Exit Stage Left Part 1
Before I begin the story of why we took our son out of Ballet School, I need you to understand the type of organisation we are dealing with: controlling, borderline psychotic. Of course I didn't understand this at the time our story starts. Here are three brief sketches to explain:
In September every year, the parents are invited to attend a meeting at which the management team discuss various issues. I only experienced three of these. Two of the them were full of simmering anger - expressed in the mutest way. For the first, I was a new parent at the school, so a little overwhelmed. The anger seemed to have been caused by a very large number of students being asked to leave. We were promised a more open and communicative style of management from then on - a promise we will return to at a later date. The next meeting was also perplexing. I was still a relatively new parent; our son was now going into his second year. The summer term had been tough - feel free to go back and read some of the blog posts. Our child had complained about being kept inside in the summer term, and how ridiculous he found the threat that if any child had a sun-tan, they would not be allowed to dance in the final year performances. One of the house -parents had told me during the term that the hardest part of the job was keeping the children in when it was sunny. During this meeting, a mother asked why the children were kept in during the previous term. She had concerns for the health of her child. Dancers needing supplementary vitamin D is something frequently discussed. What we next witnessed was remarkable. The four members of the management team grouped together. They became tense; their upper bodies armoured, and they chorused that no child is ever kept in on a sunny day. This was an unfounded allegation from the concerned mother. One of the staff members tried joking about giving their own children vitamin supplements as a matter of course.
There were nearly four hundred people in the room. Most of them would have known that their child was kept in the dorm on sunny days. Most of them would have heard about the sanctions, should a child dare to become sun-tanned. No-one spoke. Not one of us defended the woman who had spoken. There was a collective sense of shame. Afterwards I went up to the mother who to confirm the story of our children being kept in. Understandably, she didn't want to talk to me. She needed my support at the time; in public, not in private. She was now in a hurry to leave.
2. Chats with Staff
I am clearing out my son’s stuff from his dorm room to take home. He has not been deregistered from school yet, and we are still hoping that he might return. However, the school are dragging their feet in considering our case, and we have had enough of his clothes and other belongings being in two places. He needs to have his stuff back. A member of staff is helping. This person has not been at the school long and their abrupt departure has been recently announced. I don't share anything about what has happened to us; by this point in the story, I have become paranoid about what I say and to whom. Out of the blue, the staff member helping me says: I don't have to stay at any place where I am being bullied and harassed. I stop what I am doing. We both know that a line has been crossed. I raise my eyebrow. The member of staff simply smiles awkwardly.
On my way out, carrying bags of our son's belongings, I see another member of staff; someone who has been there for years. We have been on first name terms for ages. She stops at the threshold as I am about to walk across the car park.
3. In the Bank
The School’s name is clearly visible on a piece of paper I am holding. I am in the bank. We are at the very end of the complaint process; it is clear that our son is not returning to school. The bank employee across the desk sees the heading on the paper, and comments by asking if our son goes to the school. Not any more, I reply. The woman asks what happened. I turn to our son to see if he wants to tell the story, or if I have permission to say something on his behalf. He just nods. He was bullied at school, I say. There is a moment while she registers what I have just said, and then I add, ... by three teachers. She gasps, and repeats what I have said turning to her colleague and emphasising, by teachers. This has become our normality We have completely forgotten how to be shocked by the fact that it is the teachers who behave in the way they do. Over two and a half years, we have become completely immune to this shock; the behaviour of these ballet teachers, and the management team has become something to be expected. Suddenly, I am jolted back into reality.
For parents, there are three rules of Ballet School:
It is quite a time before I began to fully understand the third rule of Ballet School. Looking back, I was naïve. At the beginning of our story, I had no idea of the energetic malice I was about to encounter from the people who, after all, are paid to look after children. This is the lesson that I still had to learn.
Next time: The telephone conversation which changes everything.
Note: I enjoy receiving your messages. However I am unable to allow any comments on the thread below which mention any specific schools. Any legal difficulty might put the website at risk. If you are affected by this story and want to contact me directly, there is a contact form that you can fill in. I will get back to you. You can also DM me via the Ballet Dad Blog Facebook page. Alternatively, please feel free to comment below, but do not mention any specific schools, or teachers. Thank you.