When you think of a two year old, which words come to mind? Patient? Predictable? Attentive to direction? I’m inclined to think the antonyms to these words are more apt in surmising the average toddler’s behaviour. So what do you get when you mix said ‘average two year old’ with an age appropriate dance class? The perfect student? I think not.
Embarking on a weekly dance lesson courtesy of the Rhythm Factory franchise (Randwick branch), my music-loving two year old had enormous fun running around the parachute instead of sitting quietly on it, running in the opposite direction of her classmates, pompoms in hand and occasionally climbing onto the benches which ran the perimeter of the dance studio, from which I promptly removed her.
It sounds like a total bust, doesn’t it? But although it seems all she did was assert her non-conformist rights as someone going through the “terrible twos”, for the majority of each session she did participate with the simple routines and took great pleasure in handling the various props and socialising with her peers, two of whom have become great friends of hers.
A new teacher arrived after we’d been attending for just over a month, however, clearly lacking her predecessor’s sunny disposition and affinity for her young pupils. My fellow mothers and I were wary of her as she barely broke a smile, rather assuming the expression of one Miss Hardbroom – the stern school mistress from my childhood fictional favourite, The Worst Witch. Unhappy for a child to hold onto a prop after its two minute usage for a particular song, fielding complaints through the upper echelons regarding the consumption of food and drink during the 30 minute class and demanding my child in particular sit with me if she could not follow the prescribed choreography for the class duration; in short, I think we all felt like we were in school.
A change in class time saw a marked improvement in my two year old’s engagement with the routines and I was thrilled to see that she had in fact absorbed the choreography and sequence of the lesson. However, last week she had a slight setback, reverting to her fondness for subverting the expected attentiveness during the class. Running around rather than following all the actions, at one point climbing on the benches and though participating at points, overall her attention was elsewhere. The teacher again reprimanded her and told her to sit with me if she could not join in.
It goes without saying that I do not condone my toddler’s anti-establishment antics; I pay $20 a class and do not enjoy seeing it wasted on activities she could enjoy elsewhere for free. I find it embarrassing when she diverts the attention of her friends who would otherwise participate and find it exhausting to have to chase after her when my fellow parents are enjoying 30 minutes sit-down time. Having said that, my daughter is two and I appreciate that her behaviour, needs and desires are less than predictable and in light of a teacher who regards her with such hostility and irritation it is no surprise to me that she would act in opposition of such a person.
It was with shock and upset that I received a call following last week’s class to say that following prior complaints from the dance teacher, my daughter was being removed from the class. Her disruptive behaviour and inability to engage with the choreography had apparently gotten to be too much for the teacher and she no longer wanted my child in her class. I hadn’t realised it was so structured, as I said to the woman verbally punching me in the gut on the other end of the phone, I thought I was just taking my daughter to a fun music class on a Wednesday morning. How wrong I was.
This is a direct quote from the introductory page of the Rhythm Factory website: “At Rhythm Factory we aim to provide a fun and relaxed atmosphere, nurturing each child’s individuality to build their confidence and love for dance.” I don’t believe that this teacher understands the meaning of a “fun and relaxed atmosphere” and I certainly don’t see how her hostile attitude equates to instilling young children with a love of anything, least of all dance. Clearly, we were misled into thinking we were signing our daughter up for a fun, relaxing dance class. Until the Randwick branch acquires a new teacher I can only say the website is brandishing false advertising.
With a self-proclaimed philosophy that champions fun, comfort and confidence and assures parents that each child is given individual attention, as well as encouraging the physical exercise component of the class through music and movement; I don’t understand why my child was singled out. All she was doing was having fun, feeling comfortable and confident in her own skin and moving to the music. Perhaps at times she wasn’t moving to the beat of the teacher but then, she is a toddler and like snowflakes, there is not one alike.
I suppose my daughter is one of a kind, unique, someone who knows her own mind and dances to her own tune, in some cases, literally. She is not a standard model manufactured by a Rhythm Factory and of that I am very proud.