Monday, April 13, 2009

The Psychology of Teaching

As I am starting to teach more, I am beginning to develop my own style, pace and wording. The problem with this, of course, is that it is mine. Working in an established studio, where some people have been with the same instructor for 5 years, can be a little precarious. They are now used to a particular way of doing things, hearing things, working. And here comes this new instructor, who looks like she's about 12, and asks for something else. Needless to say, there's some resistance. So, how do I break through? With little kids, it's a little easier. They will say "That's not how we do it in Miss So-and-so's class." To which the reply is "Do I look like Miss So-and-so?", and you can move on. Adults, however, require a little more information than that. (Not that I haven't been tempted to try it)

I think there a couple different attitudes of students out there:
  • those willing to give you a chance, mainly because their other instructor said to
  • those who will never like you
  • those who just want the work, they don't care about the personality

and those categories can be broken down into a motivation for being the student in the first place:

  • those who want a workout
  • those who are there for their own "me"time
  • those who are there because they feel like they "should" be (whether it's because everyone else is doing it and it's the hottest thing, guilt, or someone in their life made them come)
  • those who are there as a social outing

In a private lesson, you can connect with a person and get to understand their motivation and their willingness to work. Usually whatever the reason for being there and attitude, I can get through to them. At least for an hour.

Group classes, however, are another story. When I enter a group class, my goal is to give them a good, true Pilates workout, safely. But, I am realizing, because there is more than one person involved, I cannot make all of them happy. The chances of all of them having the same attitude and the same motivation is probably 0.

Last week, I subbed a group class. There were 6 people. 2 were there for the work. They left happy campers, and 1 has joined another of my classes. 1 person wanted nothing to do with me. I tried to offer corrections, and she wouldn't take them. She left frustrated and unhappy. One was disappointed that the class did not take the full hour, yet she said the class was good. My guess is that she was there for "me" time. Her goal was unfulfilled (on all our paperwork, it says "Classes are 50-55min", but whatever). Now know why she is there, if I have her in a class again, I can be more sensitive to the fact that she is the for an hour, an hour she doesn't have to be anywhere else, doing anything else, and she would like to keep it that way. 2 people I couldn't get a good read on. They worked out, they left.

It took me a good deal of reflection to understand that my teaching style is not going to fulfill every one's needs. That's why all the mentors have said "Not everyone will like your class. Don't take it personally." I've wondered, "How do I not take it personally?!" But know I can see that there are just too many variables in a group of people to meet all of their needs.

The attitude someone comes in with can change, if they want it to. I can't make that happen, no matter how much I change up my style. If they want their teacher, that's pretty much ballgame for me. If they want the work, or if they are willing to try, then we're in business. I think your motivation drives your attitude. Again, if they are there for the work, they are going to leave fulfilled. If they came for another reason, I may be able hit that, but it isn't my main goal.

Having these experiences has helped me to clarify my teaching style- Work, technique, safety. But that doesn't mean I get to ignore the fact that people come in looking for something else. I need to learn to balance my goals with theirs.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

As promised

The life updates:
  1. No, I'm not pregnant.
  2. Chris and I are in the process of buying a house. We are in negotiations for a house in Ardmore.
  3. I am joining the staff of a Pilates studio in Bryn Mawr, Pilates for Movement. I plan on being there about 20 hrs/week.
  4. I am re-joining Tegler McHenry and Assoc. as the manager of our new wellness company, Wellworks For You. I will be there the other 20 hrs. Very complimentary jobs.
  5. I'll be home for Easter. I hope to see you all soon!

Sorry! Let's get you updated.

Well, it has been a very, very, very long time since I have written.

First, the Pilates updates (life updates will follow in another post): I passed my Advanced practical with a great score at the beginning of March. I passed 2 of the 3 parts of the Advanced written, so I had to retake 1 section. I am still waiting to hear back on the retake.

Since I am basically done with the program, it is a good time to reflect. First of all, what an incredible experience it was. There really is no substitute for submerging yourself, day after day, in your area of study. Just being around Pilates and great Pilates instructors all the time provides great learning opportunities- you learn almost by osmosis! It is hard to believe that 9 months ago, I had no idea how to teach this work, and was terrified. Now, I'm getting paid to do it (although, sometimes still terrified).

Also, what the program and Pilates has done for me and my body is pretty incredible. I am a walking testimonial to the effectiveness of the method. I now have curves where I should have curves, muscles all over, almost even sides of my back, and am a lot more flexible. I even almost have a left split, which I never thought would happen. I have learned to work with my body and my issues: scoliosis, shoulder tension and I'm currently working through a little injury on my right side. The issues that I have make me a better teacher, as I now know the healing power of the work.

Pilates and this program have been great for my emotional health too. I am much more confident than I was before. I have done something incredibly difficult, that not too many people in the world have done, and done it well. I have achieved something that I wanted for my life. I am healthy and happy.

I have joined the staff of Pilates for Movement in Bryn Mawr. I am so excited to join them and look forward to building a schedule of both private lessons and group classes there.