Saturday, April 20, 2013

Living in a bubble?

When I first started "teaching" Spinning® classes, a very dear friend of mine, another Group X instructor gave me a piece of advice, "Fake it until you make it."  Now to put that in context, we were talking about my confidence in leading the class, not faking the class.  Present yourself as having confidence, and soon, with a little experience you'll actually have the confidence.
In the movie "Fun with Dick and Jane", Tea Leoni's character has to lead a TaeBo class without any knowledge of what the heck she is doing.  Wow!  Yeah that wouldn't really happen, but it certainly shows what happens when someone that's not qualified to instruct gets put into that role.

Now for some honesty.  How hard was it to become a Spinning® instructor? Okay, maybe you're not a Spinning® instructor, maybe you're a Schwinn instructor, or Y-cycle, Cycle Fusion,etc...  but really how hard was it?  If we're all being honest, and I mean really honest with ourselves, the hardest part was in parting with the ca$h required to take the 6-8 hour course on a Saturday.  Presto! You're an Indoor Cycling instructor.
Presto! You're an Indoor Cycling instructor.

That's like giving the car keys to a 16 year on his birthday, with no prior driving experience and saying, "Don't kill anybody."

I had the benefit of have a great Spinning "Coach" as my first Group X coordinator.  She not only made sure that you knew your stuff during the audition phase of the hiring process, but she made sure that people stayed on top of their game by having mandatory "Back to Basics" classes to make sure you stayed true to your training instead of being complacent with experience.  She was my first mentor when it came to Spinning.

So I'm a firm believer that having a good mentor is important.  If you've read this far into this blog, you take your role of instructor seriously.  Not that I'm going to teach you anything you didn't know, because I'm not, but you're invested.  You're invested in doing a good job.  If you weren't you wouldn't spend the time and you'd live in a bubble of your own making.

The problem with living in a bubble is that you're isolated.  If you're making a mistake, you don't recognize it.  What's worse, maybe some new instructor wanna-be comes to your class, sees the mistakes that your making, but without experience directing him, he takes your mistakes as a "good idea" or as a "great teaching approach."  This sets up what engineers call a cascade-error.  A copy of a copy always leads to less and less definition of what the original was.

Michael Keaton showed this in his movie "Multiplicity" when they made copies of copies, pretty soon they had something that looked like the original but obviously had some special needs.  The same thing can happen in Spinning®.  You go to someone's class and they introduce you to a "new" move.  You, wanting to be cutting edge and provide your clients with the best possible experience, soon integrate this move into your routine.  Pretty soon everyone in your cycling studio is doing hovers, hip-hop and jumping jacks on the bike at 110RPM. Whoa!
Find yourself a good mentor

Without a good mentor you're in that bubble.  What makes up a good mentor?  There's a number of characteristics, but a couple that come to mind are:
  • Unwavering focus on the objective, with regard to Spinning that would be on fitness versus simply being a "popular" instructor.
  • Coach versus Instructor mentality.  Does your mentor try to educate you, other participants AND themselves.
  • Peer mentoring.  Even a good mentor needs to have peers to converse with.  Heck even Yoda was part of a Jedi council.  The point is, these peers setup an accountability structure.
As of late I have found myself without a good "personal" mentor for my Spinning, but with that void, I've surrounded myself in the cyber-community with peers that I can ask questions and opinions of.  I take other classes, several of which weren't very good, but even those I learned something from - What not to do or What I didn't like.

Hopefully you find yourself working in an environment with a Group X coordinator that is focused on a quality program, and holds you accountable.  While I wouldn't expect a fiasco like the TaeBo chaos in the above video you don't want to be responsible for hurting a participant or causing them pain and suffering.  After all, isn't it because you want to help people that keeps you teaching, because it certainly isn't for the money.

I also encourage you to change your thinking pattern from an Instructor mentality to a Coach, so that you can be a positive mentor to up and coming instructors.  Stay connected with your community of peers both in person and on the web, and keep up with the continuing education so that you don't find yourself in a bubble.

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