Oct 24, 2009

The other side of the coin

Okay, what if your kid is being held back?

I've talked a lot about kids moving up too fast, and it is the more common problem, but what about the child that needs to move through classes faster?

It's important for parents to remember that in group classes, the operative word is "group." These are not private lessons; most kids are not going to move at their own pace, they're going to have to normatize, to move with the class. Again, the success of this -- keeping the slow learners from feeling pressured while keeping the fast learners interested-- really depends on the teacher. A good teacher will find a way to keep all of the kids moving as close to their own pace as possible. For instance, if you're teaching a beginners class where some kids are fast and some kids are slow, you need to put them on a circle, rather than in lines skating back and forth across the ice, so that everyone can keep moving. There is always something you can do to make every child feel engaged, at every level.

If you think your child is the best in the class, don't move her up. For one thing you might be wrong-- she might just be the fastest one in the class. Or maybe the other strong skaters aren't there that week (this happened recently). But think about it-- your child is the best in the class. If you pressure the teacher into moving her up to the next level, she is likely now to be the worst in the class, and to not have learned the vocabulary of the next level, so she'll be lost. Would you rather your child take the lower level once and pass with flying colors, or get stuck twice in a level she wasn't ready for?

I get a lot of kids with strong athletic ability, but poor social skills-- can't stand still, can't follow through on instructions, can't retain skills they've learned without serious drilling. Don't just watch your child's skating skills, watch the whole child. I do.

Fallacy number two, "he already learned that." No such thing. Every skill can be learned at a higher level. Has your skater "learned" 3-turns? Fine, let's get him skating into them, or do running 3-turns, or alternating 3-turns, or bigger 3-turns, or really fix the rock and the check. Are you lost? That's because I know more about figure skating than you do, and you need to trust me to know whether you child should move up, or to keep him engaged at the level he's assigned to right now.

Think about where you're trying to move your child. I had a parent insist that her Alpha 2 student should be in Beta. Fine, I'm not going to stand here arguing with her. So she moved the child from an Alpha 2 class with 4 kids in it, to a Beta class with 15. Is she going to get better instruction?

Okay, full disclosure. There are kids that need to move up. I'll tell you. If they can't move up because of your schedule or ours I'll make sure they get the additional skills they need, or I'll propose private lessons. Every now and then there will be a child who can skip two levels. I've never seen a child who will benefit from skipping more than that, regardless of ability, because they miss all the vocabulary. I have an ongoing argument right now with the coach of a child who can "do" everything but you have to demonstrate and explain, and take away from class time for the kids who did the job and went through the levels. I should not be explaining Beta skills to a Freestyle 1 student, it's not fair to the other kids in the class.

It's complicated, isn't it. You just thought your child liked skating. And that's great. But let the coaches do their job, be engaged, ask questions. If you think your child is better than the other kids in the class, don't get in my face and make me do what you want, ask me if what you're observing is accurate. I'll be honest, I'll be kind.

But I'll want the kid at the level he's ready for.

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