As I began my teaching career, I sympathized with students who struggled to read, write, spell, and use correct grammar and mechanics. While these all were easy for me, I knew it wasn't easy for my students all the time.
The summer before my first year teaching, I went away for a weekend to learn how to teach a group fitness class called Group Active. One of the first things our trainer had us do as a group was to draw a slip of paper out of a hat. When I opened up my slip of paper, it said "ballet". I couldn't understand what this had to do with the fitness class, but then it all became suddenly clear. One at a time, the trainer called us to the front of the room and played music for us. Was I going to have to dance ballet in front of all of these people? I've never done ballet in my life! I was so nervous. I was up first - it was my turn - and a beautiful ballad played. The trainer said, "Go ahead, Noelle. Show us ballet. It's easy!" All of my gym class nightmares replayed in my mind in that moment. After shaking off some temporary paralyzation, I summoned up everything I could remember about ballet - the graceful arms, the pointed toes, the twirling tutus - and I pretended to dance ballet. It was pathetic and embarrassing and definitely not easy. I felt like a fool. The trainer then explained that we are all beginners and that learning something new can be a challenge. Our job as group fitness instructors is to help everyone see themselves as beginners working toward a goal. Our language is our first tool in teaching, and it makes a difference.
I took this to heart and I've brought the concept into my teaching. Sometimes, in an effort to try to inspire a student, I've found myself saying, "You can do this. This is easy." Then, I flashback to that moment when I had to dance ballet, and I remember the feeling of being told "This is easy" when, for me, it simply wasn't.
Let's be careful to use encouraging words that don't assume or dismiss the feelings of others. For many, it's not easy.
Instead of saying "You can do this. This is easy", I promise to try to say "You can do this. Let me show you."
PS - I now teach Group Active at Saco Sport & Fitness - come try it out if you can! Click here for the schedule.