If you think back to the time when you were in school, you know you had a favorite teacher. And you surely had at least one teacher who was your LEAST favorite. What qualities did that great teacher have that the not so great one did not have? There is no one answer to that question, and ultimately we know that it takes a combination of qualities—indeed a blend of several qualities—to be an effective teacher who can have a lasting impact on the students.
– loves movement and loves to teach it
– shows the students that she or he cares about them and relates to them
– is an excellent communicator
– is proactive when dealing with problems, rather than being reactive
– challenges students
– knows how to explain something new to students at the level they can understand
At RedBird, we believe there are four skills that teachers can use to be as effective as possible in the studio, as well as a fifth “tool” that brings the skills together to create a meaningful teaching experience.
The first skill is observation. It is important to constantly assess the alignment, muscular imbalance, stress indicators and compensatory movement of the client(s). To do that effectively requires the teacher to be present throughout the session and to really focus on the client. Clients can feel this presence and focus, and it helps them rise beyond what they think they are capable of. It also means moving throughout the class to observe the client from multiple angles and to observe the client’s body in all orientations: prone, supine, side-lying, sitting and standing. The effective Pilates teacher develops the ability to monitor the class as a whole while making specific corrections to individuals.
The second tool is communication—and this means something different to a Pilates teacher than it does to a teacher in a classroom. For a Pilates teacher, effective communication means using both verbal cuing—and tactile cuing. Effective verbal cuing requires using the quality of voice, rhythm and intonation to challenge and progress the client; knowing the appropriate amount of talking for the client’s ability to move and intake information; educating the client without being too technical or anatomical; and using imagery and insightful vocabulary to convey information and reduce or avoid misunderstanding. Tactile cuing is a crucial feature in a Pilates class. It is used to bring the client to an awareness of desired innervations, to provide resistance to enhance the physical experience—and to help stabilize the body. Because tactile cuing involves actually touching the client, it’s important to know when and how to use touch effectively—and appropriately.
The third tool for the effective Pilates teacher is demonstration. Pilates clients learn best by observing movement done correctly by the teacher. By demonstrating proper form, the teacher is enhancing visual learning and inspiring the client(s) toward proper precision movement. In order to demonstrate movement with precision and control, our teachers must live the work and practice the self-care required to reflect optimal health.
The fourth, and possibly most important, tool is inspiration. Clients are inspired by a teacher who uses positive feedback to encourage their clients and acknowledge improvement over time, and who corrects in a non-judgmental and supportive way. The effective teacher maintains a high energy level to motivate and stimulate clients, keeps the class motivated while giving attention to a single client, and develops the ability to motivate clients of differing levels in one class. The effective Pilates teacher puts clients in touch with their potential rather than their problems.
In the end, the teachers we remember the longest and treasure the most are those who bring their experience into the studio and share it with us. At RedBird we believe that experience based on the development and application of the four skills discussed above (observation, communication, demonstration, and inspiration) provides the foundation for effective teaching and the life-changing outcomes that can follow.