Madeline Winters: The Time to Be Excellent

Maddy started ballet when she was three, and she’s never stopped loving it. When I ask her why she wants to become a professional dancer, she tells me, “to be quite honest, I can’t really imagine doing anything else.” And why should she? At thirteen, Maddy’s already been in over 100 professional ballet performances. She’s already excellent at her chosen career - and working to become more so each day

Until this year, Maddy’s whole education has been at PFS, but this year, she’s decided to do online school so that she can attend the day program at Pennsylvania Ballet. She tells me about her schedule: ballet classes each day, Monday through Saturday, plus Nutcracker rehearsals on Sundays. As soon she comes home, she starts her schoolwork. It strikes me how stressful this massive life transition might be, and I ask her how it’s going.

Maddy Scooter

She tells me that striking balance in her life - between work and leisure, activity and stillness, silliness and discipline - was a lot easier at PFS: “It really gave me opportunities to spend my time working out, or stretching, and or relaxing. When I twisted my ankle, I had time to heal at school. When I had to do my hair and makeup, I had time to get prepared. I could warm up before ballet - my friends and I started cardio classes, it was fun. Right now, I do school work, dance, eat, and sleep. I don’t have time to do other stuff.

Maddy’s doing well, but she acknowledges the challenge: “I’m just so busy. It’s harder to be focused in ballet class and thoughtful with the things I’m doing.” She also questions whether her assignments are worth the time she’s putting into them: “I don’t really need to take any initiative in my schoolwork - they just tell me what to do. At PFS I actually had to figure out what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it.”

Maddy Ballet

I find it odd that Maddy - who holds conventional schooling in very low esteem - is nevertheless busting her butt to excel in all of her classes. Even though she’s less passionate about her schoolwork than her self-directed learning at PFS, her commitment to excellence hasn’t left her; whereas some kids might skate by, she’s putting in the extra work and getting all A’s. I ask her why. “I chose to do online school so I might as well do it well, right? At PFS no one ever made me do anything, but I felt that if I was going to do something, I should do it well. Anything else is unsatisfying. PFS has done that to me - I always want to do the best I can.”

Haley Tilt, December 16th