You put in all the apprentice hours at the studio. You studied, worked out every day, and taught friends, family, and complete strangers for next to nothing. You were tested, evaluated, questioned, and tested again. Now, finally, you have your teaching certificate and your long journey is over. Or is it?
To keep yourself sane during this exciting transition to full-fledged teacher, here are some things to remember as you venture into the pilates world:
- Keep the Manual Handy! What? After lugging that huge manual around for months and perhaps years, you can’t put it down yet? No. Absolutely not. Your real learning begins NOW, and now is when you will need that manual the most. Okay, maybe you don’t have to carry it with you everywhere you go, but absolutely know where it is at all times, and more importantly – don’t be afraid to use it! After all, there are hundreds of exercises in there, some of which (okay probably a lot) you might not teach that often, and your manual is going to help you stay on top of things. And if it’s a really good manual, it also has anatomy charts, guidelines on teaching special populations, and breath, cueing, and touch recommendations for every client under the sun.
- Find a Mentor. If your studio hasn’t already done so, look for a teacher with solid experience (5+ years). It could be the senior instructor you’re taking lessons from, or another teacher that you admire and want to emulate. When issues arise with a certain client or class, it’s helpful to have someone to check in with. Get a seasoned professional’s unique point of view and learn different techniques that come with real-time experience.
- You CAN Say It… “I Don’t Know”. Often, new teachers are given a lot of different clients and classes, with a wide array of people and varying physical issues and conditions. After all, you’re trying to get as many teaching hours in as possible, right? You want to help them. You want to share this fabulous method with them. And like any good teacher, you want to be able to answer any and all questions thrown your way. But remember this: You don’t have all the answers. And you are not a medical professional. So when your favorite client starts complaining about this pain or that ache, be compassionate. Be sensitive. But never diagnose. Don’t be afraid to stay “I don’t know, but I will look into it and in the meantime, maybe you should check with your doctor.” The least helpful thing you can do is to tell a client they have XYZ condition when you may only be guessing or speculating.
- Continue to Practice Pilates! A common pitfall for most new teachers is falling off the pilates wagon. Remember all those teaching hours you’re trying to accumulate? Next thing you know, you’re teaching 30 hours a week and doing pilates 0 hours a week! Be sure to save some time for yourself, for your own lessons or classes, to keep the work fresh in your own body. After all, you can only teach what you know, right? Self work-outs are fine if that’s all you can manage, but going to another teacher for true, objective instruction is the best.
- Educate Yourself. I know, you’ve just spent the last year doing that very thing. But your learning should never end. Let me repeat: Your learning should never end! Maintain your current certification by taking continuing education credits with your certifying organization. But also venture outside of your group and take from other renowned teachers. Many popular and prominent teachers travel around the world looking to teach people just like you. Go to conferences and conventions and continue to broaden your pilates horizons!
- Have Fun! Yes, fun. Because if you don’t enjoy what you do, why are you doing it? Remember to never take things too personally. Understand that your clients have bad days (just like you), get stuck in traffic (just like you), have a poor night’s sleep (just like you), and they can bring a lot of that into their sessions and classes. Stay focused, and try not to react. Be positive, encouraging, and uplifting. The place from which you come will be felt. Now go forth and share the pilates love!