Discernment and Integration – How and When To Question What You’ve Been Taught

By Skillful Teaching Mentor, Trinity Minty

Pilates teachers very well may be some of the most focused and driven people I know. Most of us are passionate about what we do and are gluttons for continuing education. A great many of us hold certificates in a wide variety of modalities, whether they are the foundations from which we came to Pilates or the building blocks we have used to develop our craft.

New information, research, and approaches are made available to us as quickly as we can sign up for the courses. And, sign up we do!

Being the motivated and inspired bunch that we are, we can’t wait to get back to the studio and share with our students all the exciting new information that we’ve learned, which brings me to the topic of this article.

How do we effectively integrate new information and why is this question even important?

What is your current approach to integrating new information? How do you harness all of the excitement and flood of information into something digestible?

For most of us, instead of being discerning about what and how much should be added, we allow ourselves to be swept up in the moment and leap in head first. Our excitement can come through in a way that leaves our students wondering who we are and what happened to the teacher we were last week.

Learning how to integrate and disseminate new information can come long before the actual information as a proactive approach. One way I set the stage for this is by consistently asking for feedback from my students. I don’t mean, “Hey, how’s my teaching?” I mean asking them how things feel, what does their body have to say about any particular movement or adjustment? What adjustments can they make in order to find more balance, ease, connectedness, range of motion, etc? Of course, when we ask questions, it’s always beneficial to know that your students may not immediately have an answer, if at all. Totally okay!

This means creating and holding space for your students to understand that there is no “wrong.” This space is essential to inspiring your students’ confidence within themselves and building a trusting relationship with you. When we teach our students to work from exactly where they are, we afford ourselves the freedom to teach from exactly where we are.

The value in teaching this way is that our students become accustomed to and comfortable with being a part of the process; it allows them to take ownership in the learning. Because of this, when we have new information to share, our students are already primed for the experience.

Another way to take proactive steps toward integrating new information is to always explain the “why” of what you’re asking your students to do. When it comes time to add new or different concepts, you can rely on the “why.”

So what is the “why” of teaching and how is it different than the “what?” This can be looked at from both the macro and micro view. The macro view: What method do we teach? The Pilates Method (and maybe more). The Micro view: In any given day, we teach many classes and/or sessions. Within those classes and sessions we teach many exercises in a variety of orders, to a variety of bodies. That is the “what.” The “why” is what drives the “what.” The macro view: Why do we teach Pilates? Why have we chosen that tool over others? Why do we teach a certain amount of hours in a day? Why do we teach at this place versus that place? The micro view: Why do we teach specific exercises in a particular order? Why do we choose to begin sessions a certain way? Why do we say “client” versus “student”? Why do we show up day after day? The “what” is the hammer and nail. The “why” is what motivates us to pick it up. Students are attracted by the “what”, but stay because of the “why.”

Becoming connected to our “why” is invaluable to offering our students the foundation from which they can discover their own “why,” and invaluable to creating an open and safe learning environment from day one.

When the time comes to experiment with a new idea or approach I like to preface the shift in direction explicitly.  “We had been setting up for spinal extension, flexion, rotation, whatever it may be, like this, now I’d like to do it with, add new approach or focus here.” Then, ask questions! How did the quality change? Was the experience different?

 

Why is integrating new information and doing it well so important?

What we work out on the mat, we work out in our lives. By integrating new information we are putting ourselves in the flow and not resisting it. It offers us the opportunity to inspire and be inspired. It offers us a space to let go of things that no longer serve us and quite possibly impede our progress and potential.

Now, it’s time to look at this in a super clear, tangible way. Because so many of our cues and approaches are passed down without question they end up leading to poor movement and lack of progress. The most recent awakening I’ve had is around scapular placement in spinal flexion. Let’s use coming into the 100’s position as a platform. We hear and most likely use cues like, curl up, reaching the arms long or toward the heels, keeping the collarbones wide. Great, yes, this is what we want. But do we always want this? Do we want this at any expense, no matter what? Or do we maybe want something a little different, but don’t know how to ask for it?  I find that cueing, and possible over-cueing, the arms down and collarbones wide in spinal flexion may get us where we think we want to go, but not necessarily to a place of greatest efficiency or where we are truly tapping into the “why” of the exercise. What is the why of the 100 anyway? I certainly have my thoughts around it, and would love to know yours, for the sake of great conversation and collaboration.

If part of what we’re looking for is solid, supported spinal flexion, we may have to let go, just a bit, of the “shoulder blades down, collarbones wide” focus. In my experience, I need some serratus to come into play with the purpose of not so much pulling the scapula forward, but drawing the ribs back, without necessarily allowing the pecs to take over creating a closing of the chest. We are looking for a sweet spot here.  This may mean that the collarbones are not quite as wide as you think they should be. I think that’s okay! Especially if you are seeing or experiencing a truly sweet abdominal curl.

This is not to say that the approach I’ve described here is the right way and that you should immediately adopt this approach, nor should you completely dismiss it. However, play with it, check it out in your own body, see what it looks like and what kind of feedback you get from your students. Then decide to keep it, tweak it, make it your own or just throw it away.

This is how good discernment happens.

Take some time to think of one way to assess whether or not you are in fact integrating new information. Does it come easily to you or do you find yourself resisting? If you find that you are meeting with resistance, choose one way that you can begin to shift. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with this.

Because a critical part of teaching is learning, I’d like to give credit where credit is due. I continue to have the absolute pleasure of working with some incredibly talented and thoughtful teachers. Chantill Lopez, who is my partner in crime, ok, maybe I am hers, has always offered clear, constructive feedback that both challenges my thinking and offers affirmation to my approach.  She has consistently and generously shared her knowledge and experience with me and offers an incredible platform for me to learn and grow as a teacher. Debra Kolwey, who in a single session last summer, possibly unknowingly, offered the seed from which this article grew. The tremendous James Crader, who, through both his movement teaching and dialogue, offered just the sustenance needed to inspire me to reconnect with this topic .  Last but certainly not least, Tina Woelbling, who was the first teacher I ever worked with. She offered a safe space for me to bring my sometimes tired and often neglected body and spirit to move in a way that felt good. Fantastic even.

Did I do the right thing using the F word?

Last week I had a moment of very real panic about whether or not I’d put my professionalism at risk.

It started when I was composing the title for the latest Thinking Pilates Podcast. My first idea and gut instinct was to use profanity in the title. I typed it in. “No Fucking Around…”

Then I began to think about my podcast co-founder and frequent co-host. How would she feel about this? What are her sensibilities? She knows me enough to know it’s not about being vulgar. (I hoped.) 

I was actually starting to get a little sweaty at that point, playing out in my head the potential negative outcomes.

Then I thought about the teacher I’d interviewed for the podcast. Nah! He’d be fine. I’ve heard him use swear words while giving a workshop. This is his jam. (Or was it? It’s a bigger audience. Did that make a difference?)

I texted the teacher. “I’m playing with the podcast title and want to know what you think about this…”

Heart now racing, I stared at the phone.

Waiting. Waiting. Ping.

“I’m a profanity lover too, so I really love that title.”

Phew.

After deciding that my co-host wouldn’t mind, I blasted it to the world.

That night I woke up a total mess thinking “What the hell have I done?! I just put that podcast out to everyone I know on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter! Jesus. What are people going to think?!”

I lied there thinking, worrying, and fantasizing about what was sure to be everyone’s outrage and embarrassment. I pictured who would be turned off. I imagined what they would say, why they would find it distasteful and unprofessional to the most egregious degree.

Then it dawned on me: who am I? Who do I present myself as a teacher, mentor, author? How to I present myself to people when I first meet them, when I teach them?

Oh, right! I frequently use profanity. I actually love the F word. I am passionate about sharing my knowledge and myself AND using swear words is sometimes a way I express that. I’m also honest and authentic and not afraid to be who I am. AND I’m chalk full of fucking integrity and professionalism. I’m kind, caring, thoughtful, insightful, empathetic, and articulate. I’m even appropriately mannered (sans profanity — mostly) around children.  

I have 6 tattoos, ride a motorcycle, have cared for dying grandparents, birthed 2 children, supported my colleagues, donated money, hiked a volcano, made money, blown money, traveled the world with my family, studied, worked, studied, worked, written a book, been a newspaper reporter, owned four businesses, been a professional dancer, coached a kids soccer team and so much more.  

And I like to — occasionally — use the F word.

Did I do damage to my professionalism? Not from my point of you, but maybe from yours. I’m curious. In fact, I’m dying to know. 

Will you and others judge my professionalism because I put the F word in my podcast title? Will it make you not want to learn from me, know me, work with me? 

Here’s what else I’m wondering?

  • What is professionalism (to you) and are there gray areas?
  • How would you define it?
  • Have you thought much about it for yourself and how it impacts your success as a teacher?
  • Does the way you dress, do your hair, and keep yourself clean matter? To what degree? Where’s the line? (Would you fire a teacher who had consistent and pungent body odor? — It’s okay to laugh, but I’ve actually been in this situation.)
  • Do you swear at home, but not when you’re teaching? Why?
  • Do you want people to perceive you in a certain way? (Of course you do, but what way: according to your level of knowledge, success in business, by the way you look, by your religion, your morals, your toughness?)

Right now I’m feeling super grateful that some of you are reading this. It’s a blessing to have a platform to stir up the discourse (you might call it something else) in our profession, to share knowledge and grow as people and yes, professionals.

I hope many of you will share your opinion.

Oh, and the link that that podcast I was talking about is here.

With warmest and most sincere regards for your opinions (and professionalism) — Chantill

 

Fearless Teaching – What if you didn’t need to be RIGHT?

What does fearless teaching look like?

To answer that question we have to begin by asking another more poignant question, one that you might not want to answer and one that might be difficult to answer honestly:

How committed are you to being right?

Now hold on. Before you just jump in and say “No, that’s not me. I’m totally willing to be wrong. I’m comfortable with that, with not having the answers. I totally feel fine when I’m not right” I want you to stop for a moment and be really, really honest with yourself.

Imagine a situation near or far from this moment when you remember not being right whether you were struggling to answer a student’s question, or you didn’t know what to do or where to go with a student because some unexpected challenge had arisen, or someone actually challenged you. PuMrRightt yourself in the situation fully. Who was it, when was it, where were you, what was the question you couldn’t answer or the problem you couldn’t solve or the student you couldn’t get through to (and I know that happens ALL the time, so finding a situation shouldn’t be that hard).

Play this little game with a teaching situation and a personal situation THEN ask yourself again: How important is it to me to be right?

To give you a bit of perspective here’s what needing to be right or feeling like being right is a definite drive looks like:

  • You are asked a question by a student (or colleague) and you don’t have the answer or you only have part of the answer and you’re maybe not that sure even about that part. You start to feel sweaty, awkward, uncomfortable. Your throat constricts a little, you get a bit panicky, you start to feel like you are inadequate, unskilled, lack knowledge, self-doubt seeps in. Maybe you get defensive, maybe you deflect, maybe you try to turn the conversation elsewhere or say that the answer to the question is really just not that important.
  • You have a student who is severally challenged and you are constantly asked to be creative with how you apply the work. On this occasion you feel like you’re really onto something, you’ve come up with a strategy, exercise, program that you are confident is going to work, maybe even offer a little breakthrough. You ask: Do you feel that? Doesn’t that feel better/stronger/more open/easier? Can you feel the difference now? And the answer is a firm “NO.” Ack! What?! You were so sure and the movement looked so good. Maybe they just don’t get it. Maybe they can’t feel it. Maybe they don’t know how to articulate the change. NO?! Now what? You start to worry that you’ve gotten it all wrong, you misread the situation, you don’t really know what you’re talking about. Or you get frustrated with the student because obviously they are not doing something right. You ask them to do it again, you guide them overtly to what it is you want them to experience.

Panic, confusion, self-doubt, defensiveness, paralysis, annoyance, a lack of presence, blame (blame on your student/other person or yourself)…All of these experiences indicate that you are indeed not comfortable with being right and may even be attached to being right.

Let me say here that WANTING and NEEDING to be right is not the same as having a strong desire to be wise, knowledgable, helpful, and effective in our teaching. Wanting and needing to be right is a distortion of the latter thing based on sustaining the ego’s top position in our subconscious psychological hierarchy.

Our, likely unacknowledged, commitment to being right also looks more subtly like this:

  • Always telling our students what to do:
    • Constantly offering corrections (repeating the same corrections over and over again).
    • Always telling them when a correction needs to be made and how to do it.
  • Not educating our students as to WHY we are doing what we’re doing or even WHAT we are doing:
    • Not taking the time to teach our students the names of the exercises.
    • Not taking the time to teach our students how to change their own springs.
    • Not putting a priority on self-practice and home-practice.
  • Never asking our students what their experience is of a movement, task, exercise:
    • Not asking specific questions about their experience (asking “how was that for you” doesn’t cut it. Any question that they can say “fine” to is out).
      • Instead asking questions that are specific and will lead the student to turn their attention — either beforehand or afterward — to a clear aspect of their experience.
        • “When you reach your right leg and your left arm do you notice any tension or pain along that diagonal? Do you experience more power in the connection to…”
    • Only asking questions that we know we’ll get a “yes” to.

Our desire to be right comes from a motivation to make a difference and keep our students safe. And it also comes from a place of saving face, looking good/smart/insightful. The latter attachment gets in the way of powerful, fearless and unapologetic teaching. It gets in the way of the student’s success and instead puts the teacher’s success at the center.

I’m guilty of this and I’ve watched countless (well intended and talented) teachers do this over and over again.

What it ultimately leads to is complacency in both. It also leads to students being held hostage by their teachers because they never truly make lasting and sustainable change.  (This is a topic we’ve dived into before at ST and you can learn more about this important skill HERE.)

Instead of searching for and constantly prompting the “yes” answer in order to satisfy our desire to be RIGHT, what would happen if we were committed to the “no”? What would happen if we were able to show up for each class and session not only expecting the “I don’t get it” response, but welcoming it?


Case in point: 

A few days ago I had the absolute pleasure of watching a teacher work for 2 hours with a young man in his 30s with a spinal cord injury. The student is a quadriplegic and has been working Pilates professionals for about a year now with great success.

What I saw was one of the most straight forward, unapologetic, and absolutely genuine teacher-student experiences I’ve ever seen. Honestly, with all the master teachers I’ve had the pleasure of observing and working with I can truly say that this was an exceptional experience. And it wasn’t really about what was done, although that was great too, it was about how it was done.

The teacher, James Crader of Evolved Body in Gold River, CA, was totally present and absolutely unafraid. Throughout the session he never asked “Is that okay? Are you feeling like that’s too much? Should we slow down?” He was purposeful and direct and just did what needed to be done. And he was, from the outset, kind, funny, and opened himself up (without compromising his objective) to what I’d call I’m just a dude real, human engagement. No pretenses, no excuses, and no attachment to being right.

In fact, it was in that session I first had the thought: What if we actually WANT the “no” answer? Could this keep us committed to curiosity and learning rather than getting things right?

James’s fearless compassion and curiosity looked like this:

  1. Throughout the session he was not only totally present, but unapologetic about either any uncomfortable positions (particularly when maneuvering the student around) or challenge the student might be feeling. AND this was consistently balanced with a sense of intimacy and awareness that seemed to hold both of them with total compassion. James always sought ways of making it most comfortable and beneficial, but when things went awry, which they did often enough, there was absolutely no resistance or hesitation. There was just…figure it out and keep going.

  2. Laughter and personality, not just the teacher face.
  3. Educating: “The reason we’re going here is to… . Remember we were talking the other day about _____? This is about taking this deeper.” (I’m paraphrasing this part.)
  4. When the answer to any question was “no” or “not really” James’s response was something like:
    • Okay, I’ll take that.
    • Okay, let’s try this…
    • Think of it this way…
    • Let’s take this from another direction…
    • That’s so interesting that you’d say that. Let me put it this way/Let’s try it again, but instead do ____
  5. There was never “You feel that, right? Isn’t that great?” comments, which I generally hear ad nauseam. What I heard a lot of:
  6. Notice how _____ feels and where the work is coming from/how you could make that different/work more from ____ etc…
  7. What I want you to explore is _____. How are you going to do that?
  8. What breath are you going to use there?
  9. Could your neck get longer?
  10. Could you connect back into the _______?
  11. You have 6 more repetitions to _______ (experiment with how to work more from the back/how to get more _____/find a peaceful breath whatever that means to you.

In their book The 15 Commitments of a Conscious Leader authors Diana Chapman, Jim Dethmer, and Kaley Klemp talk about above or below the line leadership or consciousness. Taking “radical” responsibility is their number one commitment. Above the line responsibility looks like a willingness to be wrong and accept every situation as it unfolds – no resistance or wanting the world to be different. No “I should know the answer” or “This should be working.” Below the line responsibility looks like blaming ourselves (we teachers are particularly good at this and this is BELOW THE LINE) and others when things don’t go right. It looks like being totally committed to being right (in all of its insidious forms).

When we are above the line responsible, we can also be more fully present. The situation is no longer about getting something, but about learning something. In teaching I find this to be the number one thing that defines great teachers. A commitment to learning, to being curious, to loving the “No, I’m not getting this” answer, and to be unapologetic about what they have or don’t have to offer. They just are. Nothing to prove.

What would it look like to be a fearless teacher? What would it feel like to invite and love those moments — as many and varied as they are — of not knowing the answer or not getting the outcome we’re searching/hoping for?

For me, it’s a totally relief! It creates space for investigation, exploration, and truly being in relationship with not only my students but my work. And I freaking LOVE what I do, so this is nothing but GOOD all the way around!

Your Challenge:

  • The next time you’re teaching notice all the small ways you desire to be right and also notice how this motivation might be keeping you from truly listening, being present and learning (how it separates you from your student.)
  • Next time you find yourself defending a position to a spouse, partner, friend, or colleague notice why you need to be right and what it might be like to simply try to understand where the disconnect might be.
  • Make a list of all the reasons why being right/getting it right feels important. Which of these things is driven by above the line responsibility or below the line responsibility.

I’d love to hear what you think about this and how it goes.

Share below in the comments.

Mwah!
— c

Ep. 25: Missed Opportunities in Teaching – How to recognize and utilize pivotal opportunities for potent teaching

It happens to the best of us. We get in our own way. In this episode Chantill and Debora explore how we can get caught in our own agendas or lack of confidence and miss valuable opportunities to bring power and precision to our teaching.

Whether you’re a new teacher focused on mastering complex choreography or an experienced teacher focused on working the minutia of a single body part it is possible, and sometimes very likely, that you miss opportunities to dig deep with your students, distracted by your plan.

In this podcast:

  • What kinds of opportunities should we be looking for and how those opportunities sometimes depend on where we are in our teaching path, how much experience we have.
  • How to identify an opportunity and let it lead the way without being wishy washy.
  • How to utilize an opportunity AND still maintain flow and forward motion in a class or session (rather than getting mired down in the micro view, which is very easy to do). We talk about this as creativity within a consistent framework.
    • How does the “framework” differ – what are your priorities – if you are a brand new teacher versus a more experienced teacher?
  • How “seeing” opportunities is linked to self-confidence, trusting what you see, and following a hypothesis to see if you’re on track.

You’re going to take away a ton of great stuff from this one AND it is a preview of Ep. 26 where we interview several teachers about how to develop discernment in their teaching. Discernment is, after all, one way we are able to identify those juicy opportunities to turn our teaching into something more than just rote instruction.

Part 2 – The 4 Most Pivotal Teaching Tools For Enhancing Motivation in our Pilates Students and Ourselves

In this article we look at our final two key concepts to enhancing motivation in our students and providing a premise for us to stay on track and committed to our students’ progress.

Here’s a brief recap of what we covered in the first two articles: “Number One Reason Pilates Students Don’t Stay Motivated & What We Can Do About It Today” and Part 1 of this series.

We talked in-depth about the effects of unacknowledged, unrealistic and clearly articulated expectations, and we established that there are 4 Key Concepts, when promoted in our daily teaching, create greater and sustainable motivation.

 

Those Key Concepts are:

  • Intention: Setting a foundation for starting over (empathy)
  • Core Commitments: Being versus doing (values)
  • Discrepancy: Realistic assessment of progress (perception)
  • Self-efficacy: Proof of success (experience)

In Part 1 of this series we explored intentions and core commitments, including ways we could employ these ideas in our teaching, in our studio environments and share them with our students.

Today we are looking at the last two elements, discrepancy and self-efficacy, which go hand in hand and directly relate to our ability to assess, re-assess, track and appropriately share our findings with our students. This way we can acknowledge their progress and highlight the closing gap between where they started and where they are headed.

The concepts of discrepancy and self-efficacy come from a method used in rehabilitative treatment programs called Motivational Interviewing. Based on years of research, founders of the method, William Miller and Steve Rollnick, were able to identify the primary tools that would lead to change in people with substance abuse issues.

I’ve worked with this method in a myriad of ways and incorporated it into my 12- and 24-month mentoring program as a foundation for helping teachers create businesses that are flourishing and sustainable. I know these tools work because I’ve even used them on myself 😉

 

Discrepancy: Realistic assessment of progress (perception)

Discrepancy is the difference between two things or two points. In the Pilates environment we can focus on the difference between where a student is at any given moment in their practice (Point A) and their short- and/or long-term goals (Point B).

The first thing required of us is that we assess where our students are starting. This DOES NOT have to be complicated, it just has to be measurable, clear and trackable.

 

Here are my top five tips for creating an assessment strategy that WORKS:

  1. Keep it SIMPLE – Whatever you do, keep it simple. And do the same damn thing EVERY time. There is no need to make it hard on yourself. Tap into what you feel like is most important to know about your students both for your teaching and their progress.

    Use your expertise and the things that are relevant to your teaching style.

    DO pick 2-4 things that you can ACTUALLY MEASURE. Ideas:

    • Standing postural assessment where you measure the deviations between key boney points IE. center of ear to shoulder from the side, center of kneecap to center of 2nd and 3rd toes.
    • Measure ribcage expansion using a measuring tape. Always measure pre or post session.
    • Measure hamstring length with a standard sit and reach test.
    • Measure spinal extension in a prone position by looking at the distance between the floor and the center of the sternum.
    • Measure abdominal strength by how low the legs can be lowered to the ground with the low back staying imprinted.
    • Measure leg rotation standing on the Functional Footprints.
  2. Stick with WHAT YOU KNOW – Again, stick with your skills, talents and expertise. Don’t try to do something new. Honestly anything will work as long as it’s relevant to the progress you expect to make within the work and you are consistent.
  3. Pick ONE thing as a focus – Identify your overarching goal for your teaching. Perhaps you want to first and foremost enhance balanced range of motion in your students and no matter what they come in with or what their goals are that’s your philosophy. In this case you’d want to likely focus on testing the major joint ROM as a part of your assessment. Everything else can fall under that ONE thing.

    Or maybe you are all about building strength and that’s what your students come to you for. You’d do more strength testing. You might have a rehab or spinal pathology focus. Create your assessment (keeping it simple and sticking to what you know) revolve around this ONE thing.
  4. ASK QUESTIONS to verify your assessment – As you are assessing it’s important to ask leading questions that will help you verify whether or not what you see or suspect is also the student’s experience. You don’t need to do this with everything, but if you see a drastic postural issue or deviation (IE. scoliosis beyond 10 degrees, flat feet, knocked knees, forward head greater than 1.5 inches) you will want to inquire whether or not the student has injured an area, had pain, or been diagnosed with a suspected condition. Be VERY thoughtful about this last one. You don’t want to label your student and it is NOT within your scope of practice to diagnose.

    Usually I will ask first about injury and sensation to see what the student’s internal experience might be. This often leads to them divulging information they forgot to mention on their intake.
  5. Be in AGREEMENT with your student’s assessment of themselves – You want to ALWAYS note what the student says their experience is in particular the area you are measuring so that when you reassess you can use their own words and the discrepancy has greater weight and value to them not just to you.

    For example, if you see a significant forward head and rounded shoulders, find out what kind of ROM they have turning their head right to left or if they experience pain or discomfort while turning, flexing or extending. Write down the student’s EXACT words so you can help them compare their later experience. I call this the “compare and contrast.” Also have accurate and solid data (consistent in the way you derive a measurement) so that the discrepancy is more direct and likely to be noticed by the student.

 

Next, we must KNOW what their goals are and keep track of them! This may seem very simple, but more often than not we spend very little time unearthing short- and long-term goals  — having our students simply write down their goals on a piece of paper, never digging into what they are really after — and then immediately or quickly forget and get narrowly focused on what WE are trying to do or what WE want to accomplish.

Facilitating a strong sense of discrepancy in our students means that point B has to be very clear, well-articulated and honest. Sometimes our students don’t even know what they want or they only have a vague idea, but it’s not specifically linked to their life or their deepest desires. It’s our responsibility to ask questions that will reveal what our students are after in a way that has meaning to them.

 

Question Ideas:

  • Ask your students what they miss doing?
  • What is their pain preventing them from doing that feels like it diminishes their quality of life?
  • What do they hope to do someday that their physical health is preventing them from doing?
  • What would it feel like to be as vital and vibrant as possible? What would they be capable of then?
  • What activities, trips, etc. do they have coming up that they want to prepare for?
  • What daily activities are they currently prevented from doing that if by doing them would make everything else easier or unnecessary?

 

Not only write down the goals for you to have and track, write them down for the student to keep and look at every day.

One last thing. Set specific dates for reassessing progress. Tell your student and build anticipation. Keep talking about where you are going and why. Remind your student of where they want to go and find ways to tie into it everything they do. Be careful not to beat it to death, but DO make it a common thread.

How do you actually show discrepancy?

It can happen at any moment as long as you use the specific Point A and Point B comparison. But it happens most powerfully when you reassess the original measurements or qualities. The better you are at offering proof, the greater self-efficacy you promote.

 

Self-efficacy: Proof of success (experience)

Whereas discrepancy is the tool you use to articulate the distance between Point A and Point B, self-efficacy is the result of a positive result, measurement or a closing of the gap. The more you close the gap and can offer proof (that your student can experience) the more empowered they feel and believe that change is actually possible AND that THEY have something to do with it.

This is a little bit of a personal style thing as you will want to find ways to offer proof regularly – throughout a session potentially and definitely through a series of sessions regardless of the actual assessment. However, significant proof is offered during your reassessment and in relationship to specific goals.

 

As a point of reference, here are some of the ways I tend to offer proof:

  1. Ask leading, Student-Centered questions –
    1. Can you feel how this is different than what you were doing/experiencing last week/time we did this exercise?
    2. Are you able to say what feels different about this exercise now as compared to last time/last month/the first time? (This is also a good way to establish or reinforce discrepancy.)
    3. I noticed that you’re making the transition between x and y much more smoothly, can you feel how it’s different? Yes? How?
    4. Can you see how this exercise is improving your walking/squatting/climbing stairs? This is crucial to reaching your goal of x.
  2. Pointing out improvement and getting agreement –
    1. I am so impressed by how you are doing x. Can you feel the difference between when we first started this exercise and now?
  3. Exclaiming/proclaiming progress –
    1. Look at how you are able to do all five abdominal exercises now! Do you remember just 2 weeks ago when you had to rest between each one?

As I said, you have to find your own way, but whatever you do do it regularly and with the intention of bridging the gap between Point A and Point B and offering proof.

The most important thing to me in all of this is that you make it EXPLICIT, INTENTIONAL, and use all 4 Key Concepts CONSISTENTLY!

Like with all tools, you take the things that make sense to you and that you can easily integrate. I encourage you to re-read this article in a few days and/or print it out and go through it (and potentially the other preceding articles) with a highlighter. Choose ONE piece to begin with. Ask yourself where could you get the most bang for your buck right now. Then perhaps you make a plan for implementing ONE other thing each week or month depending on if you are trying to get others to also use the tool or just playing with it yourself.

AND I am totally here if you need some help. Call me! Let’s chat about how you can make the biggest difference with this work.

 

P.S. If you are looking for a way to get your students to practice more outside of the studio, check out the upcoming 30- and 66-day Online Student Practice Programs/Challenges I’m leading beginning November 30th.

If you are teacher you can encourage your students to get involved (you’d get to join for free if you’re a studio owner or if you refer 3 or more students). Or become an affiliate and earn $17 per student who signs up and participates in the program.

Get all the details HERE >>>
V
iew the course registration page HERE >>>

P.P.S. If you are considering joining as an affiliate, email me at chantill@skillfulteaching.com and I’ll invite you into the preview course so you can see everything your students will experience in the first 30 days.

Transformed by Fire – A True Story: Teaching as an anchor to sanity and hope.

In the past 5 days I’ve been torn with how to feel about what’s going on for Trinity and the other 100s of folks who have been affected by the Valley Fires. There is a part of me that aches every time I think about it, begins to unravel around the fact that it’s not fair, it’s too horrible, it shouldn’t have happened to (her) anyone.

It’s hard to pull back from this place. But I’m also deeply drawn to what feels like the greater truth, which is that I am wholly accepting of reality, in love with reality, and trust that the Universe is friendly – that what DOES happen, is what SHOULD happen, because – in fact – it has happened. Not sure if that makes sense to you, but for me it means no resistance to what IS happening, only embracing what already is and taking action as I can to change or affect change on what’s yet to come.

In this process I relax, I open up to a greater sense of peace, compassion, kindness and willingness to be fully present for all that is, just AS it IS. Of course I do not wish these tragic things to have happened, and yet they did happen. I believe my choice is that I could either carry around a lot of anger, sorrow, and be paralyzed by my resistance or I can move into it with all the love I can muster and am capable of and DO something now.

This morning I was doing my daily meditation (day 41 today – thank you “Miracle Morning”) and using the Metta or Loving Kindness meditation that I usually do and something totally shifted. Spontaneously, unconsciously even, I began to repeat the words:

  • I AM filled with loving kindness.
  • I AM well. I AM free from all internal and external dangers.
  • I AM in love with reality and truly free.

The HUGE difference here is that typically you would say:

  • MAY I be filled with loving kindness.
  • MAY I be well…

The difference between hoping it to be so and acknowledging it AS currently BEING SO was monumental.

I could and still can recognize that in THIS MOMENT I AM truly filled with loving kindness. I AM well. I AM free from all internal and external dangers. I AM in love with reality and truly free. It made me realize that although these things are not always true, indeed they often shift second to second, I am capable of stepping into the moment so fully, no matter what else is happening, and recognize what I AM now and that not all of me, or my true self, has to be torn at all. In the midst of such deep hurt, loss, fear, guilt, helplessness, but also hope, vulnerability and rawness it is possible to be well, to be filled with love, to be at peace…if only for a split second.

And then maybe again, and again, and again, we can return.

As I am re-reading this post before adding my final thoughts, I recognize how selfish it is (although perhaps masked by the fact that I hope it will be somehow meaningful to you); my way of working through what is to me nothing compared to what it is for Trinity or so many others.

And the truth is I do think it is an opportunity to question ourselves, to dig deeper, and to extend ourselves more – or at least see how much further we are capable of extending.

Again I thank you for all the love you’ve shown Trinity and her family. I hope you are having a beautiful day.

Sending you all love.

xoxox
— c

If you want a TOTALLY KICK-ASS teaching life in & out of the Pilates studio…READ THIS!

…To inspire you to take action, make change, investigate, be honest and dig deep into what would REALLY change the way you design your business, your teaching, and how it all fits into your REAL LIFE!

One of the things I am MOST COMMITTED to achieving through Skillful Teaching is helping teachers develop their inner and outer teacher; to support them in creating a fulfilling, long-lasting, sustainable, and authentic teaching career that is a reflection of their personal values and is in balance with ALL they want to BE, DO, and HAVE.

To that end…here we go:

 

1. Make SELF-PRACTICE a priority no matter how small NO MATTER WHAT!

My greatest piece of advise is to create a self-practice program for yourself that ABSOLUTELY, 100% and without compromise reflects the realities of your life, your teaching schedule and your personal level of motivation.

What I mean by that is lower your expectations and be kind and loving to yourself. Be in love with the reality of all the demands on your life and your time and create a practice that FITS.

If you are best with a 20 minute workout everyday then do that. If you thrive on the long hour practice once a week then do that. Do whatever creates the least resistance and feels the best. This is the ONLY way you are likely to create a CONSISTENT, EMPOWERING, AND EFFECTIVE PRACTICE.

And you practice is a dedication to your body, your health, your mental state, your business, your learning, your students, your LIFE. Figure out how to actually get it done!

 

2. Know what you STAND FOR.

What do you personally and professional stand for? What are your priorities, your purpose for teaching, your unwavering reasons for showing up?

Having a strong point of view from which to teach helps ensure two things:

One, that you ACTUALLY KNOW what you stand for and can stand for it or fight for it and turn it into a powerful vision for your teaching and your business. MOST teachers have no real idea what they stand for in their teaching and their life and so when faced difficult decisions or challenges flounder and flail without direction. This makes maintaining a strong teaching presence very difficult!
Two, that you can ATTRACT STUDENTS who share your vision and your point of view in some way. When you are clear, you clearly draw the RIGHT PEOPLE to you. When you draw the right people to you, they are more likely to stay! Woot woot! Can you say Student Retention!

3. Be where you are and USE WHAT YOU KNOW.

This one comes from years and years of being an education junky and then more years helping education junkies kick their “learning” habit.

YES! obviously learning is essential to teaching. AND YET for 90% of teachers they never use 90% of what they learn.

We are addicted to the acquisition of stuff and in this case the “stuff” is new material, knowledge, tricks, tools, etc. We are always looking for the next shiny object, which is – in all honesty – just a distraction from actually having to USE THE KNOWLEDGE WE HAVE!

Mostly, I believe this happens because it’s easier (less risk) to acquire knowledge than to integrate, translate, articulate and put it into practice in a meaningful way. We are afraid of failing, of not getting it right, of not fully understanding and we like to be COMFORTABLE. Learning is comfortable (for the most part 😉 Putting yourself out there and testing your knowledge is less comfortable.

I know this is not true for everyone, but it is largely true even if we don’t want to admit it.

The other possibility is that we feel like to be of value we have to know a lot. Come on! How many of you believe that? I do! But I also know it’s not true!

The problem with that that learning more DOESN’T equate to knowing more or being better. It mostly just leads to information fatigue, a lot of wasted paper, and a maxed out credit card.

I promise you, you will be MORE SATISFIED if you spend time becoming masterful at a few things and spending more time figuring out how to effectively apply those things and working on YOURSELF (self-care and self-practice) so that you can always be at your best.

 

4. Cultivate community.

This one is actually so simple and yet many of us find it incredibly difficult especially if we don’t teach in a studio with other teachers or come from a small town OR find ourselves isolated for whatever reason. BUT it is SO IMPORTANT!

We all need support. We need personal and professional support. We need to know we are not alone. We need to have a place to ask questions, be a part of exciting and creative solutions, learn and explore. We need to be guided and be guides to others.

Whether it’s a physical in-person community or a virtual community I encourage you to find a place to connect with other teachers on a REGULAR BASIS.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Ask a question. Start a conversation. Contribute an insight. Make yourself known and heard and be a support and ear for others.

Withholding yourself from the community is in and of itself an act of selfishness on your part 🙂 And GENEROSITY is a fundamental key to success and fulfillment!

 

5. And finally…Be Generous!

Generosity takes many, many forms AND it is – as I said above – a foundation for fulfillment and success, both financial and otherwise. Here are they ways I encourage you to practice GENEROSITY:

Give back to yourself with self-care and self-practice. Time off. Rejuvenating food. Frequent breaks. Creative endeavors. Anything luxurious.
Keep an open mind and open heart in business. Always speak and act from a place of wishing others success and joy.
Share your knowledge, experience, insights, tips, tricks and strategies with others. If you are invested in the success of others, success will more easily come to you.
Believe and trust that there is enough to go around and that YOU have something UNIQUE to offer – just like everyone else.
Never believe you “own” your clients. Encourage them to learn from other teachers, to work with other teachers and to OWN THEIR PRACTICE with or without you. Remember it’s not about you it’s about THEM!
Give back to your community! Donate your time, your services, your money, your space to causes greater than yourself on a REGULAR basis!

Generosity begets generosity.

 

And that’s it! Ha! Simple, right?! It’s one of those easier said than done kind of things, but you can do it! And when you do these 5 things on a regular basis you WILL experience your teaching career in and out of the studio as being TOTALLY KICK-ASS!

With love and gratitude,
Chantill

 

Join me for one of two FREE Happy Hour presentations for Pilates Teachers

Friday, August 14th 6:30 – 8 pm @ Humani Pilates – 2020 I Street, Sacramento &

Friday, August 28th 5:30-7 pm @ Pilates with Anne – 35 Petaluma Blvd. N, Petaluma

Five Steps to Creating a KICK-ASS Teaching Life In & Out of the Studio!

 

How ENGAGED are you in your teaching, in your work, in your life?

If your answer is that you don’t know or you’re not sure, then I invite you to explore what is absolutely possible and within your reach:

To be a FULLY ENGAGED teacher and person who is able to create and sustain a balanced life, financial success, and personal fulfillment through teaching!

Come and enjoy an adult beverage and nosh, mingling and stimulating conversation with local teachers and find out more about a new, unique opportunity to get in-depth support and mentoring right here in Sacramento.

Chantill will not only share 5 steps to creating a kick-ass teaching life in and out of the
studio, 
but introduce you to her company Skillful Teaching and the one-of-a-kind 12-month
Mentoring Program
designed to fill ALL THE BLANK spaces teachers are left to fill on their own
once they are out in the professional world.

Here are the questions teachers who participate in the Mentoring Program are getting answers to:

  • How do I actually make money without working ALL the time?!
  • How do I plan and progress my students so they are challenged and engaged for the long run?
  • How do I find my niche and position myself or my business in a way that sets me apart?
  • How do I teach an awesome multi-level class while keeping people safe?
  • How do I hire and train teachers to work for me and KEEP THEM?
  • Should I have independent contractors or employees?
  • What’s the most effective way to do a first session intake?
  • What’s my vision for my business and how do I market myself and/or my studio?
  • How do I support my staff?
  • How do I support my students and keep them motivated?
  • What are the best ways to get students to do their homework?
  • How do I retain my clients and keep revenue flowing during the slow times?
  • How do I move to the next phase in my career or teaching?
  • I’m bored and/or burnt out, what comes next?
  • How do I start a teacher training program in my studio?

The 4 Most Pivotal Teaching Tools For Enhancing Motivation in our Pilates Students and Ourselves

Here we are at long last, the next article in the series on leading our students toward greater, sustained MOTIVATION.

In February I posted the first article: “Number One Reason Pilates Students Don’t Stay Motivated & What We Can Do About It TODAY!”

If you want to know more about how EXPECTATIONS are likely thwarting you and your students and causing a serious lack of internal motivation, you will want to read the first article. Go there now.

I also explain the value of and how to extrapolate intentions – the first key concept – but want to say a few more things about intentions before we move on to the next three concepts.

 

Here’s the premise I presented in article 1:

When we are aware of the power of unacknowledged and unrealistic expectations we open ourselves up to understanding the four key concepts that will lead us to cultivating and supporting greater, sustained motivation in our students (and ourselves).

 

4 Key Concepts

Intention: Setting a foundation for starting over (empathy)

Core Commitments: Being versus doing (values)

Discrepancy: Realistic assessment of progress (perception)

Self-efficacy: Proof of success (experience)

 

 

Unhelpful expectations, or expectations that we are unconscious of, create a fundamental block for all of us in everything we do.

When unmet they spin us out into stories of guilt, failure, being the kind of person who can’t live up to what they say they are going to do.

This is exactly what happens for our students every time they don’t live up to the expectations they have set for themselves or those they believe have been set by someone else. In this case perhaps a higher Pilates power that dictates what and how they should progress. (Be aware of if you are actually channeling this higher power and not aware of it.) Without a clear intention these stories will VERY LIKELY depress motivation.

 

Intentions Continued

Setting a foundation for starting over (empathy)

 

The reality is that some of us are better at mitigating the stories and self-talk that come along with not meeting expectations. Some of us can sustain a level of motivation for a few a little while, exercise self-forgiveness and compassion, and some of us will stop all action at the first sign of “perceived” failure. Often the primary difference between motivational ebb and sustenance is intention. 

After we have taken some time to identify the expectations that are guiding us, which ones are helpful or not (read the previous article on the subject here) then we have to get clear about HOW we meet our expectations and our goals – or any moment really.

We discussed intentions at some length in the previous article, but I thought it would be helpful to take a moment to expand briefly on the topic before diving in to Core Commitments.

For clarity’s sake let’s breakdown our students efforts or practice this way:

  1. goal (that’s the thing we want to achieve)
  2. An expectation with regard to that goal (that’s the story or belief that we will or will not reach the goal)
  3. An intention (how we show up to achieve the goal and meet the expectation.)

Intentions, Empathy & Starting Over

For the purposes of helping our students achieve greater motivation we will say that intention is what holds the goal and the expectation; it is the desire to be a certain way not necessarily create or achieve a specific thing.

Part of what we do as teachers is lead and we lead not only by example but by helping our students see to the heart of their own desires, which in turn stimulates a much deeper sense of internal motivation and a willingness to keep showing up even when things don’t go as planned (which is often!).

Being able to help our students, directly or indirectly, identify the intention that is behind each goal the more likely we are to be able to keep them on the path to practicing and gaining ground. This is also an expression of empathy on our part as the coach, leader, and guide. With a wisely held intention we can both be empathetic and help the student to extend self-empathy.

We do that by having regular conversations with our students to discover what is most important to them in reaching their goals and then reflect back to them that even if they don’t reach their goals in the time or manner expected that they can continue in a dedicated and steadfast way lead by their intentions.

 

Core Commitments

Being versus doing (values)

If you haven’t heard me talk about core commitments yet I’d be super surprised. It’s a tool that is at the very heart of Skillful Teaching because in my experience core commitments are absolutely essential to our long term, sustainable success as teachers.

For our purposes, however, I want to talk about how we can help our students identify what’s most important to them internally, personally, even emotionally and psychologically, so that motivation is sustainable no matter what the external circumstances.

Sally Kempton – yoga and mindfulness teacher and core commitments originator – writes that your core commitments “can withstand any amount of chaos and remain in place even when your external commitments are dissolving around you.”

Core commitments are a reflection of our deepest values. Anchoring into them means that our motivation is powered by something much more powerful than external results.

Here are examples of a core commitment that your students can connect to for themselves:

  • Honesty
  • Generosity
  • Kindness
  • Self-improvement
  • Compassion
  • Being of service (to family or the world)
  • Health
  • Nature

 

When translating core commitments into a relevant strategy for motivation, I like to frame them like this:

“I’m the kind of person who…”

This makes the core commitment incredibly REAL, PRACTICAL, and USEABLE, which of course is very important for us in order to apply them to our work with our students.

Here are some examples of how these core commitments can become a deeply rooted internal motivator for our students:

CC = Honesty
“I’m the kind of person who is always honest with myself and can knows the truth is that my life is better when I feel strong and am pain free.”

CC = Generosity
“I’m the kind of person who is not only generous to others, but am also always generous to myself. My Pilates practice is a generous gift to my health and well being.”

CC = Being of service
“I’m the kind of person who is able to be depended on by my family and friends. Staying healthy and strong means that I have the energy and vitality to be called on when ever there is a need.

 

It can be much simpler than that too, depending on the student. For me, I’m committed to being a good example to my kids to my statements run the gamut.

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t get angry easily.
I’m the kind of person who puts my shoes away every time I walk in the door
I’m the kind of person who sits down to do one thing at a time, not 2 or 3.
I’m the kind of person who likes to laugh.

How do we get our students to do this?

Remember this is the Psychology of Teaching, so it wouldn’t be surprising if some of this is uncomfortable for you. Nor would it be surprising if you were sitting there reading this wondering how the hell do I put this in to my teaching!

The truth is maybe you won’t. But there is tremendous benefit to knowing and understanding these concepts and being able to apply them to YOURSELF. Everything we do to improve ourselves or better understand our role as teacher AUTOMATICALLY infuses our teaching. I’m sure most of you can attest to that.

However, if you are interested in some suggestions as to how this material might play out in your teaching, here are some thoughts:

  1. Add a question or two into your intake. For example:
    • What are you most committed to in your life? (you could give relevant examples)
    • Besides your “goals” what is the primary motivation for choosing Pilates?
    • How do you believe Pilates will improve your life?
    • Are you the kind of person who believes being strong and healthy helps you: (offer choices)
      • be better at your job
      • be a better friend, parent, family member
      • live the life you want
      • be your best self
      • live a more productive life
      • etc…
  2. Look at what they answered and repeat it back to them. Ask them if it’s true and if they could use it as a way to stay motivated. Consider how you could work the answer or answers in regularly.
    • For instance if you give your students homework, perhaps at the top of their homework sheet you write:
      • My goals are:
      • My intention for my practice is:
      • I am the kind of person who:

I have no doubt that you will be able to find ways that feel authentic to you to integrate this work. Don’t rush it or force it. See how and if it starts to show up now that you are aware of it.

Often all you have to do is change your language to fit the language that your students use.

Let me clarify: AVOID negative language; PROMOTE OR UTILIZE positive language or phrases. 

I think I’m going to let us pause for a moment here, let you digest and see how this fits for you. If however you want to move right on to explore Discrepancy: Realistic assessment of progress (perception) & Self-efficacy: Proof of success (experience) then click this link.

 P.S. Check out this free educational series.

Infuse Your Life with the Spirit of Yoga Free Video Series