2014 – A Year To Teach

When reflecting over my 2014, what stood out most is how the balance of teaching to learning in my life has shifted towards the former and, whilst I’ll probably write another post about the latter, I thought I’d review the past year through this relatively new lens, and talk about what I’ve learnt and how it’s changed my outlook on my own training and work life.

A lot of people think I work as a personal trainer, but actually my main job is as a freelance graphic/CAD/3D artist, project manager, presentation whizz and all-round useful ninja for landscape and garden design studios (if you’re curious, you can see my portfolio over at my other site: www.fionasilk.com). I was asked in 2013 to be a tutor, primarily in SketchUp, at the London College of Garden Design, and in the last year the amount of private tuition I do has also gone up, to the extent that I am now in the position where being an “educator” forms a significant part of my work.

Assisting a student at college

In my training life, I’ve gone from doing the odd bit of casual instruction for friends and small groups to leading six really successful bodyweight workshops, with the largest group being 16 people (watch this space for details of dates in the next few months!).

I suspect at the back of the mind of every educator (and thinking about mine, probably every parent, too!) is the drive to stop people doing the silly things that we did on our journey to where we are now, and this is one of my main aims when teaching others. Luckily, having done a fair bit of them myself, I’ve got good at spotting when someone’s getting bogged down in the wrong details, or wasting time by not having clear goals and a clear path to achieve them. Whether in training or elsewhere in life, if you feel like you’re spinning your wheels you’ll get frustrated, and the urge to quit is a natural human reaction to that, so I really work hard to give clear direction and iron out any niggles along the way. Still one of the stand-out compliments of the year came at the end of the first bodyweight workshop when the strongest guy there, Hassan, said at the end “I’ve learnt more in these three hours then I have in six months of watching YouTube videos”. As someone who learnt much of her bodyweight training through YouTube videos, that was a really great thing to hear!

Reminding people not to take paths that won’t lead them to their goals is also a constant reminder not to take them yourself. It’s one thing to know something and another to do it, and I am not immune to getting sidetracked from my training goals, or spending half an hour trying to fix an unexplained hole in a 3D model which no-one will notice anyhow. The repetition of reminders to my clients also helps keep me on track, which in turn helps me keep them on track! One of the many great cycles of training others.

Demonstrating push up progressions!

A lot of the people I tutor in software are older women who haven’t used a computer much and are not very confident, and it’s made me realise that it’s not only about teaching people how to do something, but also about giving them the confidence to actually do it, especially when you’re not there. My goal is to empower people with the knowledge and the self-belief, whether that is to get stronger, master a piece of software or, in fact, do whatever it is they want to do, on their own. This doesn’t just take the relaying of factual information, but the instilling in them the belief that they can do it, and that even if it doesn’t work out perfectly that no harm will come to them (or their computer!). Having the belief that you’re capable of doing something is the first step towards success.

This attitude is the main reason why I’m not, as I often get asked, a full-time PT: I would much rather spend two sessions with someone and leave them in a position to manage their own training or do their own drawings, then to make money off them every week but not see them progress in the way that they would if they were driving their own progress. This would not make me well suited to earning a living in an industry where you really need regular clients to survive!

Along the way, I’ve met some truly inspirational people who have changed my outlook on life through experiencing their own – my favourite work client Butter, who I started tutoring when she was at college and now work for professionally as her garden design business (and her self) goes from strength to strength, and Rosie, who came to my first workshop and whose Facebook account now bombards me daily with positive posts and photos of cats – both spring to mind. And each time I meet someone new I’m reminded of the importance of tailoring instruction towards the individual as much as possible. In training, this is easily manageable by teaching progressions for certain exercises, but requires more subtle perception when it comes to teaching, and an awareness for how people respond to different stimulus. This is something I’ve got much better at, and will no doubt improve on even more in the coming years.

All in all, it’s been pretty amazing. Teaching is something I feel hugely privileged to be doing, and though I had a few years of it when I was living in Japan, teaching elementary kids in the state school system is a far cry from teaching adults who have made a conscious decision that they want to learn something new, and paid handsomely for the opportunity. I’ve had some really great feedback and it’s given me a sense of satisfaction that no other jobs have done. Hopefully 2015 will see me build on last year, and add some cool new tools to my repertoire, which you will no doubt read about here, now that I’m committed to a post a week…!

Thank you for reading and I wish you much awesomeness for the coming year!

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