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Dance Transparency – What Do You Wish You’d Known?


Angeline
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Hi everyone!

 

After a recent raging debate on Twitter (#DanceTransparency), I wished to return to you guys to get your opinions and feedback.

 

While the debate covers a broad spectrum of sub-topics, the main lead-off question is as follows:


What information do you think ought to me made publically available to help dancers choose prospective schools/teachers/training?

 

 

Here are a few sub-topic questions we also considered:

 

● What information do you believe should be mandatory for dance teachers/schools to disclose publically to help you choose the best training for you and your DD/DS?  

 

● What do you wish you’d known about dance before you’d even enrolled for your first class? (e.g. hidden costs, post-training job numbers, safe practice) [NB: This question was triggered by a recent thread regarding limited job prospects.]

 

● What type of environment do you look for in a dance studio (e.g. nurturing, competitive, educative, character-building), and what would you avoid?

 

● Have you suffered any circumstances involving poor practice, lack of professionalism, fraud, or any other issues which would have been prevented by transparency and full disclosure?  (If yes, please provide details here or, if you would prefer feel free to email your story to: AngelineLucasDance@live.com).

 

● What advice do you wish you could give yourself when you were first starting out, whether as a parent searching for classes for their DD/DS, or as dancers yourselves?

 

● Do we feel the efforts of the CDET and the new Dance Register will make any real impact on the day-to-day living of the dance community?  Will parents want to cross-reference teachers/schools against these lists?  Will ‘bad schools’ still survive despite these efforts?

 

Do feel free to expand this subject of Dance Transparency, and what changes you would like to see in the dance industry.

 

Thank you very much for your time.  I very much look forward to your feedback and comments.

 

Best Wishes,

Angeline

 

 

- Join me on Twitter @Angeline Dance for ballet/dance news, info, tips & videos :)

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As my DD will be looking for a Year 7 place I feel under pressure to know as much as possible, but worry that I might miss something/somewhere and the buck seems to stop with me. I will be keeping a very close eye on this and will be devouring all comments :-))

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I think schools should be more transparent about where their dancers trained before joining the school when they publish information about contracts obtained post training. And transparent about the numbers who have been assessed out along the way. So for example (and I have said this before on other threads) RBS boasts a 100% graduate employment rate.... but a variable proportion of their graduates trained with RBS from year 7- many came at 16 from all over the world and one would expect them to be the 'best of the best'. I, as a parent, would like to know genuinely what my child's chances were of being on of those lucky 100% having started at White Lodge aged 11.....

Sorry to single out RBS of course the others are often no better. And many of the international ones don't really give good stats even about their graduates...

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Hi Francesizzi – Hopefully it will yield some useful information!

 

Hi DrDance – I approve of this so much!!

 

 

To all:

 

Just to get the ball rolling a little, I wanted to add a few issues that have come up in the debate so far…

 

‘I wish I’d known that my school didn’t let students do pointe work till they passed Grade 8.  If I’d known I would have never gone to that school’

 

‘I think it should be mandatory for schools to publicise exactly what types of floor they have – there are too many schools out there with lino over concrete!’

 

Hidden costs are such an issue at my DD’s school – I never knew about any extra costume, performance or exam costs till they were added to my bill at the end of term!’

 

‘My teacher didn’t encourage extra curricula activities so there were countless workshops, summer schools, performance experiences and so much more I missed out on.  It was before the internet so we didn’t have a clue, but our teacher knew, and just chose not to pass on the information.  It never would have occurred to me when enrolling at the school to ask “do you encourage extra curricula activities?”!’

 

‘Our school did their exams with the █████ and we had no idea that it was any different to RAD, ISTD, BBO etc. at the time.  It took years before we found out that it is one of the few Dance Teaching Societies that the CDET didn’t recognise, and that their examinations counted for naught.  When we first started I didn’t even know what a Dance Teaching Society was, and had never heard of the CDET!’

 

‘I didn’t know that there was no pointe work in the RAD grades unless you did vocational.  From Grade 5 I waited, expecting to start pointe after passing each exam.  It was only when we started learning Grade 8 that I realised there was no pointe work anywhere.  I just wish someone had told me’

 

‘If I’d known how few jobs there was, I might never have bothered going to vocational school.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love dance, but I should have know I was never prepared to work that hard for it in the long run.’

 

‘Teachers should have to publicize their full bio…  I have seen teachers advertise themselves as ‘Professional Dancers’ without real experience!  Some citing work that was unpaid, others giving themselves this title after only doing a one-off paid show (and not working since), and some just saying it for the sake of it.  The whole things is misleading, and is tantamount to false advertising’ 

 

 

Please, add your own stories, and feel free to comment on the ones above.

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Hi CeliB – I think you raise some excellent points.  Would you like then for organisations/training providers to have to publicize a list of their graduates, detailing exactly how many years they trained with the school, and what employment contracts they were offered post-graduation?  Or would you prefer a graph of some sorts, just showing the ratios of student intake vs graduate employment rates?

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Hi Angeline, I think to be useful it has to be quite detailed though I don't know how possible this is what with data protection! But you would want to be able to tell how many people are assessed out each year, how many get a place at the school's own upper school/6th form (if entry is competitive at this point), of those who do not get a place at the school's own 6th form where do they go, and then at graduation when listing the contracts won how many years training at the school the individual with that contract has...

 

For schools where scholarship's or funding are offered it would also be good to have detailed info on how many scholarships the school has, what percentage of the fees the scholarship pays and whether there is any element of means testing in the award.

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I wish I hadnt believed all the wonderful procedures and policies the school offered me as reassurance my child would be well looked after and in a supportive environment.  They are no different to work places who have these policies in place to satisfy the needs of outside organisations.  Far too many 'small' issues are swept under the carpet and parent who are often isolated and speaking as a lone voice get fobbed off far too quickly.  Its difficult for the parents to stand with a united front as you dont see each other very often and dont realise you have common niggles.

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It has always amazed me that schools who are on the receiving end of taxpayers contributions/government funding are not compelled to demonstrate that their training outputs are worthwhile/beneficial at a higher level than non vocational training/more successful than not in facilitating employable graduates and that their standard of dance training meets a common and stringent level of quality assessment from a consistent, external and credible perspective?! I am not talking about an Ofsted type of inspection here - we know thats common to all schools but something that specifically deals with and protects the standard of vocational training on offer and something that may actually help Heads of Schools and Heads of Dance address poor or mediocre teacher training quality or reveal those who simply demonstrate the wrong teaching approach so that something constructive and to the benefit of all can be done about it.

Luckily my child's vocational training experience has been mostly positive (not always, but mostly!) but there are those few teachers who seem to coast along, not doing anything very detrimental but not doing anything particularly remarkable either that can severely stall and interrupt training progress. If you and your child choose to sacrifice all that you have to sacrifice when facing a vocational training option, i think it reasonable to expect the training on offer to be nothing less than consistently outstanding and remarkable in all training disciplines don't you? I also think that as its standard employment practice to annually appraise employees against set objectives and performance outcomes, vocational dance tutors should be no exception to to that rule and may even find the process of benefit to them in accessing additional training to meet their individual development needs? Anything formally reported that would help me ascertain/scrutinise that this process was appropriately in place and monitored against key performance indicators from a dance training perspective would certainly be valued and welcomed by me.     

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In my experience during those long (40) yrs of taking ballet class - from university settings to a tiny studio with an old unaffiliated teacher with no connection to any other dance entity (except her own experience), from studios/schools with walls full of certificates, with formally printed introductory paperwork (many requring a signature), graphs, schedules, goals, lists of costs, expectations, teaching methods, congratulatory letters from prominent people, bios of faculty, pictures, - were no guarantee of anything.

 

In fact, in my dance education, that unaffilated teacher - was the one who transmitted her knowledge with passion and - for me - success. 

 

As for the parent who is unfamiliar with the world of dance, I suggest that some fairly cursory research would reveal that a resilient floor, a clean studio, good ventilation, etc., are essential.

 

As for the psychological environment - it doesn't take much research (or intuitive reaction) to determine that  positive teaching and a disciplined but nurturing atmosphere are important.

 

Just one old woman's opinion.

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As for teaching - 

 

It has always amazed me that schools who are on the receiving end of taxpayers contributions/government funding are not compelled to demonstrate that their training outputs are worthwhile/beneficial at a higher level than non vocational training/more successful than not in facilitating employable graduates and that their standard of dance training meets a common and stringent level of quality assessment from a consistent, external and credible perspective?! I am not talking about an Ofsted type of inspection here - we know thats common to all schools but something that specifically deals with and protects the standard of vocational training on offer and something that may actually help Heads of Schools and Heads of Dance address poor or mediocre teacher training quality or reveal those who simply demonstrate the wrong teaching approach so that something constructive and to the benefit of all can be done about it.

Luckily my child's vocational training experience has been mostly positive (not always, but mostly!) but there are those few teachers who seem to coast along, not doing anything very detrimental but not doing anything particularly remarkable either that can severely stall and interrupt training progress. If you and your child choose to sacrifice all that you have to sacrifice when facing a vocational training option, i think it reasonable to expect the training on offer to be nothing less than consistently outstanding and remarkable in all training disciplines don't you? I also think that as its standard employment practice to annually appraise employees against set objectives and performance outcomes, vocational dance tutors should be no exception to to that rule and may even find the process of benefit to them in accessing additional training to meet their individual development needs? Anything formally reported that would help me ascertain/scrutinise that this process was appropriately in place and monitored against key performance indicators from a dance training perspective would certainly be valued and welcomed by me.     

 

I find the response to teaching at vocational school fascinating. I have WORKED and WORKED over my career to be qualified and experienced up to the eyeballs, including now QTS. It is incredibly hard and having just gone through OfSTED last week, I can safely say that it is the hardest couple of days I have ever faced. I was graded 'good'- and I know I am a good teacher, not just a good science teacher, but a good ballet teacher too. Yet all the experience, training, qualifications etc aren't enough to work at a vocational school. All because I haven't been a professional dancer.

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And yet ex professional ballet dancers aren't always the best teachers...

 

This is very true, but it is also true that when they do teach well, they are able to add that vital element that only stage experience can offer.

 

In 2007, I had the great good fortune to interview three outstanding teachers one of whom was Susan Jaffe, retired principal dancer, American Ballet Theatre.  I wrote up that interview plus an "observation" of the class and included a further more casual interview over lunch.  During lunch, she said:

 

Jaffe: “I told myself I would never want to teach, never choreograph and would never (laughing) come back as the “Queen” (in Sleeping Beauty – which she performed in July). I was centered on myself and I didn’t think I was interested in enhancing others. But after six months of sitting around and watching my waistline grow I felt the need to do something. Now I found – it was a very happy surprise - that I love teaching and choreographing. I was asked to choreograph the Waltz of the Flowers (Nutcracker) and it took me months. Now I’ve choreographed an entire Nutcracker and I enjoyed doing it. I have a school and am working toward a chamber size company.”

 

Note the sentence which I've underlined.  Some retired dancers are unable - or have no real interest in admitting this and realizing  the necessity for overcoming - or moving beyond - that state of mind.  Luckily, Jaffe gave herself the chance to put aside her understandable self concern while she was activity dancing.

 

Moving from being the "performer" to the creator of a "performer" is like turning oneself inside out.  Some are able to do that and some are not.  The problem is, that sometimes for those unable to take on a new path so totally different from the old path, teaching is their only financial option.

 

But when the two do come together - a performer who is able to teach - the combination is certainly preferable to the lack of that performing element. 

 

Only the dancer who has stood in the wings, waiting for the music to begin - can truly impart that experience in all its phases to a student and prepare the student for that goal. It is, after all, a performing art.

 

The rest of the Susan Jaffe interview and class observation can be found here:

 

http://www.ballet.co.uk/magazines/yr_07/nov07/interview_susan_jaffe.htm

 

 

There are also separate interviews and "class observations" on the former Ballet.co board from: David Howard, Evelyn Cisneros. and a "class observation"  of Gelsey Kirkland (she does not allow interviews).  (The Kirkland "class observation" was also a feature article printed in the Journal of the Dance Critics Assocation.)

 

All of these interviews and class observations took place at the studios and under the auspices of City Ballet of San Diego and I thank them for giving me that opportunity.

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I do think that vocational schools should be more accountable due to tax payers money supporting the placements.  In particular I would prefer British Ballet Companies to look at employing a % of home grown talent.  Look at ABT.  Home grown doesn't mean a  lesser RBS or ENB.   We loved DB so much because she was ours!

 

Going back to the link it is surprising how quickly the bills mount up in particular during show term and for all the exams they take.  Worth every penny though as she loves it.

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I am completely sympathetic to DrDance’s cause, for I, like her, was injured during vocational training which forced me to abandon any hopes of a professional dance career; and feel, as a teacher that I have been stigmatized ever since. 

 

I know I have faced prejudice due to the absence of this experience on my CV, and that I have consequentially lost out on potential employment opportunities, and am concerned that no matter how much experience I gain, qualifications I acquire, or how skilled I grow in the classroom, that my career prospects will remain forever capped.

 

Perhaps even more maddening, I have noticed a few recent dance teacher training courses and CPD activities advertising that experience as a professional dancer is a mandatory pre-requisite for enrolling.  It certainly feels like adding insult to injury to think that my educational opportunities as a teacher are now being limited by the fact that I could not dance professionally – surely if anything I would be more deserving/appreciative of such opportunities in order to help fill in any gaps in my own experience which would aid me in becoming a better teacher?!

 

It seems a depraved trick of fate to first rob me of my dream to dance, and then torment me with that loss for the rest of my career in dance; continually haunting me and limiting me at the same time.

 

The irony of this situation, in light of our current discussion, is that I now truly believe I am a better teacher than many of those whom I encountered during my vocational training.  That is not to be egotistical, for I am aware of my limitations, but it is honest.  For instance, if I reflect back on my classes during that time period I can recall no single occasion where I was offered any instructional information, or any advice as to how to improve my work. 

 

To add context: If I have a student who is struggling to pirouette, I will analyse their work, and try to pinpoint why it is not working.  When I think I have the answer, I will offer guidelines to the student such as “you seem to be lacking in momentum, perhaps try to think about opening the first arm so it leads you into the turn, rather than just thinking of whipping-in the second arm” or “instead of thinking about ‘pulling-up’, ‘push-away’ from the floor” (the latter a tip learned from Finis Jhung).  Reflecting on this, know that at ballet school I never received any such feedback.  I might be told my work wasn’t good enough, that I needed to ‘try harder’ or ‘do it again’, or that ‘it would be nice if you all looked like [insert dancers name here]’, but I was offered no information or advice as to how to dance better, or more effectively.  Surely this should never be the case, at any vocational school.

 

Perhaps this one of the issues which prompted Maria Fay to write her wonderful article ‘Not Training, But Teaching’ [Fay, Maria (1992) Not Training, But Teaching. Dance Gazette 210 p32-33, Royal Academy of Dance].

 

 

While I strongly agree that qualifications, certifications, registrations, associations,

and all the rest do not guarantee a teacher is of a good standard, I wish it was more broadly recognised

that being an ex-professional dancer is also no guarantee that they are even a mediocre teacher.

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CeliB:-  Thanks for this, it is an angle I hadn’t really considered yet, but you have highlighted just how pivotal such information would be.  I just cant help wonder if they would be prepared to share such information unless legally mandatory…?

 

BankruptMum:-  Oh this comment brought a lump to my throat.  Are you prepared to offer further information? (You can email me directly if you prefer?)

 

Black Swan:-  Some excellent points, and a lot to think about… As you can tell from my above post, I strongly agree that some teachers do get away with ‘coasting’.

 

Anjuli_Bai (reply to first post):-  I completely agree with you, however my primary concern is how many parents are either not doing even rudimentary research before looking into choosing a school (for a plethora of reasons I grant you – I am not offering judgement), or are being conned by schools which are skilled at ‘talking the talk’ but offer a poor service, or worse, a product which is actually detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the student.  And with the latter of course you do not always get reliable cues from the students themselves; if they are being continually shouted at and told they are fat and lazy they may well tell their parents (who would hopefully investigate further), but more subtle issues so commonly go unnoticed as the student simply accepts ‘this is the ways things are’.

 

Anjuli_Bai (reply to second post):-  I will concede that those wonderful beings who are fortunate enough to be professional dancers and to also poses those innate qualities which create good teachers will be able to offer the student more than those without stage time.  However, I wish to press that I think these are comparatively rare birds, and that it is assumed all too often that the ex-pro status should trump any other skills or accolades.

 

I will also add that while I think it is prudent that only ex-pros coach the next generation of elite artists (as so ideally epitomized by this video of Lesley Collier and Jonathan Cope coaching Fumi Kaneko and Nehemiah Kish), by the same token I genuinely don’t believe that it makes any real or notable difference whether or not a younger student is taught by a ex-professional or simply a good teacher in the majority of cases.

 

PS: Thanks so much for the Jaffe info and link :)

 

Pas de chat:-  Oooh, yes, this is vey topical isn’t it after the recent uproar caused by Bryony Brind’s recent comments, and Judith Mackrell’s recent Guardian article ‘The Royal Ballet: just how ‘British’ do we want it to be?’ .  To be honest I’m rather divided on the subject, but your comment have given me cause to think further.

Edited by Angeline
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I totally agree that ex professionals don't always make the best teachers. When my ds was looking at further vocational training at 16 I scoured staff lists thoroughly to see who had actually qualified as teachers. "Names" didn't impress me one bit.

 

Incidentally I know and have known many teachers in vocational schools who have not danced professionally, not all institutions insist on this. After all there are many ex graduates who for one reason or another didn't dance professionally but who will have experienced performing with their schools and done pas de deux etc.  A school or training course that insists that being an ex professional is mandatory is possibly losing out on fine teachers but in my experience they are very much in the minority and some would still consider highly trained individuals if they were right for their establishments. But for what its worth I wouldn't consider getting a job at a vocational school as a greater achievement than the work I''ve already accomplished. If anything I consider us grass roots teachers who encounter all ages and abilities as doing a far more important job- in fact an RBs teacher said as much after overhearing that I was leaving a teachers day early to teach my tinies!

 

Going back to the topic it may be useful for some sort of guidelines to what parents should be looking out for.  For a start they should thoroughly read any information/prospectus/website.  Many questions will be answered this way. As a teacher I get quite frustrated when I get parents claiming they weren't informed of facts such as term dates despite clear displays on noticeboards, websites, newsletters and verbally on watching days. And then there are those who sign consent forms for exams or shows that clearly state dates, venues etc and then claim they didn't know these facts when they booked a holiday or event after signing said form!

 

And often questions get asked about specific vocational schools that are really best answered by them directly especially as each year information can change . Graduate destinations are useful to know but its also worth knowing that the job market is woeful so its unwise to judge a school purely on this as it really varies year to year. (and I too am wary of 100% claims as I know perfectly well  that in places there may well only a couple of graduates left)

And I don't think knowing how many pupils are assessed out is as important as knowing what happens in such a situation. Again these figures vary from year to year (sometimes its none!) and publishing exact data would easily identify individuals. It is made quite clear that continued attendance at vocational schools depends on progress. Its what happens next that matters and schools should be more helpful about this.

 

Finally there seems to be ignorance to what most responsible  teachers have to done to get where we are and how we are continually working to maintain registration status. No parent has ever asked to see my public liability insurance or checked my qualifications for example.

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As I say, as a parent, i am not concerned about scrutinising the mandatory requirements of dance teachers qualifications, fitness to practice or insurance status - I accept that employing vocational schools and regulatory bodies do a good job here and have that well covered and i very much hope that doesnt sound ignorant?!

My 'wish I had known' list is more about the types of things a parent and student finds hard to get to know until they are tangibly experiencing a specific teachers capabilities and approach and how if the schools 'wised up' by using standard employee performance monitoring to assess teaching quality as they do in mainstream teaching they could more easily benefit from and protect their own teaching standards and reputation.

For example: what objectives have been set for the class in question for the next academic year or even term?

These objectives may be about level of achievement for students in an internal assesment or external exam?

They may be about defining clear lesson plans and objectives and communicating those effectively to peers, students and parents?

They may be about working specifically with identified students with additional learning needs ( either because some students find a certain aspect of technique or a syllabus challenging or because of injury or absence)?

They may be about collecting an acceptable standard of 360• feedback from a credible expert observer, students and peers about their views on what it's like to be on the receiving end of their training or contribution to vocational school life?

They may be about monitoring students flexibility, body conditioning or dance fitness and facilitating a specific plan to demonstrate consistent progress/ improvement against a previous terms results?

Ultimately, if there isn't a plan, there isnt a set of agreed objectives and there isnt a process in place to monitor and measure achievement against an agreed benchmark and outputs, then there is no quality assurance or accountability in place - which given the ambition of the majority of dance students is to perform for a living and access the best possible training to facilitate this would clearly be desirable for all.

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As I say, as a parent, i am not concerned about scrutinising the mandatory requirements of dance teachers qualifications, fitness to practice or insurance status - I accept that employing vocational schools and regulatory bodies do a good job here and have that well covered and i very much hope that doesnt sound ignorant?!

My 'wish I had known' list is more about the types of things a parent and student finds hard to get to know until they are tangibly experiencing a specific teachers capabilities and approach and how if the schools 'wised up' by using standard employee performance monitoring to assess teaching quality as they do in mainstream teaching they could more easily benefit from and protect their own teaching standards and reputation.

For example: what objectives have been set for the class in question for the next academic year or even term?

These objectives may be about level of achievement for students in an internal assesment or external exam?

They may be about defining clear lesson plans and objectives and communicating those effectively to peers, students and parents?

They may be about working specifically with identified students with additional learning needs ( either because some students find a certain aspect of technique or a syllabus challenging or because of injury or absence)?

They may be about collecting an acceptable standard of 360• feedback from a credible expert observer, students and peers about their views on what it's like to be on the receiving end of their training or contribution to vocational school life?

They may be about monitoring students flexibility, body conditioning or dance fitness and facilitating a specific plan to demonstrate consistent progress/ improvement against a previous terms results?

Ultimately, if there isn't a plan, there isnt a set of agreed objectives and there isnt a process in place to monitor and measure achievement against an agreed benchmark and outputs, then there is no quality assurance or accountability in place - which given the ambition of the majority of dance students is to perform for a living and access the best possible training to facilitate this would clearly be desirable for all.

I can not speak for all vocational schools but I can say that all that is described above most certainly takes place in many places including our top Ballet schools. Mandatory requirements entail a lot of continued hard work, (not just ticking a box) qualifications once obtained have to be maintained and I know even the most experienced and well respected teachers undergo regular cpd. 

 

Not only are there clear class plans  (I remember being very impressed by one I saw) and objectives (both long and short term) but teachers are continually assessed both internally and externally and parents may like to know this is not just by Ofsted but by other bodies as well (eg CDET). Both myself and ds were several times invited to give feedback about the vocational schools he was at- I was often dismayed at how few bothered.

 

In my experience there were also individual plans for each student, for example my ds received extra tuition to address strength issues. All students at the schools I;ve had direct experience with also had regular one to one discussions with teachers both informal and formal.  I recently found very thorough records of feedback in my ds room-, he just never thought to tell me about them, he was so used to it being part of his life. And it never occurred to him that when other teachers watched it wasn't just the students they were looking at...   

 

Things have greatly improved from when I was training and even during the past decade I have been pleased to  see some very unpleasant teachers "moved on" as it were thanks to the greater accountability establishments have to have in order to continue to be eligible for funding.

 

Unfortunately, as in all walks of life these days paid work at the end of it all is not guaranteed (look at all those graduates, even in medical professions struggling to find work.)  It worries me that funding may well be scrapped for the arts because, through no fault of the schools there are even fewer jobs even for the most talented. Some years are better than others. but we need to be wary - I would hate future generations to be deprived of the chance to train because current graduates are struggling to find work with the result that funding bodies use such facts to justify cuts... just look at danger DaDas are in for example.

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Well clearly we all have very different experiences about our children's training and i am very pleased to hear that you have had such a positive experience, i note you are a dance teacher by profession and i have observed along the way that dance teaching professionals who are also parents do seem to have special and more informed relations with schools than those parents with less dance training knowledge.

As i say, my own experience has been mostly positive but when it hasn't, it been hard as a 'lay parent' to address this credibly, as the feed back from your child on anything negative tends to start insidiously and by the time you feel you have a significant issue on your hands that needs addressing (some parents never do of course!) you can be half way through an academic year and the 'die is cast' so to speak. Its also very difficult to give constructive feedback on a problem, if you have no insight as to what the criteria for success is for that class, in other words what would good or bad teaching look like from a professional training standards perspective? What would success or failure look like from a students perspective? If thats not made known to parents and students from the onset, then how does anyone measure or credibly demonstrate if what your child is receiving is good enough or progressive enough or not?      

I think this thread was originally started to flush out what 'i wished i had known' and 'what we think should be made public' to help us as prospective parents and students have a greater understanding of the quality of dance training establishments and the standards within? Personally i very much support any effort to improve the standardisation and transparency of quality assessment through sensible, fair and useful benchmarks. Ultimately, as parents we can then help our ourselves and our children make wise and personalised choices in the beginning of their training years and as a parent i would find it so beneficial to measure through the availability of transparent credible evidence if those high training standard of training are consistently maintained throughout their training experience.

I don't think in her capacity as Lecturer at CDTE Angeline would be asking this question aimlessly, i suspect she knows bench marking and transparency is not at optimum levels and her research is aimed at moving towards such a goal constructively?  

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Hfbrew, I was interested to read about you finding written feedback in your ds' room. I would have expected written feedback to be given to *me*, the parent, rather than (or perhaps in addition to) the child, as happens in academic schools. It must be hard enough finding out how things are going at any kind of boarding school let alone a vocational school which is providing specialised training in a field about which most parents have little or no knowledge. I also agree that clearly defined benchmarks against which the students are measured regularly (ie more than once a year) would be helpful. Parents should know if their child is, say, consistently in the bottom quarter of the year as this might influence their decision about continuing training. This might sound harsh but parents and their child might take the view that if the child is not doing well at vocational school s/he might find it harder than his or her peers to find a job at the end of training.

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Hfbrew, I was interested to read about you finding written feedback in your ds' room. I would have expected written feedback to be given to *me*, the parent, rather than (or perhaps in addition to) the child, as happens in academic schools. It must be hard enough finding out how things are going at any kind of boarding school let alone a vocational school which is providing specialised training in a field about which most parents have little or no knowledge. I also agree that clearly defined benchmarks against which the students are measured regularly (ie more than once a year) would be helpful. Parents should know if their child is, say, consistently in the bottom quarter of the year as this might influence their decision about continuing training. This might sound harsh but parents and their child might take the view that if the child is not doing well at vocational school s/he might find it harder than his or her peers to find a job at the end of training.

I did indeed get plenty of written (and the regular reports had to be signed as having been received) and also verbal feedback (and not always when I asked for it!) Some of the stuff I've found was meant for me anyway but my ds didn't always pass it on...  Much of it related to the constant assessing the occurred in sixth form where the students quite rightly had to take control of their own learning.

 

I was never given any favourable "extra" treatment because I'm a dance teacher- my experience as a parent has been very similar to many that I know.

But obviously my working knowledge was an advantage in understanding what was going on and I knew what to look out for. I always knew exactly how my ds was progressing and was under no illusion that he, at times only stayed by the skin of his teeth. But as he says, the teachers did their best for him!

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To Angeline:

 

In reply to this...

 

"Anjuli_Bai (reply to second post):-  I will concede that those wonderful beings who are fortunate enough to be professional dancers and to also poses those innate qualities which create good teachers will be able to offer the student more than those without stage time.  However, I wish to press that I think these are comparatively rare birds, and that it is assumed all too often that the ex-pro status should trump any other skills or accolades."

 

I suppose I was just lucky - but I did not find that good teachers who also possessed a background of having danced professionally were "rare birds" at all.  In fact, I can't think of a teacher I had in all those years of ballet classes who didn't have stage experience to some degree or another.  It was not a guarantee (by any means) that the quality of teaching was better - but they did have that experience and it did add a dimension to their teaching.

 

 

In answer to this:

 

"Anjuli_Bai (reply to first post):-  I completely agree with you, however my primary concern is how many parents are either not doing even rudimentary research before looking into choosing a school (for a plethora of reasons I grant you – I am not offering judgement), or are being conned by schools which are skilled at ‘talking the talk’ but offer a poor service, or worse, a product which is actually detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the student.  And with the latter of course you do not always get reliable cues from the students themselves; if they are being continually shouted at and told they are fat and lazy they may well tell their parents (who would hopefully investigate further), but more subtle issues so commonly go unnoticed as the student simply accepts ‘this is the ways things are’."

 

Everyone bears some responsibility.  The bottom line "guardian" of the child/student is the parent.  We can include other entities - the school, the gov't, academiic organizations, societies, etc.  - but it is ultimately the responsibility of the parent to do that guarding. You can have all the guidelines and oversight in the world but you are never going to get rid of a school that "cons" or a teacher who insidiously abuses - and the people who abet it either through silence or neglect. 

 

That brings us back to the parent.  Unknowledgeable as that parent may be about the specifics of what is taught (doesn't know a pirouette from an arabesque) a parent who is a vigilent guardian knows that a negative environment is not a good thing; that an unhappy child has a problem.  No one knows that child better than the parent.

 

As for standards - in teaching something as complex as ballet - standards are a good thing but not an only thing.  One student will "get" an element in yr 4 and another will "get" it in yr 5. 

 

Ballet is an art form and teaching it is just as much an art form.  It will never fit neatly in quantifyable slots.  And usually what makes a great dancer is not something that was taught at all. 

 

Again, just one old woman's opinion. 

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"You can have all the guidelines and oversight in the world but you are never going to get rid of a school that "cons" or a teacher who insidiously abuses - and the people who abet it either through silence or neglect. "


 


I'm sorry but that's a shocking attitude. 


guidelines should and MUST be in place to root out abuse of any sort.

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"You can have all the guidelines and oversight in the world but you are never going to get rid of a school that "cons" or a teacher who insidiously abuses - and the people who abet it either through silence or neglect. "

 

I'm sorry but that's a shocking attitude. 

guidelines should and MUST be in place to root out abuse of any sort.

 

 

Can you name a human activity in which guidelines have totally gotten rid of all nefarious activity?

 

My response was not against guidelines or laws - but we need to also realize it does  not release us from the individual responsibility for remaining vigilant. 

Edited by Anjuli_Bai
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Of course the school "should have a duty of care" - but that does not absolve the parent from this duty, too.

 

It does not matter if the school is close-by or further away -  the parent is the bottom line for care of the child.  I would never feel that I could hand over that ultimate responsibility no matter how many standards, safeguards, rules, etc., were in place.  My role as a parent would be to make sure those standards, etc., were working and that means vigilance.  This is true for many things in a child's life: medical care - in hospital or out - summer camp - anything - until that child comes of adult age - it is my responsibility as a parent to the best of my ability to be my child's guardian when it comes to safety and wellbeing.

 

But, I understand that others may not agree.

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I speak as a teacher, and of course ideally the parent will safeguard the child to the best of their ability, but the school has a very definite responsibility and duty of care in this respect, whether it be a vocational school or non-vocational school.

 

However, I feel this is now off topic and not helpful to Angeline, so I will not be responding further.

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Actually, in my opinion this exchange has really brought to light how strongly many people feel about this issue of duty of care, and highlights real confusion, concern and debate about where responsibility for the student lies. 

 

I am keen to hear more view on this matter, but of course do not wish to loose sight of the originally posted question(s): What do think ought to be mandatory for dance education/training providers to disclose?  What do you wish you’d known at the start of your journey?

 

Thank you.

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