Feels Like The First Time

Student Teaching: Level One                 Thursday, April 5, 2012

I slept so great last night, do you want to know why? For the first time since Sasha informed me that I would teach my first trainee class for Boulder Spirals, I did not go to bed with curriculum looping in my head or anxiety dreams about being laughed off stage.

Not long after I started dancing at Spirals, Sasha forced encouraged me to take the teacher training. Since then I feel like I’ve been on a runaway train. I have to say that I never felt like I truly belonged in that training class. Despite having a lifelong desire to teach (it’s true, there has never been a single dance/aerobics/fitness class I have ever taken that I haven’t secretly fantasized about teaching) I never thought it would finally happen. Enter Sasha Viers, my very own Tiger Mother. We are the same age so it isn’t about that, it’s about her unrelenting desire to see me achieve my potential. It’s amazing to have someone believe in me like that, but it isn’t without its’ challenges. Like for instance, I can’t say, “I can’t do it.” or “I’m not ready.” That shit does not fly with Sasha. Not one bit.

I walked away from the training knowing that I would have to teach eventually, but kind of hoped that it would be not for a really long time. It was a matter of days before Sasha identified a few dates and then asked me to pick. I say ask, but there really was no saying no. So I picked the farthest possible day out (two weeks) and set to preparing myself. I observed lots of beginning classes and set out to, in my very Asian way, write up a lesson plan using Sasha’s manual as a starting point. I never thought that teaching a dance class would entail so much computer time, but I think I revised my lesson plan fifty times before I was done with it.

I carried that five-page sucker around with me wherever I went, constantly glancing at it and memorizing all the steps. On a particularly trying day of Spring Break, I forced my son to watch as I presented my class to him. That poor kid was so bored. When I started out with my introduction, “Hi, my name is Vivienne and welcome to Boulder Spirals level one pole class, does anyone have any injuries or is anyone pregnant?” He raised his hand and said, “Why are you asking if I’m pregnant? I’m a boy.” Well duh, Mom.

Fast forward to last night and I was ready to go. I banished all negative self-talk and walked into the room determined to kill it. I picked out a nice outfit to wear, put on some eyeliner and lipstick and even bought some leg-warmers to make me look extra professional. I had listened to my playlist over and over, tweaking and timing the songs. If anything I was over prepared, but that’s my comfort zone and I’m sticking with it.

I invited some friends to take the class, one brought a friend which added a little realism to the room, otherwise I was totally singing to the choir. I turned on my music and off we went. Here are some of the things I learned.

  1. Have a good warm-up. I tried to make it sexy and fun and intersperse stripper moves in it so it didn’t drag. That said, I can’t count. It was really hard to keep track of whether we were on our fifth isolation or our eleventh.
  2. Breathe. When I get nervous I start talking faster and faster and get out of breath. I noticed this starting to happen a couple of times and I could hear Sasha’s voice in my head telling me to take a breath, which I did and it really helped. When I got flustered, I invited the ladies to walk around the pole a couple of times to loosen them (me) up and calm their (my) nerves. Life saver.
  3. When all else fails, Body Wave. It’s a great time killer. It’s fun, it’s fantastic for the abs, and it gives me time to regroup. Plus it’s sexy.
  4. Crack jokes. People like humor and believe me, there are plenty of things to have fun with when you are sashaying around a stripper pole. It’s wonderful for cutting the tension.
  5. Stop and watch your students. I got caught up in trying to do everything right and needed to remind myself that this isn’t about me, it’s about my students so I would stop and give individual help to whoever needed it. But not too much! I didn’t want to be discouraging either.
  6. 6)Be conversational. It felt awkward when I was in front of the room silently doing my thing. I felt more connected to the class when I could talk a little bit, whether it was a joke or a simple observation about how a move or stretch felt. Of course this made keeping track of counts tricky.
  7. Have some moves ready for the free-style. Free-styling comes more naturally to some than others. While I can’t say I was watching my students closely (I was free-styling for God’s sake) I can see how they might be watching me for ideas, so be ready with some easy to follow choreography and verbal cues.
  8. Smile like you are having a great time. I don’t know if I was smiling or not, but honestly I had a great time. I had such a lovely and game group of students that most of my anxiety disappeared once I got going.

Sasha and her marketing director, Tabitha Ferrar, promised me that I would get such a high out of teaching. I wasn’t sure I believed them but it was true. Despite getting notes from Sasha on my teaching and having some time to come down before I left the studio, I drove home feeling great. My friends (and yes, they might have been extra nice because they know me) seemed to have a really fun time and were so generous with their praise. Sasha has already set up another student teaching session for me, this time with total strangers, and I am psyched. Time to work on my playlist.

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