Friday, June 22, 2012

Gymnastics Gone Bad

After three years of begging me to sign her up for gymnastics, Mabel went for a "trial" two weeks ago.  Miss Summer was to be her teacher, and she was as sunny and sweet as her name.  Miss Summer introduced Mabel  to most of the apparatus and demonstrated runs, jumps, and twists, guiding the girls in the class, all the while putting a beaming grin on each of her classmates' faces.

Mabel LOVED it and I signed her up for the summer.  One night a week.

(Mabel in black on a balance beam.)


Then last week happened.

David took her to her class and Mabel came home a little upset.  She told me there was a substitute named Miss Allison.  According to Mabel, Miss Allison was mean and yelled a lot.  This young teacher appearantly didn't like to "teach" the girls how to perform any moves and had little patience for newbies.  All according to Mabel.

Where was David?

Well, the parents have to sit behind this glass wall and watch practice of 10 different levels going on at once with teachers and kids of all ages all over the place.  It is a huge facility.  He didn't know what was being said at the time.  No parents do.


Then this week happened.


Thursday afternoon Mabel mentioned she didn't really want to go to gymnastics class.  That was so unlike her that I told her I would go this week and talk to her teacher myself..  And besides, I had already paid for her classes so she wasn't going to skip.  So we went.

She was so nervous.  I tried to reassure her that everything would be okay because what teacher would yell at a child for not knowing a twist or turn if they've never been in gymnastics before.  Surely the teacher misunderstood and would be more agreeable.

I coached her on what to say if the scenario repeated itself.

We arrived to find no Miss Summer.  Another lady took over Mabel's class and Mabel gave me a thumbs up that meant, "This lady is NOT Miss Allison."  Phew.  I was relieved.

But then this teacher passed the group to yet another teacher.   And within 15 minutes I realized it was the dreaded Miss Allison and what I witnessed made me sick to my stomach.

Remember, I'm behind this huge glass wall and cannot hear anything.  Mabel's class was a good 10 yards away from where I sat, but I made sure I could keep an eye on my girl at all times.  The teacher lined the girls up to take turns performing a stunt and Mabel happened to fall first in line.

I could see a look of terror cross her face as the Miss Allison gave out some instruction.  Then the teacher looked at Mabel while Mabel looked terrified.  The seconds seemed like an eternity.  I could see Miss Allison's body language turn mean and cruel, saying something to Mabel while throwing her arms out to the side in disgust.

Mabel slowly shrugged her shoulders and did just what I had told her to do.  She told the teacher she was new and didn't understand what she wanted her to do.

And instantly I saw Miss Allison say "I don't care" as she folded her arms across her chest and just glared at Mabel.  Mabel just hung her head as the other 9 girls waited behind her.

I could just feel her burning with humiliation and with that I jumped up out of my seat.  As I walked to get the manager, I glanced over my shoulder to see what was happening on the floor and witnessed Miss Allison stand Mabel to the side as though she should be wearing a cone of shame draped around her neck.

And then I saw my girl crumble into tears from total humiliation.

All this in a matter of  seconds.

I demanded to speak with the manager and was informed that he was in his office having a business meeting. Miss secretary didn't even bother to get him even though she saw me upset.

I glanced back at Mabel and thought the hell with your parent policies, I flung open the door and walked out onto the floor and right up to Mabel.  I told her she did nothing wrong and that we were going home.

Walking away from the group,  I heard Miss Allison call out to me in which I replied, "Do not talk to me."

By this time, Mabel is so upset, crying like I've never heard.  Sobbing her eyes out.

Once inside the lobby area, where all the others parents were sitting and watching (you could have heard a pin drop), I told the secretary I wanted to see the manager immediately.  She balked so I waved in his window and motioned for him to come out.

I asked to speak with him privately since I didn't want to make a scene in front of those other parents.  I had told him  how wonderful Miss Summer was, that Mabel was new to gymnastics, that the week prior Miss Allison had been "rough" with the girls (age 8 and under) and what had just transpired.

He didn't say a word.

I then demanded a full refund.

At that point, (he seemed a little discombobulated) he got the paperwork ready and when I received my refund, back in the  lobby, I stated loud and clear in front of those other parents that "I paid you to teach my child not to humiliate her."

At which point he nervously said, "Well, this is Miss Allison's last night."

I honestly don't know if it was her last night due to that incident or she found employment elsewhere.

I held my head high, kept my arms tightly around Mabel as we walked out to the parking lot.  She sobbed all the way home.  My stomach physically hurt.  I couldn't sleep last night it.

This is that moment that most of us have lived through, when we are completely and utterly humiliated in front of our class; a moment that will haunt us the rest of our lives.  This was Mabel's moment.

When we got home, it was late.  I fed her a little dinner and then David announced that she needed a Sonic shake to feel better :)  So we took her (and the baby) and toasted to better days ahead.  We told her we will try a different club for her to take lessons and that Miss Allison won't ever happen again.

Tucking her into bed last night, she said, "Mom, what if Miss Allison gets a job at the new club I'll be going to?"  I assured her that we will double check that no Miss Allison, early 20's, long dark hair, is employed as a gymnastics teacher/coach which ever club we end up at.

Today was a better day.  Tomorrow will be even better.  I am glad I was there for my child and that she saw I was her advocate.  The graces from receiving the Eucharist earlier in the day kept me from spinning totally out of control during that ordeal because the mama bear in me - whew! -  Let me just say, don't mess with a mama bear's cub.  Ever.

~  Patty  ~



20 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Laurie, somehow I unintentionally removed your comment. I did read it and appreciated your thoughts on the matter. Sorry about the delete.

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  2. Oh, Patty! My heart goes out to you both. I don't know how you had as much restraint as you showed. It was wonderful that you were able to clearly defend your child and yet behave appropriately. Bravo, Mom! I hope that this does not mar her enjoyment of gymnastics for the future.

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    1. Phyllis, I truly wanted to take the teacher by the collar and teach her a lesson or too. But, it wouldn't have been worth it. Thanks for the kind words. The image of her crying still rattles me. She also knows that the teacher is separate from the gymnastics since her first teacher had been so so sweet.

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  3. How heartbreaking Patty. For you and for Mabel. Way to go Mom on standing up for your daughter and being right there to defend and protect her. Darn straight, ain't nobody gonna mess with my cubs! Don't mess with us mamas!!
    I hope Mabel is doing better today and that you are able to find her a better place to take classes. Give that sweetheart a hug from me.

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. I cannot imagine how many others little children have been taught in such a horrible way.

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  4. That is a horrible story. But way to stand up for your baby girl. I love what you said. So perfect. I hope Mabel is the stronger for it. And I hope the gym figures out how to hire solid teachers.

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    1. You are spot on about learning from situations and becoming stronger. Great point! I don't like to poo-poo my children when hearing about things. I'd rather first teach them how to handle those situations. But when I saw how brutal it actually was, well, there is a point when an adult had to step in. If anything, she realizes what is acceptable and not acceptable and how to speak up. Thanks for the comment!

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  5. This is awful! We always do gymnastics the year before they start school. With my oldest, we let him go until he was about to be in pre-team. At that point, we heard about the coaches bringing kids to tears. Needless to say, we found another club...not a moment too soon, as the old one has allegations of sexual misconduct in the news last night.

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    1. Therese,

      Sexual misconduct - THAT is very scary! I've thought about that thinking our sexual predators are actually closer to home than we think.

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  6. Ugh, what a nightmare! Where were the other parents in the class and did they just sit there? Good for you for demanding your money back, I probably wouldn't have thought about it and just walked out. Disgusting.

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    1. I know, Jen. How many parents think it is alright for humiliation to be a form of teaching? I believe in being firm and "yelled at" in a good and loving way, if that makes sense. This was not the case. I have a feeling that many of the parents may be double checking with their own kids and keeping an eagle eye out for them from now on. It is so hard since you cannot hear what is going on behind the glass wall.

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  7. Oh sweet Mabel! I had a field hockey coach in high school that was pretty nasty...there are some people out there that are just not cut out to teach. I'm so glad you stuck up for your daughter. What a horrible experience. Big hugs all around.

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    1. You are absolutely right about some people who should not be teachers (or coaches :)

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  8. Bravo Mama, Bravo! Poor Mabel. I hope she has the opportunity to have a good experience with gymnastics if she still loves it. Allison needs to get out of the coaching business for sure. Good Mama Bear!

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    1. Thanks, Kat. It still rattles my nerves when I think about it.

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  9. That brought tears to my eyes. Good for you for demanding (and getting) a full refund! I thought you handled it perfectly!

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  10. So sorry to hear that your dear Mabel had to endure this. I was just thinking about what we do as Mama Bears when you finished off your post with just my thoughts! Praise God for Mothers like you, who care for and look out for their children, even if it means rattling our nerves;) I pray there will be a silver lining in the new place to make up for the bad experience! Miss Allison must be a very unhappy person to act that way...She could probably use lots of prayers.

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  11. As I was reading, I was "waiting" to see if you would yank that door open - cheering when you did! Yay for moms! I agree it was a defining moment for Mabel, and for several other people too. Hopefully other parents and kids learned something about acceptable behavior, as well.

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  12. just like Lynn, I was waiting to read that you went right in that gym and confronted that Miss Allison. People like Miss Allison, who squash the joy and excitement of girls (and boys) for no reason other than they are angry at themselves or the world, are correctly called out and reported. I'm proud of you, patty. and I'm sure the other parents are too.

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