“We learn by example and by direct experience because there are limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction” – Malcolm Gladwell
For years, I have studied how the body moves, and expresses itself. I have taken my mind’s eye to the inner workings of the facet joints. I have learned how each joint surface glides, spins, and rolls. I have theorized about the myofascial relationships between the pinky finger and the gluteus maximus as well as the connection between the arches of the feet and the tongue, and I can explain it all to you. And if you love this stuff as much as I do, we can sit over a cup of coffee and theorize about movement and expression until the synapses in our brains are buzzing with the satisfying electric speed of the fastest train. Yet, when I am teaching and training Pilates teachers, I can’t let myself ride too freely on the theory train because well…talking is nowhere near as powerful as doing.
Recently, I led some dance majors at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School through the Gateway Pilates Mat I course. Gateway Pilates by POLESTAR® is a two-day Pilates experience that teaches the students how to apply Pilates Mat exercises. It was my job as a Gateway educator to provide ample experience of practice for these students. In other words, I did not spend time explaining theoretical concepts underneath teaching (as we Pilates Educators love to do!). I demonstrated teaching and then with a smile said, “your turn!” At first the quality of student teaching was what you might expect…There were lost words, flustered faces and lots of do-overs, but I was not concerned because it was 9:30am on the first day of a two-day course. We had time and experience ahead of us. The next step in this experience was the feedback structure from peers.
After each student taught, each peer in the group gave specifically structured feedback. Now here’s the sneaky part. The student who is teaching is nervous, vulnerable and frankly being put on the spot, so the feedback that is so carefully crafted isn’t sinking in to that particular student, nor as an educator did I expect it to. However, every other student giving feedback and listening to the feedback is hearing every word spoken and also applying it to the moment when it is his or her turn to be nervous, vulnerable, and frankly put on the spot. The result: the second round of practice was exponentially better than the first, and I didn’t even mention the name of a bone…
So what did I do?
We at Polestar Pilates take great pride in our knowledge, and the application of cutting-edge research to our practices. We are curious and we explore theory throughout our teaching, so why wouldn’t we share all that we’ve discovered with our students BEFORE they start teaching in this experience? The answer is simple: At Polestar Pilates we also understand the power of discovery.
During the feedback a student said, “I really liked the balloon image that you used.”
I piped in “Why do you think images work?” And then a discussion ensued that outlined the premise of Eric Franklin’s Dynamic Alignment through Imagery. I smiled to myself and knew that those students who chose to progress to the Polestar Pilates Comprehensive series would have a more satisfying time reading Dynamic Alignment Through Imagery when it was assigned because they would have experience to connect it to!
At the end of the weekend, each student taught a half -hour mat class that could have satisfied the clientele of any Pilates Studio. More importantly, there was energy at the end of the second day. I can only contribute it to the buzzing of synapses that was the piqued curiosity of new Pilates Enthusiasts. They were walking out of the room with new tools to use, and excitement for the beginning of a movement journey.
Katrina Hawley, BFA, C.M.A., PMA®-CPT
Polestar Pilates Educator
Katrina Hawley is the co-director of The Pilates Studio in Hadley and adjunct faculty in the Dance Division of the University of Hartford’s Hartt School. She is also a Polestar Educator.