What will it be this year?
What will it be for you this year?
The year it was Capoeira was perhaps the most life-enhancing for me.
Each year, I seek something that I can be a beginner in. Something I can do 3 times a week as a newbie, a tyro. Something where I must experience what it is like to know nothing, learn, study, work hard and accomplish! Something where I can learn from an expert in a field that I know nothing about.
I’m not a fan of resolutions. They are not only nearly always broken which then makes the failed resolver feel guilty, but they are usually guilt-inspired, too. Either you’re going to work out more or eat less of this or eat more of that or do something that is so completely out of your norm that you despise it. You’re going to go out less, drink less, go out more, drink more?! You’re not doing them. You’re not. You don’t want to you. Guilt is not a good educator. Guilt does not inspire. Guilt is not an enhancer for life. Resolutions fail. If you’re the one person reading this who says “My resolutions don’t fail” then I applaud you! Go for it! But you are one of not-so-many.
What if you did something that you want to do? Not a punishment, but something you find interesting and fun! And as teachers, here on The Pilates Teacher Blog, what if you were a beginner at something that you are interested in that might make you an even better teacher? What if you put yourself in your beginner clients’ shoes? Your clients come to you after the new year looking to fulfill their resolutions or start mid-year hoping to accomplish something important to them. Achieve goals. They come as sheer novices seeking guidance from you…the teacher. What if you did the same?
Sure, we can all remember being a beginner. I remember being a beginner at Pilates. I remember nearly everything about it! Can you recall what it was like being a beginner in Pilates? Do you remember what it was like doing each exercise for the first time? (Strange!) What it was like walking into a Pilates studio for the first time? (Weird! Every apparatus looks horrifying!) Having a teacher stand over you and touch your abdomen? (Unless you’re a dancer, this is bizarre!) Taking some time to remember what it was like to be a beginner in Pilates yourself is an important task. Remembering what it is like to be a beginner and less accomplished makes you extra compassionate to your clients.
Along with the vital quality of being compassionate…becoming a beginner, again, makes you a better teacher! You will learn from your new teacher some skills that you don’t already have. Putting yourself in an unusual circumstance enhances your ability to recognize good (and not so good) teaching skills. I mentioned Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art) at the start of this article. When I started training in Capoeira, I didn’t realize how much I would learn about being a teacher. I thought I was just going to get an excellent workout! Two of my teachers were particularly special: Eletrico and Mestre Boneco (these are Capoeira knicknames). Eletrico was one the most clear and encouraging teachers I had ever had in anything (aside from Germaine Salsberg in tap, but I haven’t been a beginner in tap since I was 3 years old). He was remarkably sure of the technique of each move, when and how to use them in the playing of Capoeira. If I had a question, he always answered it clearly in a way that made me very sure that I really understood. He cared that I understood. Then there was Mestre Boneco. “Mestre” is Master in Brazilian Portuguese. And he is the master indeed. He was overjoyed with Beginners! He’d walk into his classes and exclaim “Beginners!!!” He recognized that Beginners are everything to a real teacher! Teaching beginners well, encouraging their growth is what brings life what it is that we teach! Mestre Boneco spoke in a very powerful voice. Loud, sure, but it wasn’t just volume that commanded the room. His voice bellowed in a way that made each student know that they were individually seen and cared for. His voice was strong and supportive. My female or male teachers in dance and Pilates never used a voice like this. The most famous directors I worked with never had this. My greatest academic teachers did not embody this. I learned that if I wanted to teach with the strength that I had inside of me, that I must lower the tone of my voice, use more muscular and deep notes. I’ve always been known for my musical voice in my teaching, but hearing Mestre Boneco command the room as he did with his resonant voice and joy for beginners…it called me to attention and drew me to be excited to learn. His voice made me feel he was ever-present, supportive and happy to be there for us! We were a bunch of nervous beginners…we needed support! I certainly did!
Learning to ballroom dance was another great experience. Though I had danced all different styles professionally since I was a child, I had never had formal ballroom dance. Being choreographed in a tango, rhumba, waltz or swing is not the same as taking lessons to go beyond choreography. At first, I took group lessons, but soon realized that if I was going to get what I needed, then I would have to commit myself to one-on-one lessons. Somehow I carved out the time. My teacher, Danny, was the guy you’d see on the dance floor and wish you could be his partner. Everyone wants to dance with Danny. So…why not take private lessons? Again, though an accomplished dancer, I was such a true beginner in ballroom! I was happily stunned to be a novice! I love when I know nothing and then give myself the opportunity to learn. I loved that he really had to teach me how to follow, what are acceptable steps and what are not and so much more. I loved that as a woman being “the follow” and he “the lead” I had to go backwards into every step and not know which step/move he was going to lead me into. I had NO IDEA what was going on and that was a great thing! Give yourself up to your teacher and trust! As I took each session, I learned more and more. I went from stepping on my teacher’s toes and feeling lost to dancing backward (in heels) with confidence. I learned the nuances of being led, which steps were appropriate, how to move around a crowd of other dancers without bumping into others…and that made me feel accomplished! Going from newbie to accomplished student made me feel happy!
Struggling and then succeeding brings on happiness! We see this with our clients and we deserve to feel it, too!
Now, as a teacher of movement, you might think that engaging in a movement practice is the only way to embark on this, but it’s not. What about learning a new language? Learn to play an instrument! Learn to play golf! Learn to write screenplays! Learn anatomy and physiology! Learn something new! Give yourself a gift rather than a resolution! Put yourself in beginner shoes and feel the great accomplishment of going from novice to, well, not-novice!
Each year, I embark on learning something new. I make myself a beginner every single year. Sometimes more than once a year. You might say “who has the time for this?” You do. We all do. The time spent on Facebook or some other social media…if you tallied that all together you know that would be enough time to do something considerably more productive that would bring you far more joy and sense of accomplishment than a resolution that you’re going to drop. That wasn’t meant as guilt, but rather to show you that you do have the time. We all do. We all have the same 24 hours in each day. What we do with those 24 hours is a set of choices we each make that either brings us to feelings of true joy or not. Now, in truth, there are times in our lives where it is impossible to do something so satisfying as learning something new and being able to make time for it. Sometimes there is literally no way to build in the time for 3 times a week of study or even one. However…most of the time there is. Sometimes it might just be taking on a new sort of puzzle: crosswords, sudoku… Maybe it’s cooking a new recipe even once a week.
Do something new! Something that you are a beginner at. Be incredibly terrible at it and then learn! Accomplish! Enough with resolutions where you will fail yourself and live in the cycle of guilt. Instead…learn something new. Commit yourself to it for 6 months. Be a beginner who develops and feels the joy of accomplishment. Let that seep into your teaching experience. See how your compassion for your students burgeons and your skills as a teacher grow exponentially!
****Thank you for having taken he time to read this article and I hope it encourages you to move forward in your teaching and practice in this stunning way!
If you have any questions at all or want to share your thoughts in the comment section, please do!
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