My Daughter’s Dance Teacher Is a Bully


Every Tuesday afternoon, I take my 4-year-old to tap dancing class. The teacher of the class, although pleasant enough, doesn’t appear to be particularly wild about children, especially the bunch of clickety-clacking preschoolers he is tasked with instructing. He seems to have come from an age when children were to be seen and not heard. When one of the kids speaks out of turn, or laughs too long or too loud, he shoots them a chilly look then tells their parent about the infraction promptly after class.

While a couple of the other parents and I occasionally roll our eyes over this teacher’s quick reprimands and austere directions, two of my friends stopped bringing their kids to his class because they were so turned off by the stick up his butt.

“The kids are not perfect little soldiers,” one parent complained. “They’re four! What does he expect?”

But overall, my daughter doesn’t seem to notice or be bothered by his attitude. She loves the class. Loves dancing. Loves learning new steps and loves hanging out with all of her little friends. She gets really excited when the parents are called into the last few minutes of class to dance with their children.

I find him incredibly annoying though, even if I do have a kind of grudging respect for his methods. He’s old school. He wants order. He wants good behavior. He wants pleases and thank yous. He doesn’t care if a child is four, three or even two. He expects discipline — a word that seems to have fallen out of favor among many parents who erroneously equate it with its harsher counterpart, “punishment.”

Some of the kids legitimately DO run wild in the class. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of parental will among some of the moms and dads to rein them in. These parents seem to condone disruptive behavior because, hey, Abigail is four — what do you expect?

I’m constantly torn about this. I certainly don’t expect my 4-year-old to handle herself with the aplomb of Madeleine Albright, but I do expect her to stop tapping when the teacher asks her to. As parents, do we give in to the unruly status quo because of a child’s age? Or do we expect and demand a modicum of respect and obedience even among the very young? I’m going with the latter because I find few things more horrible than hanging out with bratty kids. If we don’t teach good behavior now, what will the kids be like when they’re 14? It’ll be game over.

This teacher evidently plays for the same team. But the other day, there was an incident that I think crossed the line.

All the parents were called into the last 10 minutes of class to perform a little tap-waltz with their children. The teacher directed the parents to grasp both children’s hands. I could only hold one of my daughter’s hands because I was lugging my toddler in the other. I asked the teacher if this was okay – if this gives you a sense of how tightly controlled the class is — and the teacher looked so over it and sighed, “I guess.”

One of the other parents shot me an obligatory eye roll from across the room. I almost started laughing, but was miffed too. As if I want to bring my toddler to a tap dancing class. As if it’s easy to tap waltz with two kids simultaneously.

Later that afternoon, I wanted to write him an email expressing how his comment made me feel and explain that if the presence of my 1-year-old interferes with the dynamics of the class, we won’t come. We can’t come. Simple as that. I was itching to join all the other parents who dropped the class for similar issues. Who needs this?

And yet … there was my daughter. My four year old. The tap dancing mini Ginger Rogers. The one who looks forward to going to class every Tuesday. I asked her how she felt about dropping the class and she nearly started crying. She doesn’t notice the teacher. She doesn’t care. Dancing gives her pleasure. She’s learning so much. She’s even learning how to sit quietly in a circle with her hands folded in her lap.

I had to ask myself, who will I be quitting for? Me or my daughter? Will quitting the class hurt her or help her? In this particular case, it would hurt her because she enjoys it so much.

So I’m sticking with it. I’m sticking with all the other veteran parents who acknowledge their children gain more than they lose by coming to this class. Even though the teacher rubs me the wrong way. Even though he has a stick up his butt. I’m taking one for the team.

I’m taking one for the team because I am a parent. I am a glutton for punishment. I’m sticking with it because my kid loves to tap dance.

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Article Posted 5 years Ago

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