Hello Fitness World,
The end of my official Pilates instructor training was bittersweet. I had created some great connections, friendships, and settled into my student mentality. My training courses gave me motivation and passion and as the class drew to a close I felt both sad and excited. Although not in any way done with the student portion of my journey, I was starting to feel confident enough to start sharing some of the knowledge. Needless to say, my first stabs at teaching raised some questions in the self-selection category.
They are as follows; When have we learned enough to transform from student to teacher? Is this the same for everyone? What happens when the teacher is taught?
Last weekend I finished my training at the Boston Body Pilates Teacher training center and started my first few stabs at teaching. Although almost 100% pressure-free, my first class went a lot differently than the scenarios I played out in my mind.
My head was a whirl of thoughts and fears as I drove to the studio. What if I can’t get my student into the correct position for each exercise? What if I stumble over my words? What if I forget how to do the exercises? The class commenced and as it carried on these questions faded into ridiculousness and a whole new world of confusion made itself known to me.
Beginning with my first question;
When have we learned enough to transform from student to teacher?
As I said, my original concerns were not really issues. In the least. I actually surprised myself at how easily the words flowed off my tongue and how I was able to control the bodies in front of me. I was surprised at how masterful and intelligent I sounded. and then something else happened…
student: “I can’t roll up.”
me: “What do you mean?”
student: “I just can’t do it my body doesn’t do that.”
me: “Yes, it does. Just squeeze your abs and roll up!”
student: “nope, isn’t happening.”
All my original fears vanished completely and whole new world of uncertainty unfurled before my eyes, and I mentally froze. I had actually never been exposed to a group of individuals who were not at similar or higher levels of fitness as myself. As I was teaching the most basic, beginner, simplistic flow written by Joseph Pilates, I had no idea how to modify the movements more than they were already modified. I had no idea how to teach Pilates to someone with absolutely no experience activating the essential muscle groups. I kind of felt like a failure.
But then I didn’t. This complete mental shut down was actually an amazing thing. Because of this situation I was forced to think about teaching in a whole different way. Instead of focusing on aligning the body in front of me, cueing which muscle groups to activate etc…I was looking at a body in front of me that actually did not possess the capabilities yet of doing these movements.
But did this mean I was doing something wrong? Was there another modification I wasn’t aware of or some cue I had forgotten that would allow this body to perform the exercise? I had no time to answer these questions in the moment, so what did I do? I talked my way out of it seamlessly and moved us into a completely different portion of the choreography. Saved!
So back to my question…Have I learned enough to be a teacher? If I was unable in this moment to assist my student in the same way as a more experienced instructor could, did that mean I had to stop teaching even though in all other aspects I was wildly successful? I really hoped not.
When teaching we can only prepare as much as possible, and then be prepared to throw it all away if the unexpected happens. When we are still learning the basics, we do not know which questions to ask until they are thrown in our face. So my answer is, you are ready when you feel ready. I am confident in my own abilities and I am confident in my ability to help others. Did my students know that I froze on the inside? Did my class still get a workout? I am still in my student phase, however I have reached point where I feel comfortable teaching others.
Is this transformation the same for everyone?
Probably not. In my moment of mental meltdown, I was still able to hide this and move on. My class was unaware and only a slight trace of lingering failure flickering in the back of my head, which quickly dissipated.
Many of us excel at talking a good game, really anyone who took college level courses. However in the beginning stages of teaching, although we already know many of the answers, we do not know how to present them and from this comes fear. I went to school for this I have been practicing Pilates for over nine years, it is just the act of finally taking what you know and passing it along that takes a little more practice.
Some of us are ready to take the plunge before others. Some are less willing to ‘wing-it,’ and would prefer to have all their lines memorized for 10 different scenarios before speaking in front of a class. I did not. I chose not to study before the test, and instead rely on my gut.
What happens when the teacher is taught?
I do not have a scenario for this question, although it begs for one. It is definitely one that plays in my head frequently.
I am teaching a class, we are doing [insert exercise], after the first few reps a student interrupts the class. “Excuse me Teacher, I thought this exercise was done like this, in this way, activating these muscle groups first?” Student is right.
What do I do? Say, Oh, Sh*t, you’re right let’s start over. Completely freeze and stutter for a few minutes. Perhaps run out of the room and cry (oh, the drama). But no. First I will remind myself that I am forgiven for my shortcomings because whether novice or expert we are never really done learning. Then, also remember that there are so many different ways to ‘Pilate’ (it’s a verb now), why admit to your mistake in a class?
I’ve found that people are generally kind and forgiving. No matter what your reaction in this instance, they will forgive, forget, and remember you by all the amazing things you taught them, and how sore they were the next day 🙂
Our failures make us stronger, we all know this. We don’t know what questions to ask until they are presented to us in a real-life situation. My biggest, tiniest goal for right now is to overcome my fear of not knowing. I dread the moments in a class where I forget or fail. I dread them to the point that I have avoided it altogether. I think we can apply this to so many aspects of life. I am making it my goal to erase the fear of failure. I have already succeeded, and if anything I should embrace my ignorance in these moments so that I may overcome and learn how to improve a little bit after every class!!!
Perhaps as students we must also remember that maybe our teacher is also learning from us?
Share your thoughts with me in your comments!