also teacher-parent bad behaviours. 😟😟😟

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The trouble is there are no laws or regulations governing dance schools. All the major dance boards offer teaching qualifications, but these are often just geared to teachers following their syllabus and entering their exams to generate income. Many dance degrees have some anatomy and teaching practice modules, but not all. However an excellent teacher may just have been a performing professional who later switched to teaching & coaching without taking formal qualifications. So all of these can be excellent schools. But there is absolutely nothing to stop anyone who just did a few classes previously (whether as a child or adult) setting themself up as a dance school and some of these are downright dangerous!

 

So until there is some overarching body, then there is nobody to oversee the more invisible problems of exploitation and bullying at supposedly reputable schools as described in this thread. 

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I work for a construction company and we’ve just had the loss adjusters in about a workplace accident. 

 

Our employer and public liability insurance quotes quotes are given once we’ve provided lots of information about qualifications, training, risk assessments etc. Why can’t the insurance companies who provide Public Liability & Professional Indemnity insurance to dance school carry out more stringent checks. (Or is it just st that parents are bullied out of making claims so they don’t care?). 

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2 hours ago, Picturesinthefirelight said:

I work for a construction company and we’ve just had the loss adjusters in about a workplace accident. 

 

Our employer and public liability insurance quotes quotes are given once we’ve provided lots of information about qualifications, training, risk assessments etc. Why can’t the insurance companies who provide Public Liability & Professional Indemnity insurance to dance school carry out more stringent checks. (Or is it just st that parents are bullied out of making claims so they don’t care?). 

Good question:


Insurance companies could tighten up the requirements for dance insurance. But there are market forces at work (chicken and egg scenario)  - the premiums are required to be kept very low due to the low profit margins of dance companies, and adding extra layers of admin will drive up the cost. So I cannot see insurance companies driving up standards until claims start costing them a lot of money.

 

Currently, the "no win no fee" world is pointed at car accidents or injuries at work. If they were to change tack, they might make the insurance companies tighten up their standards. But unless dance injuries are profitable for legal companies, (high volumes or high sums involved), things are unlikely to change.

**full disclosure - I used to work for an insurance company**

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Right now my dd is mourning the departure of one of her close friends from her school. He was within weeks of completing a foundation degree but left because he was so unhappy he couldn’t stand it a minute longer. Will he or his parents complain? Of course not! He has a place somewhere else next year. No one wants to rock the boat. And that is why we need an external statutory body.

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I believe for vocational schools they need to have a robust policy and procedure in place to address bullying and the meaning of bullying. Principles or head of schools must be regularly observing, supporting and offering training to their staff in this area. Some teacher and even parents don’t even realise that their methods of teaching is having a huge effect on these very young, talented students. 

It is not ok to ridicule students in front of peers, it is not ok to purposely ignore students etc etc.

One incident that  has always stuck in my mind and still upsets me even today, was when my daughter started her full time  vocational school aged 12. She is a summer birth and was a tiny little thing, she was homesick and stressed as she was the newbie. Any way the teacher told the whole class to form a circle around my daughter, then asked everyone to put their hand up to say what was WRONG with my daughters plie. The whole class then began to have a go at saying what they thought was wrong, no other student was selected.  My daughter was devastated, humiliated and very upset. She never cries in front of anyone, but she cried when she went back to the barr. It turns out that this teacher actually really liked my daughter and saw her potential. Sadly my daughter then started to understand that if this teacher was giving you ‘attention’ in this way, then you were liked. I actually ended up liking this teacher, but I have never forgotten how this tiny 12 year old, who was already stressed and sad was made to feel, and I totally disagree with her out of date training methods. 

I couldn’t report it, because my daughter didn’t need the added stress of me going into the school, meaning she would have to deal with the fall out, and I knew that would definitely happen as I’d been advised from other mums to not say anything. 

My little daughter toughened up and remained at her vocational school for four years, observing good practice and bad practice, she knew the difference. 

If at the end of her dancing career she chooses to teach dance, then at least she will know never to bully her students. 

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A while ago several parents teamed together with myself to attempt to lobby the large exam boards to be more pro-active about dealing with damaging teaching practices. It was challenging and we struggled sadly. The ISTD were happy to receive anonymous complaints regarding teachers but I don't recall how pro-active they were in actually following these up.  Other exam boards have complaints policies in place but these are not anonymous and to raise a complaint about a teacher doesn't necessarily have any actual consequences for the teacher! The NSPCC has guidelines for writing policies but that's about it. https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/safeguarding-child-protection/for-performing-arts/ - The only legislation regarding dance teaching/performance relates to stage performance, chaperoning etc rather than bullying/abusive teaching. Even complaints to local authorities about dance teachers being physically abusive fell on deaf ears unless you could provide unquestionable evidence - short of having video and audio footage of a teacher being abusive I doubt anything could be done.

 

I personally think that there should be a mandatory, annual child protection CPD requirement for membership of all the major organisations - this is something that is relatively easy to implement and police. As a voluntary member of a parish church choir I have to complete yearly online child protection CPD so I can't see how hard it would be for the RAD/IDTA/ISTD/BBO etc etc to implement something similar and if I'm honest it shows a lack of understanding of the position of influence that these bodies have, that they haven't done this.

 

However, it comes back to the age-old issue that ANYONE can set up dance classes without any qualification, without any insurance and without doing any training.

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However, there is also the case for Teacher protection against weird or malicious complaints!  In my many years of teaching there have only been a few incidents, but they were traumatic at the time.  

 

The most unbelievable was a Grade 3 (Yr 6 child) preparing for an exam.  It was a hot day and she still had her crossover on.  I had given warning the previous week that I would expect everyone to take them off and just have leotards - meaning that they would have time to mend any holes or get new kit.  Reluctantly the child started to take it off, but could not get the knot undone, so I helped and then helped take the arms off.  The mother subsequently accused me of assault!!!  I was very grateful that as it was an exam practice the pianist was there to witness everything.  However the mother complained to the exam board and it went all the way to the Chair as she wouldn't accept she was wrong.  Luckily my version, corroborated by my pianist, was believed, and several mothers had offered to give "character witness" if necessary.  The biggest irony is that the girl had just passed her 11+ was going to the Grammar and had already given notice as they wanted to concentrate on academics.

 

 

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I have just had a look on my local council's website. They issue licences for many things including dangerous wild animals, catteries and kennels, zoos, pet shops and riding establishments.  All of those are concerned with the health and welfare of animals - apart from riding establishments which presumably includes humans as well.

 

There doesn't appear to be any licensing system whatever to cover sports and gymnastics coaching, dance schools or indeed any activity for children where you would want a regulated system in place. Parents have to rely on the governing bodies of those organisations to keep tabs on what is going on. The onus is also on parents to check that extra-curricular teachers are properly qualified, have the right insurance & first aid training etc, and most importantly, a robust safeguarding policy. 

 

As others have said, anybody can hire premises and set themselves up as a dance teacher without going through any checking procedure whatever other than a DBS check. 

 

Surely it is time for such establishments to be properly checked and licenced by the authorities, perhaps under the umbrella of OFSTED.

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