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Supporting DD who wants to give up. Confidence issue


Mumofadancer
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Hoping to get some advice. My DD has been dancing for several years and is currently working towards her RAD grade 8 (which she will finish after her exam next month) and Advance 1.

 

The problem is since going into Adv1 she has suffered from a complete loss of confidence- she comes out of every class upset, saying she can't do it and now wants to give up completely. At first I thought this was just the challenge of moving to a more difficult syllabus which would pass after a couple of months but it's not getting any better.

 

DD has spoken to her teacher to ask if she can drop back down to Intermediate but she's not willing to let her do it. I'm at a loss as to what to do to try and support her, she came out of her class last week in tears and said she doesn't want to go back.

 

The Adv1 class is very small and she feels that all of the other girls are better than her and that she's holding them back. She's perfectly happy in all of her other classes, should I just admit defeat and let her give up Adv1?

 

I'd love to kow if anyone else has gone through a similar situation and managed to get through it

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You mentioned that she spoke to her teacher - but have you?

 

You also mentioned the class is a small group of girls - could they be a clique - and she's on the outside?  I've seen some very tense situations in this regard.  Are they telling her - in subtle ways - she's holding them back?

 

What kind of atmosphere exists in that class?  Is it positive?  There are teachers who can foster - or alleviate - this kind of thing.

 

And, then, maybe she's reached a point at which she is not as serious about going forward through the grades as she once was and instead of simply saying it she's using other circumstances.  Children sometimes feel guilty in changing their minds because of all the investment the parents have made. 

 

It will take exploration to find out what is behind her unhappiness.  I hope it has a happy resolution.

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I know that a talented dancer at my DD's school also burst into tears when confronted with the Advanced 1 syllabus, having passed her Intermediate and IF with very high distinctions. She said it was the jump back to the old syllabus (she did the old IF, then the new intermediate last year) as well as the additional complexity which is expected when moving up a vocational grade. To ease the pressure and as she and some of her group are still 13, the teachers decided to teach Advanced Foundation as a 'bridge' and although I understand that the variations are the same and that there is a lot of similarity, the obviously less complex AF syllabus was clearly a good move as her group are taking their AF exams tomorrow.

 

Is there any possibility of the teacher incorporating some of the AF syllabus into the class for your DD, again as a 'bridge'? Does the teacher realise how upset your DD is? I am sure that she could work with her to build up her confidence, whether through a few private lessons on any areas of particular difficulty and 'bogeyman' status for your DD or perhaps just reassuring her that it is a jump and that many people will find it a bit overwhelming at first. Are any of the other dancers in the Adv1 class approachable for a few minutes of encouragement and maybe a bit of peer assistance with steps she is finding particularly hard?

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There seems to be a big leap in technique between RAD Intermediate and Advanced 1. My dd is fortunate enough to have been invited to the Adv 1 classes in parallel with her Intermediate classes, but because of this big gap in technique she may well take the Advanced Foundation exam which is a nice stepping stone between the two.

 

Could Adv Foundation be an option? If not, do you think there are other forces at work - GCSE stress perhaps, or missing her friends in the Intermediate class and not feeling accepted in the Adv 1 class?

 

I agree with Anjuli about you having a chat with the teacher. She may be able to give you some insight into what's going on and how the three of you - you, your dd and the teacher - might be able to resolve things.

 

Edited to add that Legseleven and I were posting at the same time! Great minds and all that. :-)

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I was also going to mention Adv Foundation - my DD is doing the exam this year and though she did find it a step up from Intermediate it wasn't too much of a shock to the system.

I also agree that it would be helpful to find out exactly why your DD is unhappy. Is it just the syllabus or is it something else. I think that all of us on here with teenagers know that it's a difficult time, with a lot of pressure from different areas and wild hormonal changes going on.

Also, I think you need to think about why your daughter is dancing, and what her long term goals are. I'm a bit out of the ordinary on here in so far as my DD has no aspirations to dance professionally (though she is wanting to teach) and I guess there may well come a point where she reaches the limits of her ability in exam terms. As my DD has already got what she needs in order to do her teacher training I won't be unduly concerned if she doesn't want to take any more ballet exams. (She's actually more concerned about doing Intermediate in other genres for the teacher training, though ballet is her first love.) There's a lot to gain from non syllabus classes - exams aren't the be all and end all. I would give some thought to letting your DD step off the syllabus "treadmill" for a while. Doing some non syllabus work and rediscovering the joy of dance could be what she needs. But as I say, I'm kind of viewing things from how I'd feel if this was my DD, with her priorities - I recognise that yours may be very different.

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Taking aside the 'ballet issue', although you don't mention how old your daughter is but I would imagine hormones are running wild too - its doesnt take a lot to shake their confidence, the vocational grades are harder than the normal RAD grades, she may excel at grade 8 but not like the feeling of feeling insecure doing majors - they aren't right for everyone.

 

You could also throw into the pot she is trying to make decisions for herself, let her know the pros and cons and let her make her own decision - if you let her drop it you may find she misses it after a term and wants to go back or it could turn out to be the right decision, could you ask the teacher if she could 'put it on hold' for a term whist she makes her mind up and let her have a rest for a term until she decides what to do?

 

Personally, if she is upset enough to be in tears after each class then its the wrong thing for her - it wont be doing her confidence any good.  She may well be very capable in the teachers eyes but something is making her unhappy so therefore something has to change.

 

Best of luck - its not easy is it!

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I'm glad other people have mentioned Adv foundation. There's a huge jump between inter and adv 1. Having said that, advanced 1 is a really hard syllabus and some people do find that physical restrictions start to become an issue that make a lot of it a struggle, when they coped fine with intermediate. 

 

Does your DD want to dance as a career? If not - would it be such a bad thing if she stopped the majors and just enjoyed the higher grades? 

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is the teacher approachable for you to discuss how upset your dd is?  would she take on board your comments or just brush your concerns under the carpet as some teachers can teach but do not have the skills to deal with more personal issues.  i feel that there must be something going on in this class if she is happy in her other class.  favouritism/being left out/ignored.  are there any other schools she could attend.  

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Thanks for all of your responses, to answer some of the questions asked;

My DD is 14 so I'm sure her hormones will play a big part in this ????however,she loves all of her other classes so it's definitely an issue just with the advanced 1 class.

Unfortunately her dance school doesn't offer the Advanced Foundation grade which seems like a great idea. It may be that we could find another school that offers this but I'm not sure how that will go down with her teacher- a recent request to attend another school for an unset class ( which also isn't offered at their school) didn't go down too well????

I think there is an element of 'cliqueiness' in the group, there are only 4 in the class and in the studio it always seems to be the other three girls in the front row and DD at the back.

I have tried talking to her teacher but she's not willing to let DD move back a grade, she thinks it's all in her head and that she's capable of doing the grade, which is flattering but not very helpful!

DD doesn't want to dance professionally, though she does want to teach so maybe I should just let her drop out, I'm just concerned that if she does- given that she's finishing grade 8 in a matter of weeks, she'll lose all of the strength and skills she's learned.

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Are the other three girls in Adv1 older than your DD and how close are they to being exam ready? If they are all older, know the work well and are able to perform it at or approaching exam-readiness standard, I should think that anyone with a modicum of self-awareness would have at least the occasional wobble in confidence at being the 'little' one amongst 3 older ones, who is new to an established class of only 3 members, obviously doesn't know the work and will struggle with some of it whilst she adjusts.

 

I'm not surprised that the teacher doesn't want her to move back a grade as this may just reinforce her belief that she can't and will never be able to do the work, which clearly isn't the case - but I do think the teacher needs to empathise and realise that it isn't just a case of telling her to 'snap out of it, you're perfectly capable', as otherwise your DD may well stop ballet after she does her G8 which would be a great shame. If the other girls are going to do their exams soon, would it be possible perhaps for your DD to have a break from the Adv1 class, as BankruptMum suggested, so that she can de-stress? If necessary or if it would help smooth the way, you could maybe say that this is because she wants to concentrate on enjoying the last few weeks of the graded syllabus and preparing for her G8 exam. She may want to go back to Adv1 afterwards having had a break. Or perhaps you could get hold of an AF DVD so she could see if that seems less frightening and even do some of the AF work on her own to build confidence.

 

If the others are doing their exam soon, could you ask whether the teacher would consider teaching your DD the AF work after their exams are over?

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Without wanting to sound like I'm criticising your DD's teacher (because I am most certainly not - she must be good to get students to Adv 1 at 14) - a teacher should be able to 'differentiate' the material in class to suit all the abilities/levels of experience within a class. If the other girls are older, stronger and exam ready then modifications to the syllabus exercises should be offered to your DD.

 

If the powers that be at the RAD were listening in to this conversation they would be quite irritated I think - the examination syllabi are just that. The set exercises are to be learnt once the student has gained the strength and confidence and are not designed to be learned all at once, immediately after the previous examination. Teachers are advised to create unset exercises to introduce the movements to the students, and to build up to harder movements. There must have been issues with the Adv1 syllabus because thats kind of what Adv foundation does (years ago Adv1 used to be called Intermediate, and you could take it in 2 parts or as a whole. What used to be Inter part 1 then became pre-intermediate and it was strongly suggested that students studied it, in the same way that pre-elementary was advised to be studied before elementary).

 

As another point - the RAD have re-set the Advanced foundation, 1 and 2 syllabi and they will cease to be examined by Dec 2014. The first teachers courses for the new work are in September of this year, although it won't be examined until Jan 2015 - but it might be worth mentioning this too?

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Am so with drdance on this. I also get concerned when I hear of very young dancers who have already got to the higher grades or later vocational grades- its as if they have only ever been taught syllabus exercises taking exams every year which is not ideal all round training.

 

But getting back to the forum topic. Advanced 1 is hard even for older students- indeed my professional son declares it to be very good technical exercise whenever he joins in as some of the settings are more akin to torture than dance!  I am not surprised that a 14 year is struggling with it. The problem for many teachers is that in many part time schools only a handful of students get to this level making it uneconomically viable to have separate classes for those just beginning this level and those who have been studying it for longer. In the case of one of the schools I teach at we also haven't got enough hours in our hired halls to accommodate any more classes.

 

Our solution therefore has been to encourage students to attend  non syllabus senior ballet and pointe work classes plus syllabus classes at RAD head quarters and other schools. Then in our own advanced syllabus sessions students work on their own level of exercises as there are two teachers! For example the advanced foundation students do their ports de bras at the same time as the advanced ones.    Sounds complicated but with careful planning its worked.  We make sure each student knows what they are meant to be doing, also that that they are happy with it. Communication at this tender age is vital. An unhappy student is not going to progress  and my advice to such students is to allow a time frame, say half a term, to see if, with help things improve before considering giving up as sometimes persevering through pays off. As a teacher I've seen many students go through a wobbly stage before enjoying dancing more than ever and it frustrates me when pupils give up too quickly.

Edited by hfbrew
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I agree also with Drdance and hfbrew entirely.

 

My daughter has not galloped through the grades, they have been taken slowly. She has not taken Adv1 yet( but we are a different board but I think they are still equivalent.)She has still won scholarships,and has gained a funded place for vocational study at sixth form. They are not the be all and end all. it has made no difference to her journey. Selections are made based on what is seen to be when dancing not by posessing a piece of paper.

 

Whilst grades can be an indicator of ability they should not be solely relied upon.

 

If you dd is unhappy doing Adv1 now she could delay taking it and concentrate on learning how to enjoy her dance again...surely that has to be the most important thing? You are the customer at that school Mumofadancer, I assume you pay for the lessons, so if your dd wants to dance In another class, the customer is king! Disallowing her indeed! Maybe another term or so regaining her confidence would be a term very well spent.

 

Without the enjoyment it will become tortuous.I hope she rediscovers her dancing "mojo" good luck. ☺

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  • 4 months later...

Thank you to everyone who replied to my post and those who pm'd with advice or just to share their own experience.  I thought I'd just update you to let you know how things have progressed.

 

The day after doing their grade 8 exam the teacher wrote to all of the girls in the class to say that she was no longer going to do the Adv1 class and recommended that they find another teacher.  Whilst this was a bit of a shock at the time it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  

 

DD completed a summer school at another fairly local school which she thoroughly enjoyed.  She has now enrolled there and absolutely loves it.  She is doing twice as many ballet classes as were on offer at her previous school and can also do all of her other dance disciplines in the same place.  She has well and truly regained her mojo and the exercises in Adv1 she struggled with so badly she is now completing with ease!

 

After all the tears and drama so glad to report a happy ending!

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