“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.” – Eric Coffer
This winter provided me with absolute proof that you truly reap what you sow, especially when it comes to how you treat your students. There was a period two months ago when the temperature dropped significantly enough to entice my warm-blooded, South Carolinian Spinners to sleep through their 6:00 am workouts. Not that I blame them all that much — when it is cold, I’d prefer to stay under the covers as well. But, as the instructor, that was not my option, so I’d drag myself out of bed, slog myself to the gym and sigh with great resentment over the ever-shrinking number of bikes in my room. Where is everyone? I grumbled aloud, causing the students who were there to grumble along with me. Pretty soon, I was down to only two grumbling students. It seems that my negativity over what I wasn’t getting out of class (namely, an audience) was pushing my remaining students out the door one by one.
Never underestimate how your attitude will affect the people who come to your class. I did, and it nearly cost me my entire class. Fortunately, I picked myself out of my funk and got things turned around. I am proud to say the class is again full after two dismal months. While I can’t take credit for the nice weather helping folks get on over to the gym, I can tell you how I took my lemons and made lemonade. These simple tips can save your class or be the difference between being okay and being amazing:
1. Be grateful. Count each blessing that comes in your door and let them know how much you appreciate their presence. Try not to just be thankful you have students. Be grateful for their health and their willingness and their lives. Be grateful for your own health and abilities and the opportunity to interact with these people in a positive way. If you aren’t sure of the difference, you might check out what Steve Pavlina has to say about gratitude. Once you’ve stated the thought, “I am grateful for each of my students and their health and their fitness,” then treat them like you are grateful. Show them extra courtesy, provide as much personalized attention as you can, and go the extra mile to give them added incentive to always be in your class. It starts by acknowledging your gratitude, then sharing it with everyone.
2. Be excited. From the moment you enter the room, overflow with enthusiasm for the class you will teach. Leave the traffic, the kids, the fights, the drama or whatever is riding you… leave all of it in the car. Get in the habit of feeding yourself motivating thoughts as you walk from your car/subway/bikerack to the fitness room. Imagine you are like the football team awaiting their burst on to the field to the tune of ACDC’s “Thunder”. If that isn’t your speed, then carve out a minute or more to sit and meditate before you arrive so that your heart and mind are clear of clutter and you can genuinely be glad you are there to teach. Your excitement will be contagious, so “Fake it Till you Make it” if you have to!
3. Keep the comments to yourself. No matter how horrible your day is or how sick you feel, resist the temptation to unload it on your class. Chances are, they won’t even notice you skipped out on the extra riser, or slipped in a minute late. Just plaster on the biggest smile you can handle (fake if you have to) and get started! No matter what, keep the negativity to yourself and channel it into your workout. At the end of class, you can always explain or take responsibility for your behavior if it is necessary, e.g. you showed up very late, or you just didn’t deliver a solid class. They’ll appreciate knowing after the fact, without it festering through the whole class. If you find that you MUST say something at the outset, try to phrase it in the most positive words possible. If you get on a rant, your emotions will spread like a toxic spill.
4. Say “Thank You.” Don’t forget to thank them for coming before they walk out the door. Even the ones who try to sneak out early can be turned into die-hards when they sense that you are thankful they came and stayed for whatever length. Take time after your class to interact with your students, learn more about them, and encourage them to keep trying. The personal touch can make all the difference in getting someone who is non-committal to commit to your class.
It really is true that you reap what you sow. I learned the hard way by alienating my entire early morning Spinning class. You can prevent this by simply counting your blessings and sharing your gratitude with the students you do have.
Check out some of my posts on similar topics:
Making a Strong First Impression