Hey there dangler friends and fans,
I have locked Laura in a closet until she repairs the entire Killian Cog costume collection (haahaa, ok I ripped the seams out, she’s resewing while drinking a bottle of wine and crying “Why would you do this to me?!” but, details details…)
My name is T, I have written here before when Laura was…not available.
I have a new topic I want to share with you all.
Bold thesis statement that I will flesh out further on:
GUEST INSTRUCTORS ARE NOT FORTUNE TELLING VENDING MACHINES!
Ok, let me go back to the beginning. The topic of today’s post has two main scenarios: I teach at ESH Circus Arts in Boston, we’re known as quite an awesome circus school, so we get a lot of people travelling through who hear about us and want to come take a lesson while they are in town. The other scenario is that often, I get flown to a school somewhere else who wants me to offer workshops, and while I’m there offer some times to their students for private lessons. What both of these scenarios have in common is that the instructor doesn’t know much about the student they are doing the lesson with. They may or may not have ever met them before, and if they have, it could have been a while since they last saw this student and don’t know what progress they’ve made or not made in their aerial training.
So having experienced this situation on my home turf, and countless times while guest teaching at another school, I wanted to make a useful primer for the students that like taking privates from new (to them) instructors. I really love teaching students all over, and getting to help them progress in their aerial life, but I have experienced some roadblocks that hinder the lesson from being the greatest it can be. Below I’ve broken down the roadblocks into categories, and offer suggestions for how to better set up the lesson if you feel like you fall in that category.
HELP THEM BE PREPARED
When you set up the private in advance, whether with your/their school or them directly, send along a video of you in the air (can be an instagram link or just a quick minute long sequence you uploaded in a private link on youtube). This helps the instructor get a grasp for what level you’re at, and maybe what kind of stuff you might need to work on. Going into a private lesson completely blind is like being a lawyer going into a courtroom with NO clue what type of law they will be needing to know to defend their client. It’s not that we don’t have it all in our brains, but if you request “3000 ways of getting into crossback straddle”, I might want to prepare by writing them all down so my brain doesn’t skip any during our lesson. Some people might think this is an imposition or they don’t wanna bother the teacher in advance. If watching a one minute aerial video of a student you are going to teach is a bother, IMO that is not a teacher that is worth taking a lesson from. Now having said that, if this was during a teaching tour where I was teaching at 17 schools in a row, and had hours of private lessons in each place, I might not have the time to sit down and watch all these videos, BUT at least you sent it, and that’s great.
A PRIVATE LESSON SHOULD NOT BE LIKE A BORED GROUP OF FRIENDS DECIDING WHERE TO GO TO DINNER
So, private lessons cost money, you are paying for an hour or more of my knowledge and safe instruction and my expertise to do it well. So, why are you willing to throw that money down to learn if, when the time comes, you have no tangible goals or desires. This conversation happens way too frequently:
T: Hi there, are you my 3 o’clock lesson?
STUDENT: Yeah, hi I’m Laura Witwer. (this is a completely random name I made up in place of naming an actual student, all resemblance to any person living or dead is completely coincidental)
T: Awesome, we’re on trapeze today right?
T: Great, so what are we working on today?
STUDENT: I don’t know, what kind of stuff do you want to do?
HOLD UP! Yes, I love teaching, and yes I love meeting new students and stuff, but this private lesson is not about me. The reason I am probably being flown to your school is because I have a pretty big skillset, and I teach it quite well. So I am game for pretty much anything that falls under the category of what I can teach. Please, bring me anything. If it doesn’t fit under my skillset, then we can have a conversation about that, and figure out how I can be of service to you. If it doesn’t actually fit in your skillset (i.e. person who can’t really invert cleanly above the ground who says they want to learn some big drop they saw in a show) at least I can know where you want to go, and I will get you closer with helpful drills and conditioning methods, or a progression that will eventually get you to where you are going.
The last two scenarios go hand in hand, and lead me to the title of this blog post:
I DON’T KNOW YOU. I DON’T KNOW YOUR LIFE. I DON’T KNOW YOUR CHOICES: GUEST INSTRUCTORS ARE NOT FORTUNE TELLERS
So, I walk in, I see my student warming up on the mats- (quick thing, this is for any private lessons EVER: when you book the lesson with the space, ask if you are allowed to warm up beforehand. Then, actually GET THERE early and warm up beforehand. This sounds like a gross statement, but I have made so much money watching people warm up because they arrived the minute before their lesson started, and I of course will not be letting them just hop up on the aerial equipment with no proper warm-up)
-back to what I was saying:
I walk in, they are warming up, they do a climb or two, they seem fairly able, like they’ve been doing this a while and they have good technique and stuff.
I say “So what would you like to work on in this lesson?”
STUDENT: “I don’t know, show me something new.”
This is my 2nd least favorite type of private lesson. There, I said it. I get where the idea is coming from, they are doing pretty well at their school, they have a pretty broad vocabulary, and they’re feeling a little stuck/bored with their school’s curriculum, so here’s this travelling teacher, who apparently has a pretty big following, he probably knows a lot of stuff beyond the vocabulary you do. This totally makes sense, but here’s the catch. To teach you something new, I would have to know every single thing you know to make sure that what I am offering is in fact new to you. Read the above sentence 3 times. Yeah, a pretty tall order, amirite?
This topic and the next topic share solutions, so please read below to find solutions to this mind-reader scenario.
I’M NOT A VENDING MACHINE
I find the “Show me something new” student, is often the same student who wants to try a trick once, just to learn the basic mechanic of it, and then move on to the next skill so they can learn THE MOST skills in one lesson. This isn’t really that useful; sure, you may or may not have learned 16 new positions/drops/maneuvers, but you didn’t get any finer points and training tips from me. You just put in the private lesson money to the aerial skill vending machine and poked all the buttons until your money’s worth of candy came out. Learning new skills is not at all wrong to want, but let’s think about how many, and how we approach them.
Besides the lack of finer detail learned, and this is maybe a more personal aspect (to which you are permitted to respond with: “you are being hired for a service, it doesn’t really matter what you are feeling”) is that it also makes me feel a bit…used. To me, teaching is a collaboration, they way I teach and what I teach is informed by the students I work with. If I am not reading my audience, and letting that input guide me to better teach them, I am not doing my job well. So when someone just wants to treat me like a vending machine, I just feel a lack of human connection. I get that you are paying good money for me to be teaching you, and so you want to get the most bang for your buck. I get that you might feel stagnant in your home school’s curriculum at this moment, and I’m new and exciting for you. So, how can we work together to help you feel successful?
SOME REWORDING FOR THE SCENARIO WHERE YOU EXPECT ME TO BE A MIND-READING VENDING MACHINE
“So right now in class, we’ve been working on our double star drops, and I would love to get your feedback on that to start. We’ve been entering the stars from the knee hook, and the leg straight up the silk, if you have any other cool entries, that would be awesome.
I don’t really have a specific set of skills I’d like to learn, but I do suck at back balances, could you help me with that? (This will most likely lead me for the rest of the hour, once I see what your imbalances are, and can help you progress past them)
I’m a total drop-junkie. At my school, we’ve worked on bombs, single star, double star, 360, and windmills. Could you show me any fun variations to those, and/or maybe we could work on combining drops.
How many ways are there to get into an S-wrap? (haahaa, then immediately go and book 3 more hours of private lessons, it’s gonna be a long night)
Can I show you a sequence that I’m working on, and that will help you get a feel for what kind of skills I like? Then you can think of some cool things to add to the sequence to spice it up?
So there you have it friends, I hope this has helped you in some way. Maybe the next time a guest teacher is in town, you can try some of these, and see if it makes you feel more productive. Hopefully Laura is done sewing, and maybe she’ll forgive me some day.
Until then dear danglers,