Exit Stage Left Part 3
Please go back to the first of these blog posts, if you are new to Exit Stage Left:
One Simple Line
Why are you scared of me? I love you … I love you.
Someone else had been in the room, and we had been on speaker phone. This was not declared to me at the time, and it was denied during the call. So, there is every chance that the teachers are making faces, exchanging glances and gesturing - all without my knowledge. I am trying to find out why our child has been sending me distress signals via email, and why he has had to endure quite a brutal tutorial despite having been unable to dance properly for over ten weeks; meanwhile they have been exchanging secret signals, and when they think that they have hung up the phone, they unwittingly reveal their contempt for me with their laughter, and their comment that they think I am angry. I hadn't been angry. However, with this disregard for my privacy (please see the school’s complaint procedure), I am pretty mystified. Where I grew up, there was a much repeated phrase to express astonishment, I can imagine my dad saying it in with his own particular accent: Well, I don't know, it beggars belief. At this point in the story, my belief is beggared.
It is several weeks before I actually get the admission from the school that I have been overheard by another teacher who was also in the room, and I was indeed on speakerphone. But if I had been in any doubt about this fact, the actions of the teacher who was permitted to eavesdrop, confirm my suspicion. What happens next is extraordinary. Why would an adult man behave in this way? Stupidity? Complacency? Arrogance? A combination of all three? My theory: is that by eavesdropping on our conversation, the ballet teacher had his pride dented. He made a discovery that he couldn't cope with, and he took extreme action. This is my only explanation of what happens, because the next event is like something from a cheap, incredulously plotted bit of television drama.
After hearing that my son has been distressed by the unfair treatment of him, the ballet teacher goes into class and repeats details of what he has heard on the phone in front of all the boys and then says the line:
Why are you scared of me? I love you … I love you.
This line was said. It is a fact. In the subsequent meetings, reports and enquiries, it has been agreed by all parties that the phrase was indeed uttered. The Ballet School think it is all right for an adult man to say this to a child. The local safeguarding authority have described it as ‘deeply concerning’. And I think that it reveals a pernicious, controlling and dangerous mind-set for any adult to have, especially when they are working with children.
This is my first point: as a parent I have a real problem with an adult, who is not that child’s parent or relative, telling the child in public that he loves him. I consider it to be abusive. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Here is my real point: I have an further problem with this being said to a child as it indicates an unhealthy need to rewrite the past in the child’s mind and tell them what to think. The teacher has heard that the child is upset by something that he has done; his idealised view of himself is disrupted, and so he imposes his own belief on the child in a public context where the child’s sense of shame is heightened. He has heard that he is not adored, and that the child is scared of him, and he has to correct what the child believes with the other children providing witness and reinforcement. As an adult, he has to impose his will on that of a child. It is the sign of a desperate man trying to dominate the world view of his student. It has no place in the dialogue which is essential between teacher and pupil. It is like something out of a George Orwell novel. It is thought-control at its most pernicious. In my view, this is not healthy behaviour.
Imagine the confusion of our son. At this point in time our son has no idea that a telephone conversation has occurred, or that I have ‘leaked’ contents from his email believing myself to be speaking in privacy. He just gets accosted by his teacher in class.
You might think that I am being too harsh, but I think that any adult who behaves like this should not be working with children, and more importantly, I think that any organisation which tolerates this, or makes excuses for it, or says that it is acceptable, needs to be shut down. Look, I don't want to tell you what to think. If you feel that I am overreacting, or if you feel that under these circumstances you would have been happy for an adult man to say this one simple line to your child, just let me know. I am eager to listen.
But, this is only the beginning. In terms of the psycho-terror that our son is made to endure, this is just the start. I'm afraid that you are going to have to wait until the next post to find out the horrors that are awaiting him.
Next time: The phone conversation has further consequences; it becomes clear that if you don't pledge total obedience, their behaviour plunges to shocking depths.