I have transformed in the past year and my teaching is one of the major things that changed. I was a great teacher but I went about it all wrong. I had some compassion, but not enough. I thought I had to fit into a certain mold as a teacher, with my style, body and everything else. Deep down, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. Most teachers don’t when they first start teaching. This is a normal part of the process.
Over the years, I discovered what I did and didn’t want as I grew and evolved as a teacher. I discovered people wanted to feel empowered. I wanted people to feel successful with their movement, not like there was some unattainable goal to reach. I wanted people to look forward to walking in the door to work with me and feel stronger when they left. I didn’t want them to dread exercise or feel like what they had to offer wasn’t enough.
I started to form my own philosophy. I decided I was going to “break the rules” or what I had decided the rules were. The thing is when you learn to teach Pilates, there are a lot of rules. There are important things you need to know about spring settings, safety measures, what is good form, etc. But there are some things you have to throw away when you start teaching. Yes, you need to keep your foot flexed in the strap for the Short Box Series. That is a safety issue. But that does not mean that the person doing the exercise needs to be perfect in their form. You don't have to keep them in the Beginner series forever because they haven’t mastered it yet. You don’t have to be a drill sergeant. Once you pass your test, you are done. If you have a client that wants perfect form great, you can work on that. But you do not have to if they don’t want to. There is so much value in letting a person move. There is also value in moving well. There is no requirement of a perfect Roll Up or even doing the Roll Up if it doesn’t work for your student. You both have to come to an agreement of what you want to accomplish together.
Last year, I explored my teaching from a different place. I thought more about what my students wanted their experience to be and focused more on that. I stopped aiming for the perfect Teaser. Teasers are HARD! For some students success is just pushing through the fear to attempt the Teaser. I stopped pushing my agenda. I asked questions and listened, more than I gave orders or constant feedback. I encouraged students to think about how things feel. When I asked people where they were feeling something, sometimes huge things were uncovered. One student had pain in her wrist she was not vocal about. So we worked on strength for the wrists. I asked myself, what does it feel like they need? I put myself in their shoes. What would I want if I had a new baby? What would I want if I was stressed out?
I wasn’t a bad teacher before. Many students told me the opposite. But I am a better teacher now. I love what I do so much more because the work I do, is in better alignment with who I am. I am not as exhausted at the end of the day because I didn’t push myself to be something I’m not. I care deeply about my students and I want to help them be their best self. I realized I wasn’t helping them do that if they didn’t have the space to gain better understanding of what they needed to do. They didn’t have the mental space to consider what their body was doing, when I was constantly giving them more information to think about. Now I ask them. What are you thinking about? Can you think about this? Can you try it this way? What does that feel like for you? That way students are invited into their own process rather than pushed to be a part of my process. I don’t judge myself, my students or other teachers. I show up and let people do their own work. From my perspective, that is what Joe wanted, people responsible for their own bodies and their own work.
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