When my daughter was 4 years old, she came to me requesting ice skating lessons. As her parent, I felt excited about her new interest. Within a week, I had lined up a coach, at a nearby ice skating rink, that would teach her to skate, once a week. How exciting!
If I could have foreseen the emotional state my daughter would have been in every time she entered the ice, one year later, I would have chosen a different coach for her from the start. Unfortunately, during one of her recent and last lessons with this particular coach, a damaging conversation between my 5 year old daughter and her ice skating coach, took place. I wish I would never have put her in that situation. But, how could I have known? As a parent, I do my best to facilitate experiences that promote confidence, a healthy self-concept, and fun for my children. I want to protect my children from experiences that will diminish their confidence and take the fun out of learning. I know the power a teacher has on instilling passion and motivation to learn in a child. I know this because I am a teacher and being on the flip-side as the parent, and slowly learning that I have a strong philosophical teaching difference as her coach was hard and infuriating.
During my 5 year old daughter’s last ice skating lesson, her coach pulled her aside, by herself, and told her that she is choosing to no longer teach her because “it seems like she doesn’t want it anymore”. She also told my child that she will no longer teach her because she cannot do a one-footed glide and pass on to the next level. This coach decided to speak with MY daughter, alone, about a major decision with her. How inappropriate! When my daughter and the coach arrived to me, at the end of her lesson, my daughter was visibly shocked and upset. She looked at me, said nothing, wrapped her body around my legs, and began to cry. I was shocked along with my daughter! However, I realized that the most important thing, at that moment, was for my daughter’s feelings to be validated, reassure her that her time on the ice was not over, and to remind her that ice skating can be fun. We left the coach, proceeded to have a fabulous time dancing, singing and skating to the music playing in the background, all while the words of her coach mulched in my mind. While we danced and sang on the ice, I devised a plan to advocate for my daughter.
I believe teachers have the POWER to ignite passion and motivation to learn within a child. Teachers also have the power to affect a child’s self-concept, make children trust or distrust adults, and to make learning fun or not fun at all! The interaction between my 5 year old daughter and her teacher was brief, but, impactful in a negative way. Unfortunately, I was not present, during this private conversation, to intervene and advocate for my child. I wish I had been there. I should have been there. Instead, I was adoringly watching from the sideline, thinking all was fine, but, it wasn’t all fine.
The truth is, my daughter’s relationship with her coach had started to deteriorate a couple of months prior to her very last lesson. Her coach began to implement rigid behavioral management and teaching methods that were developmentally inappropriate. One day, her coach arrived to lessons sick and grouchy. It made my daughter uncomfortable and since that day, she became resistant to working with her coach. Midway through that lesson, her coach brought her off of the ice, told her that she is only allowed on the ice if she is skating and practicing her steps, and that “It seems like you don’t want to skate anymore”. In that moment, I was not prepared to properly advocate for her. I was taken by surprise. Luckily, the next time around, I was prepared and I did advocate for my daughter.
After her coach finished teaching her next student, I found her and shared a few of my thoughts with her. I explained that it was inappropriate for her to meet with my child alone regarding the decision to stop teaching her. In addition, I was clear that my daughter had been resistant to learning from her due to her use of austere and inflexible teaching and behavioral methods. Her coach proceeded to point out that it is her prerogative to choose not to teach a child. I pointed out that choosing to not teach a child, because she is having a challenging time with one step and has not passed a level, is inappropriate. She was taken back when I asked, “What would occur if I, an educator, would ever choose not to teach a child because she is having a difficult time learning to read or understanding a concept?” Ultimately, the ice skating coach was either incapable or unwilling to adapt the teaching to meet my daughter’s needs. My hope is that this experience helps her to reevaluate her teaching approach. If not, hopefully parents of other young children will be prepared to advocate for their children IF they ever find themselves in a similar situation.
This week, we started with a new ice skating coach and at the end of the lesson, she skated toward me with confidence and joy! The first words out of her mouth were, “Mom, I did the one-footed glide, for five seconds.” She was so happy!