Friday, August 15, 2014

5 reasons why school teachers make awesome Zumba fitness class participants

The other day I was sitting in the waiting area of the yoga studio where I teach, waiting for the previous class to finish up so we could go into the room. I was listening to two of my students, who both happen to be school teachers for young children, get to know each other and talk shop.

It made me think of another student, absent that day, who is also a school teacher, and I realized that in addition to their profession, they all have something else in common: they are all really awesome people to have in class. I really miss them on days they can't come – I feel their absence. It made me think about the shared qualities that make them so wonderful to have in class, and why those qualities may come from what they do for a living.

Reason #1They understand that learning is a journey.

Many people are much too hard on themselves. They get frustrated very quickly if it takes them more than a couple of tries to get something. They are self-conscious and hold back out of fear of failure. They feel as though they are somehow not up-to-snuff if they don't nail something on the first try.

One instance that sticks out in my mind: I once had a woman come take my class for the first time, this was her first Zumba class and also the first time she had ever been in any kind of exercise or dance class.

After class, clearly frustrated, she approached me and demanded that I teach her how to move her hips the way I had been doing. I took a minute to show her the basic idea, and after she was able to follow my example for and do the same on her own for about half a minute I exclaimed "There you go! You're doing it!" Her response to me was "Yes, but I still don't look the same as you look doing it." My reply to her was "Well, I have been doing this a looooong time." Not surprisingly, she didn't come back. She didn't know how to accept that this was going to be a learning process.

Teachers understand that learning is a journey and they know how to embrace it and enjoy it. They're not shy about trying their very hardest from day 1 or worried about getting it all perfectly right away. They put their best effort in without hanging their sense of accomplishment on reaching the destination right out of the gate.

Reason #2  They know what real effort is.

Following on Reason #1, teachers don't sit back and phone it in. They give you real effort, and that means 100% of what they've got. Sometimes, if they're tired or have had a hard day, the 100% for that day isn't as much as it might have been the day before or the day after. But whatever they have to give in that moment, they are going to give it all (this also ties in to not holding back out of fear of failure).

One of the reasons I miss my school teacher students when they don't make it to class is that they are like batteries, little cells of raw energy, that rev me up and push me to always reach for my maximum too.

And, 100% effort is also one of the reasons why school teachers are more likely to be burning their maximum amount of calories and getting the most out of their workout.

Reason #3  They don't give up.

No matter what I ask them to do, no matter how crazy it seems, they never quit. Ever. They try their very hardest for as long as I ask them to try, and at the end, no matter how rough it was, they just laugh and move on to the next thing. If something is really out of their reach because of a physical limitation or an injury, or simply because they haven't worked up to it yet, they exercise the option to modify or adjust so that they CAN keep trying. They don't suffer from an "all or nothing" mentality, and if they can't do squats or jumps because of an injury, they'll do something else, but they won't ever just stop.

Reason #4  They are still in touch with their inner child.

Whereas most people in the workplace are dealing with other adults, teachers spend their days with children, so they don't ever lose touch with what it's like to be a kid, what it's like to play and run around carefree. They seem to tap into that and dance with the kind of reckless abandon and glee that reminds me of a little kid charging around the backyard with a tablecloth for a superhero cape. I see real joy in their movement and it's a thing of beauty.

Reason #5  They have empathy for the instructor.

Because they are in the position of being the teacher every day at work, they know first-hand how it feels to be in front of a group who is quiet, or shy, or low-energy that day. So they always make an effort to make eye contact, to smile, and to make sure you know they are having a good time. They know that teachers need appreciation and support, and they are always ready to give it.

One last thing before the bell...

I want to stress that I see plenty of people in my classes who are NOT school teachers who are also embracing the journey of learning, giving 100%, and not giving up. This was just a fun exercise for me to contemplate how the qualities these teachers share reflects on their participation in class, and to take a moment to highlight how they shine! Now, class dismissed!

Do you agree? Did I leave something out? Let me know your thoughts!

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