New Teachers Teaching Skills

How Criticism Can Make You Grow
(Why I Believe You Should Seek It Out)

May 26, 2016

Ignorance. We all have it.

I’m going to tell you how you can overcome your own ignorance, not only by learning to deal with criticism, but by hungrily seeking it out. And not just in your first year or two of your teaching career — for your entire career.

Boom. That’s a mic drop kind of statement.

So, let me say it again: I’m encouraging you to seek out opportunities to be evaluated and re-evaluated as a Pilates instructor, no matter how long you have been teaching.  

To shed some light on this subject, let’s talk about ignorance.

Ignorance is the opposite of competence. Ignorance is being uninformed or lacking knowledge. The kind of ignorance I’m talking about is well intentioned, not deliberate or willful.

This week, I had the pleasure to be introduced to something called the Dunning–Kruger effect (it was in reference to the current American presidential race). The Dunning–Kruger effect demonstrates that unskilled individuals are nevertheless prone to overestimation of their superiority. Dunning and Kruger attributed this phenomenon to an inability of the unskilled to evaluate their own ability accurately.  

And what’s really fascinating about their research is that it suggests that highly skilled people tend to underestimate their competence. So the effect results in delusional thinking on both sides.

What’s scary about this is that at any time you really don’t know if you’re the highly skilled or the unskilled. Yikes!

That brings me to teaching Pilates. Teaching competence is developed over time. It’s rarely the product of raw talent or “immaculate conception.”

We all start out teaching Pilates with the best intentions.  We want to share our love and knowledge of the body with others. We want to help others feel amazing in their bodies, and help people recover from injury. We want to empower people to feel more capable. It’s with this good intention that we begin to teach.  But in order to live up to our own potential as teachers, we must proactively learn how to estimate our own ignorance.

The only way to know if your teaching is uninformed or highly skilled is to receive feedback and be “tested”.  This is true for teachers just as much as it is for students.

I certainly have been the ‘unskilled’ many times in my life.  I still have nightmares about 400 level statistics course I struggled through at the University of Michigan. Every time I got my test grades back, I really was surprised.  I thought I understood the concepts I was being tested on, but the grades showed otherwise.  My own lack of knowledge limited my ability to accurately assess my understanding.  Wa wan wan.

So just ask questions (See related article “Just Ask Questions”). Ask your students after class simple questions like:

“Did you get what you were hoping for from my class?”

“How was the session?”

“Did you feel some of what we are working on?”

“Does it make sense how this session relates to your overall goal?”

It’s not enough to just ask while you’re putting on your shoes and coat. You must honestly and humbly seek feedback. Make eye contact and make it a conversation.

I ask almost every time I teach. And I process what each person shares. It will not always be an easy conversation and it certainly will not always be positive feedback. But this is how you will grow. After all, no guts no glory.

Or even better, have a more experienced instructor take your class. It’s a great way to receive thoughtful and honest information about how your teaching could be improved. Yes, it will be nerve wracking to teach them. But it will be worth it.

Fortunately for me, so far in my career there’s always been someone who has more or different experiences who I can learn from. Look around. You probably have people you could learn from as well.

Take critique like a Pro. It’s hard, I totally get it. But a critique is not personal. You’re still a wonderful, talented person even if you taught a class that didn’t hit the mark.

The future great teachers (this means you!) are able to separate themselves from the feedback in order to use it. After all, the teacher sharing the feedback is doing so to help you become better because they believe in you. It comes from a place of love, it’s not a personal attack.

Being open to criticism is difficult. But I’m actually asking you to go one step further and actually seek it out. And not just your first year of teaching, but for your career.

When you seek opportunities to be evaluated, it shows wisdom, passion, and maturity. To be re-evaluated over time will get you to mastery. Knowledge isn’t finite. As a Pilates teacher there’s really no limit to the depth one can uncover and the wisdom gained through experience.

Thank you for reading. Sending you love and support.

XO

Holy Furgason

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