There was a study in which a group of students were tested and then grouped accordingly in gifted and remedial groups. The teachers were told which group was gifted and which group was remedial. At the end of the school year, the gifted group, as expected, got above average grades; whereas, the remedial group received average to below average grades. Only then was it reveled that the “gifted” kids were really the remedial kids and that the “remedial” kids actually were the ones that tested as gifted. The study was conducted to see if the expectations of the teachers really influenced the student’s performance. Obviously, expectations make a huge difference in the outcome.
In my years of teaching, I too have noticed a similar phenomenon – whatever is expected of the student in terms of learning or in terms of behavior is usually exactly what you get. I have had people comment that they cannot believe the progress that students achieve through Ballet For All Kids – both in terms of behaviors and in terms of ballet technique. When students come into the classroom, they are in a ballet class (not a dance program for children with special needs) and are expected to follow all of the rules and etiquette of any ballet class. In ballet, you are to come to class prepared, listen and focus on the teacher’s instructions, try your best, and behave with grace and decorum. Ballet teachers expect that their students will try their best to have correct technique and will demonstrate the self- discipline to keep practicing and perfecting the technique in class.
So when kids, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, come into a Ballet For All Kids class they tend to conform to the expectations. Our students really become quite amazing dancers. Often people will comment that they cannot tell which of our students are disabled and which of our students are typical. We also get comments from other ballet teachers that our students have great technique. Many of our students will transition into a typical ballet setting quite easily and end up being extremely successful.
The first thing we tell our new volunteers is to expect the best from all of the kids. Do not let a student get away with poor technique or behavior just because they are disabled. The results again have been quite amazing. We have children with Cerebral Palsy completing ballet technique all the while improving their Range of Motion, balance, motor planning and coordination. Some of our students who are on the Autism Spectrum and have ADHD remain focused, calm, and are incredible attentive during class – this improvement in ballet class affecting positively in their school classrooms and at home.
Our expectation of our students to do their best is a huge key to our success – you really do get what you expect!