Now Again, With Feeling

Second Teacher Test-Out                             Saturday, April 14, 2012

A couple weeks ago I taught my first beginning pole class at Boulder Spirals. I got to hand-pick my students and it was a smallish class of four ladies. As a point of reference there are eight poles in the studio so seven is the maximum number of students I can have and still have a pole to teach with.

I left that class having learned a lot yet feeling like I did a great job. I was confident, I hit all my teaching points, I used (mostly) the right technical terms and I had plenty of time for one-on-one instruction and a little feel-good freestyle time.

I was a little disappointed when Sasha told me that she wanted me to teach another class, I was hoping I had impressed her enough to test me out. Oh well. Fast forward a couple weeks and I’m in front of the room again, only this time it is different. Way different. Spirals launched a Groupon campaign which brings in lots of new students. Sasha was vague about who I would be teaching and how many there would be so imagine my surprise when nine ladies showed up, that would be one more student than I have poles for, and no pole for me. To add to the crowd, a couple instructors showed up to take the class as well.

I got right into it with my introductions and as much as I wanted to remember everyone’s name, it was almost impossible. Names have never been my strong point to begin with. Since I didn’t have a pole to work on, I shared with the front and center student. The good part of this was that I was forced to walk around the room and give instruction rather than demonstrate in front of the room. Whereas my previous class was populated with women who were familiar with dance and yoga, this class had younger women who were not as familiar with the shorthands that I take for granted, like runners lunge and chaturanga. They also knew a basic alignment concepts like not letting your knee extend past your ankle when doing any kind of squat or knee bend.

I had to rethink my cues and how I gave correction, I even had to go up and touch students to help with their alignment and body positioning. This class was a tremendous learning experience and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to teach this way in a controlled environment, after all, Sasha was there to rescue me if I really screwed up. Now I don’t have to worry about what I’ll do if I were to find myself in this situation again. Been there, done that. Here’s what I learned.

  1. If there are more than eight students in the class, cut the warm-up in half. I’m going to need the time to cycle two groups of students through the movement on the pole.
  2. Keep a close eye on people’s alignment when doing yoga stretches. Not everyone has done yoga forever, as impossible as that is to imagine in Boulder.
  3. Remember to tell the ladies to put their yoga mats away. Oops. I didn’t direct them to do it and it wasn’t until the class was almost over that I realized they were still set up behind the poles. Not the end of the world, but still.
  4. It’s okay to not hit every single teaching point. As much as I strive to do this, sometimes there isn’t time. It’s better to do a good job with what I teach than to get into a manic teaching mode where I’m speeding through curriculum.
  5. Teach the right spins. I messed up the Basic Front Hook (stupid, stupid, stupid) but I managed to correct myself (with a little hint from Sasha) and the students didn’t seem too concerned. They just rolled with it.
  6. Keep control of the room. There were two groups of women who knew each other and they were there to have a good time. There can be a good deal of tittering that goes with doing pole moves. This is great, I want everyone to have a great time, but I also need to keep the class focused if we’re going to get anything done.
  7. Leave time for a cool-down. The ladies really like a good stretch, I could hear them enjoying themselves. It’s also a good time to talk up the other classes we teach, which I failed to do.
  8. Smile and look confident even though I’m freaking out. If I’m smiling and appear calm, no one will really know the difference.
  9. Keep that sexy humor coming. A good laugh is a tension reliever for the students and for me.
  10. Offer to take pictures for students to post on Facebook. Not everyone will be into it, but those who want to are more than happy to hand over their cameras and smile.

The final analysis for the evening was that it was a success. I wasn’t perfect, not even close, but the students looked like they had a good time. Some even told me as much. I made it through all but one piece of curriculum (I had to skip teaching the Bow and Arrow technique). I didn’t start crying. I didn’t beg Sasha to rescue me. I kept smiling. I learned some very important things about teaching to a large class of strangers (sooo different than a small class of friends) and built up my confidence. Sasha, Tabitha and Stacey were really encouraging and gave me wonderful feedback. The biggest thing I took away is that I am a work in progress and will continue to grow as I teach, but I can do it … today.

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