Tuesday, August 12, 2014

3 Lessons from Pole Dancing

Warning!  Super weird post coming your way.

Yesterday I took a fitness pole dancing class with a girlfriend of mine.  To be quite honest, I was a little bit nervous coming in.  It was something that was completely outside of my comfort zone... not to mention I have zero upper body strength.  

After paying, my friend and I walked into the fitness room that was scattered with poles.  All of the lights were off except for one purple light in the corner of the room.  The instructor started by telling us to "Let loose and let our hair down.  No one is here to judge anyone else."  The class started off a bit awkward for me.  I'm not used to sexily prancing around a room and then swinging around a stripper pole.  But as time went on (it was a 75-minute class!), I became loose and we all started to forget that the rest of us were there.

Yes.  This is an education blog.  
Yes.  I'm writing about pole dancing.

What's the connection?!  I learned quite a few lessons from my pole dancing class that can be applied to my teaching career.  I know.  It's weird.  But here it goes.

  1. Be open to new experiences.  It's so easy for us to get wrapped up in doing the same old, same old.  We know what works for us and we know what works well.  But don't let that stop you from trying something new. Whether it's a new activity to teach, facilitating a discussion in a different way, or entirely flipping your classroom, be open to new experiences.  It will teach you a lot about the way your students learn and the way you deal with the unexpected.
  2. Don't be afraid to look like a fool.  Like I said, the beginning of the pole dancing class was a little intimidating.  2 of the girls in there had been taking classes for weeks and could do upside-down tricks.  But I pushed through anyways.  Yes, I totally looked like a fool at first.  But that's okay.  We have to learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable because only through these experiences can we grow.  If you try something new in your class and it's a total failure, that's okay.  What's important is how you handle it at the time and how you reflect on it to improve later. 
  3. We are all more capable than we realize, and so are our students.  I have no upper body strength.  I don't say that sarcastically but seriously. The only exercise I'm doing right now is running to train for a 15K I signed up for. I always thought that if I had to pull myself up from the side of a building I would be able to - after this class, though, I'm not quite sure.  But during the class I learned that I was able to do a few tricks that I didn't think I would have the capability to do.  We all were! All it took with the right instruction and encouragement.  Our instructor was kind and a good listener.  When we struggled, she was able to watch our technique, diagnose the problem, and set us on the straight and narrow.  We need to remember that for ourselves but also for how we interact with our students when they're struggling.  
Yes, I know it's a weird experience to talk about and relate to teaching but it's all very true.  I think it's quite possible that I can learn a lot from my pole dancing teacher in regard to how I teach my own students.