Pilates Teachers' Manual

Practice Teaching Tips

November 30, 2023 Olivia Bioni Season 7 Episode 20
Pilates Teachers' Manual
Practice Teaching Tips
Show Notes Transcript

If you're nervous to start practice teaching, you're not alone! It's scary to put yourself out there and dive in the deep end of teaching another person Pilates, but I've got some tips and tricks to help you along on your journey, as well as some advice and stories from when I first began teaching movement. Tune in!

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[00:00:00] Welcome to Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. I'm Olivia and I'll be your host. Join the conversation and the Pilates community on Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual and visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. Today's chapter starts now.

[00:00:57] Hello, hello, everybody. Welcome back to the [00:01:00] podcast. Very excited today to be talking about tips for successful practice teaching, where I'll share some tips and advice for you if you are in the process of becoming a Pilates teacher and getting those practice teaching hours, as well as if you're a new teacher and you are just getting started teaching.

[00:01:22] Uh, this is a great question from Saphiye about preparing to practice teach, and she shared how nervous she was to teach her first class. And I think that it is pretty typical to be beside yourself with absolute nerves and adrenaline, especially when you're just getting started. But I've got some tips, I've got some advice, and hopefully it helps you a bit in your teaching journey.

[00:01:47] I would say my first tip to be successful in practice teaching is to define success for yourself because it is very difficult to know if you're being successful if you haven't set a [00:02:00] standard to measure yourself against. For me, successful teaching is saying things and people are doing things. That is the bar. If you said something and they did something, that's victory. That's the goal. That's literally what movement teaching is all about. Of course, there's lots and lots of nuance. But when you are just getting started, if you told people to do something and they did something amazing. 

[00:02:26] Newly certified teachers or even teachers who are still in their teacher training program often think that they have to teach like an experienced teacher who's been teaching for five or 10 years. And that's not true. You will get there in five to 10 years, just like that experienced teacher that you're comparing yourself to. So, When you're setting that standard of success for yourself, make sure that you're only comparing yourself to yourself because that's what matters. You can't compare your day one with someone else's day 10, [00:03:00] 000. Give yourself grace, give yourself compassion, be nice to yourself. 

[00:03:05] Of course, the best way to get better at practice teaching is to start practice teaching. There's a Chinese proverb that's always stuck with me that says the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago. And the second best time is today. So dive in and get started. Teach that first class, have that first class nerves, adrenaline, just fearful experience and go from there. But you can't get to where you're going until you start where you are. 

[00:03:37] Teach your children, teach your partner, teach your friends, teach other teachers in your training program, but just start teaching because if you wait to feel ready, you'll never start. Because feeling ready and feeling confident comes with being familiar with what you're doing and comfortable with what you're doing [00:04:00] and the way you get familiar and comfortable with what you're doing is by doing it. 

[00:04:05] The first class you teach will have lots of nerves and lots of adrenaline just coursing through your veins. And it will have those same nerves and that same adrenaline, whether you start teaching during your teacher training program or 10 years after you finish your teacher training program. Whenever we start something new, that's what it feels like. And that's totally fine. That's totally normal. 

[00:04:27] The next class you teach, after you teach that first class, you stumble your way through. You make it through. It happened. It's over. The next class, you'll probably be nervous too, but you'll be less nervous than you were the first time because you've done it before. And the next class and the next class and the next class and the fourth class and the hundredth class, you'll get better at riding that wave of energy that comes with teaching until it becomes old hat.

[00:04:55] Like I compared a lot to learning how to drive. Because the first time you [00:05:00] were behind the wheel of a car, you were hyper aware of every little thing and you had to really consciously concentrate on all of the steps of driving a car. But now I imagine when you get behind the wheel of a car, you do not have any of the same anxiety that you had when you were learning how to drive as a teenager, right? Teaching Pilates is very similar to driving a car. You get more comfortable and confident the more you do it. 

[00:05:25] I think that recording yourself has great value when it comes to gauging your teaching progress. So if you can record yourself teaching a small snippet of a class and watch that recording back, be a student of your own class. How does it feel to take a class that you were teaching? And then you can compare it down the line, maybe at the end of your teacher training, maybe after a few months of teaching and notice how your teaching has changed, how your teaching has grown because it definitely will. 

[00:05:57] Give yourself feedback on your [00:06:00] teaching, being honest, but also compassionate, recognizing that you're a beginner, recognizing that what you're developing is a skill and it's a process. If you make yourself more interested in your growth over the outcome you will have a better time doing this. Like, perfection is not the goal. Being better than you were the time before is the goal. 

[00:06:24] We're often our hardest critics. We often hold ourselves to a really high standard of perfection. I think as Pilates teachers in particular, there's this gold standard of what you think a Pilates teacher has to be like. But again, you're looking at teachers who have been teaching for a very long time who have gone through all of these steps that you're currently working your way through. So recognize that you're on a path, you're on a journey, and every step is as important as where you're going. 

[00:06:57] I think in practice teaching, especially in that [00:07:00] phase of teacher training or your teaching journey, that getting good feedback is really, really helpful. You can set yourself up to get good feedback by asking people to tell you after they take a class with you one thing they really liked that you did and one thing that you can improve on. Sometimes when people take our class, especially when we're a new teacher, especially if they know us and they know that we're nervous, they don't want to hurt our feelings by saying anything. So you'll usually get feedback like, oh, that was great. Oh, that was so good, which is delightful and it's very kind of them to say, but you're looking to develop your skills as a teacher. And it's very helpful to get the constructive feedback of, Hey, this is one spot that I saw that you struggled, but also recognizing, Hey, this is one thing that you did really well. Even if you are absolutely beside yourself, nervous, [00:08:00] I can guarantee that there's at least one thing that you did while you were teaching that was excellent that you want to keep. 

[00:08:06] I also like this idea of giving one piece of constructive feedback to someone who's practice teaching or asking for one piece of constructive feedback if you are the teacher because you might look at your own teaching and say, Oh my gosh, there's so many things that I want to improve, but by focusing on just one thing at a time, it's much more actionable. Because if the feedback is like, be better at everything, like you can't really do very much with that. But if you say, Oh, you know, you spoke a little bit quietly, it was difficult to hear you. Well, that's something that I can definitely work on the next time I teach, I can practice projecting or speaking louder. And then if you do everything exactly the same and you just speak louder, then we can look at something else to work on. 

[00:08:51] But again, we see it as this piece by piece kind of project instead of fix everything right now for your next class, right? You just have to be a little [00:09:00] bit better than you were the previous time. You don't want to get bogged down by everything that you want to change. So I like to focus on one piece at a time, the same way you would work with someone who is brand new to Pilates. Of course, when you see them moving, you might recognize, Ooh, there's so many things that I want to change or that you're going to, you know, get better at doing, whether it's control, whether it's strength, whether it's, you know, coordination, what all, whatever you're working on with this person.

[00:09:31] Of course, there's tons of things to work on when you're a beginner, but if you tell them, Hey, can you close the carriage slowly and footwork and just lightly tap the bumper and you give them that one piece of actionable feedback, they'll be able to integrate that when they come back to class the next time they will remember that. And then you can change one more thing, you know, like it's, it's a long game, right? So doing Pilates is a long game. Teaching Pilates is a long game. The [00:10:00] goal is at the end of your practice teaching hours that you were better at teaching than when you started. So take it step by step instead of looking at it as a mountain, look at it as putting one foot in front of the other.

[00:10:13] And as much as you're focusing on what you can do better and where you can improve because that is part of the process, continue to recognize and highlight what you're doing really well, because you are doing things well. It seems like there's lots of things that you want to work on and do better, but there are things that you are already doing fabulously and, you know, keep that and be proud of that as well. And every time you improve a little bit, you know, remember that it's easy to see what we can't do and sometimes we forget to recognize how far we've already come. So make sure that you're doing that as well. 

[00:10:52] One last little point here is that when people come to take a Pilates class, it's not about you, the teacher. [00:11:00] No one in class knows that you're nervous. They may not know that you're a new teacher unless you tell them. They're just there to take a Pilates class and move their body and do something fabulous for themselves. They also want to do what you're asking them to do. They're there to learn from you and grow with you. So if you shift the focus from yourself and your nerves to what you can do to serve these people who came to your class to create this really positive movement experience for everyone who came to your class, it takes a lot of the pressure off because it's not about you, the teacher, it's about what you're teaching. It's about Pilates. It's about the exercises. I find that that lessened a lot of the pressure that I felt because they weren't there to judge me and judge my teaching. They were there for themselves and to move. 

[00:11:48] Coming up after the break, I'll share some of my experiences practice teaching. As well as a teaching formula that may help you on your teaching journey. If you're looking for a place to start, [00:12:00] that's coming up next.

[00:12:07] Hi there, I hope you're enjoying today's chapter so far. There's great stuff coming up after the break too. Be sure to subscribe wherever you're listening and visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts. to support the show. There you can make a one time donation or become a member for as little as $5 a month.

[00:12:26] Membership comes with some awesome perks, including a shout out in the next episode, a monthly newsletter, a monthly zoom call with me and more. You can also visit links.OliviaBioni.com/affiliates to check out some sweet deals on products I use and love. Now back to the show.[00:13:00] 

[00:13:04] I know that every teacher training program does their practice teaching hours a little bit differently, but in my experience, in my program, our practice teaching hours were done with, we called them our practice body and it was my partner. And they could come with me to the studio whenever the studio was empty and we could use the equipment and I could practice teaching on them. Of course, I could also do mat stuff at home, uh, if I wanted to, but the studio was available. 

[00:13:32] I asked my partner what he remembered about me practice teaching Pilates to him. And he said it was too long ago. He doesn't remember. And I don't know if that's true or if he's trying to spare my feelings, but, uh, I remember The first thing he said to me when I started teaching Pilates was, why are you talking like that?

[00:13:53] Because I guess my teaching voice was a little bit more commanding, a [00:14:00] little bit more exuberant than my just being around the house voice. And he thought that that was very strange. So it threw him off and he doesn't do Pilates. He did that Pilates thing for me and he's much more enthusiastic about going to the gym and doing stuff on his own. Uh, so even, I just say that to say that you will have a different experience teaching people who are close to you versus people who only know you as a Pilates teacher. 

[00:14:30] When I started practice teaching for Pilates also, it was a little bit unfair because I had already gotten a lot of my practice teaching nerves out of the way in my yoga teacher training, which I had done, uh, several years prior. So thinking about me and my first experiences teaching it would have been yoga instead of Pilates and what I loved about my yoga training program that I went through is that on the [00:15:00] first day of training, we learned one pose and the teachers turned to us and said, okay, teach your neighbor like there was no, Oh no, like this is only the first day of training.

[00:15:11] It's like, all right, you know, one thing I want you to teach that thing because it's, A, it's really great for your own learning to teach it to someone else and B, it rips off that band aid and immediately puts you in the role of a teacher. There's no easing into it. It's now, you know something and you can teach it. Everyone was nervous, but everyone was doing it together. And I think that that was a really great way to start the training program is that we're diving in right now. No holds barred, like we're doing it. 

[00:15:41] When I started teaching Pilates, which is more complicated than teaching yoga with regards to the equipment settings and, you know, transitions in that regard, I used to write out everything. I wrote a script for my entire class. What every exercise [00:16:00] was, what the cues were that I was going to say. I used to sync things to music, which I am very glad that I no longer do. It was the whole nine yards. And I did that for every class that I taught. 

[00:16:12] It's kind of like in grade school when your teacher would say, okay, you can prepare one sheet of paper to be a study guide for your test. And you can bring that paper to your test. And whenever you write on that study guide, you can bring to your test. And you would make this very elaborate study guide, and then you wouldn't use it during the test because the studying for the test was making that guide. So for me, making that script was proving to myself that I had the knowledge to do all of the things that I was writing out that I was going to do.

[00:16:46] That was a very important stage in my process. I went from writing scripts to writing note cards, where I would start writing things in shorthand, and then I would start abbreviating things even more. So maybe, I would start writing an entire script for [00:17:00] footwork and every foot position, and then maybe on a note card it would just say footwork and then the foot positions, but not every word I was going to say, and eventually I just wrote footwork, and now I just write FW. Like, I don't even have time to write footwork if I'm going to write it out. 

[00:17:15] But it's a process, and so that stage of writing scripts and writing note cards was incredibly time consuming and I wouldn't want to go back to it. In the moment, that's what helped me learn the spring settings and learn the things that I was going to say for things so that it could be on the back burner. But when you're just getting started, like this is the nitty gritty, this is the doing the work, laying the foundation so that ten years from now when you're teaching footwork. You don't have to think, Oh my gosh, what's the next foot position? You know, 18 different foot positions. It's just, you know, which one do you think will be most valuable for the class? You don't have to be there until you're there. If that makes sense. 

[00:17:58] The best structure or [00:18:00] a structure that I've used when it comes to thinking about a class or thinking about teaching is start by saying the name of the exercise, because then people who know the name of the exercise and what the exercise is will already start to go there for you. Um, so you tell them the name of the exercise, what is the starting position? What do they need to do to get into the starting position? Tell them that. And then as concisely as possible, what is the task of the exercise? What do you want them to do? Once they get started doing that thing, then you lead them into the next exercise with the name of the exercise, get them in the start position. What do you want them to do? You lead them into the next exercise. 

[00:18:46] You'll always start with the simplest version of the exercise and then add layers, add complexity, add challenge and build up from there. And you'll try to do several things in one body [00:19:00] position or on one equipment setting to minimize transitions and maximize flow. But then it's just rinse and repeat. And then you're like, well, how am I going to do a whole class? Well, a whole class is just one exercise followed by another exercise followed by another exercise. You know what I mean? 

[00:19:14] So again, it can be that simple when you're getting started. It doesn't have to be super fancy. It can be meat and potatoes. Teach the things that you're really confident teaching, the things you know like the back of your hand that you could teach while you're standing on your head, you know, start with those things, get good at those things. And the creativity and the working outside of the box and the responding to the needs of the people in the class comes with being really comfortable with what you're teaching. So you know, start there. 

[00:19:46] Through the process of teaching all of those classes. You will learn the spring settings like the back of your hand. You will know what transitions and exercises flow really well together because you've done them a bunch of times. [00:20:00] But the only way you will know that they work is that you've tried a bunch of different things. So give yourself grace, give yourself compassion as you are working through this trial and error period. And just remember every day that you say things and that people do things, it is a victory. 

[00:20:20] Saphiye also asked about knowing when you're ready to teach your own classes. And I would say that if you've completed your teacher training and you've tested out, you are now ready to teach your own classes. You may say that you don't feel like you're ready to teach your own classes, but you have the skills to start teaching. If you wait until you're ready, you will never be able to do it. You just jump in, you do what you can. You don't have to know everything. You don't have to be perfect, but you do know a lot and you are really good. And at the very least, you are better than you were when you started because you've been [00:21:00] practicing and it will only improve from there. You will get more experienced, you will get more comfortable, you will get more confident, but you have to keep doing it. It gets so much less nerve wracking and so much more fun if you stick with it and really trudge through this difficult starting point. 

[00:21:22] The work that you put in now is going to pay dividends for years and years and years to come, like for your entire career. And your teachings going to change and that's okay. What's important to you when you teach is going to change and that's okay. Your teaching style can change and all of that is okay. But it happens through the process of teaching classes.

[00:21:43] If you're looking for even more tips or even more advice, I've asked every special guest that has ever been on the podcast their advice for new teachers. So definitely go back and listen to those episodes. There's a playlist of those episodes on YouTube, and there's transcripts of [00:22:00] each episode on the podcast website if you just want to scan through and read, um, but that is a resource. I'm a resource. Please reach out if you've got any more questions, but in short, the only thing to it is to do it and the only way out is through. So keep at it. You've got this. I'm cheering for you, and I'm here if you've got any questions. 

[00:22:22] Also, very excited. Spotify wrapped is out. So please tag me at @pilatesteachersmanual if the Pilates Teachers' Manual podcast made the cut of your most listened to episodes, as always a huge thank you to all my supporters on Buy Me a Coffee. The year is wrapping up, but there's still time to have a coffee chat with me this year. If you're interested, visit that Buy Me a Coffee page and join the project. I'm happy to have you. And then Holy moly, it's 2024. Have a great couple of weeks and I'll talk to you again soon.[00:23:00] 

[00:23:01] Thanks for listening to this week's chapter of Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. Check out the podcast Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual, and be sure to subscribe wherever you listen. For more Pilates goodness, check out my other podcast Pilates Students' Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts. The adventure continues. Until next time.