Marietta Mehanni

Decide before you teach – what sort of instructor are you?

Decide before you teach – what sort of instructor are you, blog Marietta Mehanni, participant feedback, group fitness instructor, instructor mental health, true identity

Written by Marietta

November 4, 2015

The Power of Self-Discovery

Learning about the sort of person you are and want to be can be a life-changing realization. It’s a lesson that often needs to be taught and can take a long time to grasp. Several years ago, while delivering an aqua workshop in Kapiti Coast, New Zealand, I finally found the words to convey this hard-earned knowledge. The topic we explored resonated deeply with many of the instructors in the room.

Overcoming Soul-Crushing Feedback

Teaching aqua classes for over 30 years, I fully understand the experience. If words were blades, I would be covered in scars. Aqua participants, though not the majority, can be challenging. Occasionally, a member or two may approach an exhausted instructor after teaching a class on a hot, slippery pool deck, enduring 35-degree heat and 90% humidity. These individuals express their dissatisfaction, labelling the class as terrible and the worst they’ve ever attended. They might even suggest that the instructor should be more like someone else on the schedule. Drenched in sweat and utterly spent, the instructor receives soul-crushing feedback. How do I know this? Because I’ve been there, not just once, but enough times to learn the crucial lesson.

So, what is this lesson? Drumroll, please!

Unleashing Authenticity

Knowing what kind of instructor you are before you even enter the class. This goes far beyond paying lip service to others, saying beautiful things on social media about how much you love teaching. No, it’s much deeper than that. It’s not just about enjoying teaching; it’s about knowing who you are when you instruct. It took me a long time to comprehend this concept, but now I understand.

When I teach a class, I am, first and foremost, a teacher. Imparting knowledge about exercise, technique, and achieving intensity. Guiding participants on how to perform exercises for maximum results. I am a teacher.

Next, I am creative, always willing to push myself out of my comfort zone and encourage my members to do the same. I refuse to teach the same class week after week. While the class must be different enough to be noticeable and challenging, it is equally important that my participants are mentally and physically stimulated. It’s about engaging both the mind and body, not just the body.

Lastly, I aim to challenge belief systems. Striving to challenge myself and those who attend my workouts. I incorporate humour (albeit my version), stories, examples, and occasionally provocative comments to provoke thought. Embracing this approach and accepting that it may sometimes invite criticism. I am who I am.

Discovering Your True Instructor Identity

Knowing who you are as an instructor means you no longer rely on seeking positive feedback to validate your value in your classes. For the longest time, it mattered to me that everyone liked me. While we all acknowledge that it’s impossible to please everyone, it can still sting when “that person” approaches you and you anticipate an unpleasant encounter. In those moments, try to remember that phrase. Try to believe in it as you slowly walk back to the car, head down, feeling shattered by the words hurled at you. Break free from this cycle of relying on external conditions, such as praise, to determine your worth.

Don’t let your value be contingent upon receiving compliments. We all benefit from constructive feedback, but what happens when it turns destructive? That’s when you return to what you know is true. You know who you are and what you stand for. This is your mission statement, purpose, and what ultimately allows you to hold your head high with dignity and personal integrity.

Embracing Your True Self for Personal Growth and Resilience

Understanding the person you are, your passions, and having self-belief are not limited to teaching or instructing; it applies to all aspects of life. Embracing your true self and knowing what truly matters to you can profoundly benefit your mental well-being. It shields you against those who try to belittle or undermine you. When you have a strong sense of self and a clear understanding of your values and aspirations, the opinions of others hold less power over you. Instead of seeking external validation, you rely on your inner compass to guide your decisions and actions. This self-assurance can help you navigate life’s challenges, pursue your passions with unwavering determination, and maintain a resilient mindset when faced with negativity or criticism. By staying true to yourself and nurturing a strong sense of self-belief, you build a solid foundation for personal growth, happiness, and fulfilment.

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  1. Interesting topic and thanks for sharing your experiences and insights . Too many participants I ve witnessed have made complaints about diff instructors unaware of how much time effort energy goes into putting a class together and many are paid a low fee too, in comparison to othr professions who get a lot of $ bells and whistles additional to their hrly rate for just showing up and ticking off an hrs work without much preparation . U r not just an educator but an organizer of ideas, music and a people motivator , even a type of psychologist who needs to be aware of emotional intelligence and how u and othrs r impacted . U r wearing many hats as u are a performer , and must keep the time to music too ; a oH& S carer /first aider of physical snd mental health in the class , that requires likes for people to attend just to keep this class going , whikst making it safe for all that attend – juggling so many factors before during and after class . And to still keep that job u need an agenda to keep the clients hooked . I applaud all the instructors esp at the beginning of their career to persist and never give up and have compassion for your own journey to evolve as u need . U never fail if u see each class as an opp to learn more . Any negative feedback is simply an opportunity for u to grow in some way .and the positive ones mean u r delivering what that group needs at that time . Big hug to all the group instructors for the effort u all make to keep showing up ! And bravo to the experienced ones who shine on stage – u Rock !

    • Thank you Nicole for your amazing response to this blog. I know that many instructors who read your comment will feel heard and understand.

  2. Very well said, thank you!

    • Thank you Heidi for your feedback.


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