I want to share with you a lesson that took me a very long time to learn. It was one of those things that you don’t get taught, one that no one ever educates you about and one that I don’t think that I have ever read about in an article. It wasn’t until I delivered some aqua workshops recently in Kapiti Coast NZ, that I found the words to describe and communicate this hard earned knowledge. I love New Zealand and I love New Zealand instructors and we were getting stuck into a topic that I could feel was really close to the surface for a lot of instructors in the room. For those of you that teach ‘land’, aqua classes are a bit different. One of the biggest differences other than the fact you are in water, is that participants are more vocal in both good and destructive ways. This topic invariably always comes up in most of the aqua workshops that I deliver.
I completely understand what this experience is like – I have been teaching aqua for over 25 years. If words were like blades, I would be covered in scars. Yep – aqua participants (a few, certainly not most) can be really challenging. Every now and then (and certainly not all the time), there will be a situation where a member/s will approach the instructor after a class. This is after the instructor has had to teach on a hard and slippery pool deck, in 35 degrees and 90% humidity, to tell them that the class was… terrible, the worst class that they have ever been to and (typically) that they should be like someone else who is teaching on the schedule. Saturated in sweat and feeling exhausted (yep, HIIT has nothing on teaching an aqua class), the instructor will be accosted with ‘feedback’ that can be soul destroying. How do I know? because I have been there, and not only once, but enough times to have the learnt the ‘lesson’.
So what is the lesson…drumroll please!
It is knowing what instructor you are BEFORE you start the class. This not something that you give lip service to other people and say beautiful things on Facebook about how you love teaching. No, this is much deeper. This is not just the enjoyment of teaching, but more important, who are you when you instruct. I didn’t understand this concept for a very long time, maybe I am a slow learner, but I definitely get it now.
So who am I when I teach a class – and this is just for me. I am firstly a teacher. I teach exercise, I teach technique, I teach how to achieve intensity. I teach how to perform the exercise to achieve maximum results. I am a teacher.
Next, I am creative and I enjoy taking myself out of my comfort zone and thus the same for my members. I refuse to teach the same class for weeks on end. Yes, it has to be different enough to be noticeable and challenging. It is important for me that my participants are mentally challenged as well as physically challenged. Mind and body, not just body.
Finally, I want to challenge belief systems. I want to challenge my own, as well as the people who come to my workouts. I use humour (well, what I think is funny), stories, examples and occasionally the ‘shock value’ comment. I own it and I now accept that this will sometimes mean that someone will ‘challenge’ me, but now I am totally ok with it. I am who I am.
Finding out who you are first, means that you know longer fish around and wait for positive feedback to reinforce your value to your classes. For so long, it mattered to me that everyone liked me. Of course we all say that you can’t please everyone, but when ‘that person’ makes a beeline for you and you know something is about to happen, try remembering that phrase. Try believing that line when you make your slow walk back to the car, head down, feeling shattered by the words that were offered. Stop this ridiculous cycle of relying on the conditions (praise that makes you feel good). The conditions that dictate that your value is based on people always offering your compliments and if not, then you must be no good. We all grow from effective feedback, but when it is destructive, then what happens? Go back to what you know is true. You know who you are and what you stand for. This is your personal mission statement, your purpose and finally what always keeps your head up, with dignity and personal integrity.