Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tips For New Zumba Instructors When Someone Walks Out

A walk out is when a participant leaves during a class and doesn't come back. Perhaps it wasn't my first, but I noticed this occasion because there were only 6 people to begin with. She was in the front row. Maybe two others didn't like my teaching style either. They chatted between tracks and I even heard one of them say: "are you kidding me?" as I was demonstrating quarter-turns. Most of them got confused turning all the way around, even when I said,"quarter turn, towards the mirror/sports hall/back of the studio."

I could only assume most participants were beginners. I toned down the moves and stayed on them for longer. I faced the mirror when they asked me to. But I still wasn't connecting with the them.

After the class I happened to be reception at the same time as the lady who walked out. When she saw me, she apologized for leaving early. I still had to question myself though. She didn't look like she was getting the moves and appeared unhappy before she walked out.

Was were my moves too advanced? Were my cues insufficient? Maybe the music wasn't to their taste? Did I come across as rude?

From then I learnt to ask in advance the class's preferred instructing style so I come better prepared. I now teach facing the mirror if there's one in the studio. And I address females in the class as "ladies" and not "girls". Not that I've had complaints-I should just be more PC.

More valuable tips to keep your participants engaged:

1) Beginners might only pick up the arm or the footwork but not both. If people are having trouble, give them the option of doing one or the other.
2) People can be impatient if they don't get the moves easily and give up. Stay focused on teaching the routine. If others are succeeding, that can be their source of motivation.
3) Keep breaks between tracks as short as possible to keep the energy in the room flowing. I aim not to take a break at all.
4) If someone is not even remotely doing the moves but they're still moving to the music, assume they have an injury or that they are happy to do their own thing.
5) Walkouts still happen to the best of instructors. And sometimes the class won't want to "whoop whoop" when you prompt them to. It's nothing personal. Don't waste precious energy overthinking it.
6) Ask for feedback from the participants and from the gym co-ordinator. Welcome it whether it's good or bad. It's helps you build a thick skin and helps you develop as an instructor.

So fellow new Zumba instructors, walk outs are learning experiences. Maybe we're unwittingly giving off the wrong vibe or the class isn't in sync with the way you teach. Or maybe they had a bad sandwich for lunch.

We all start our journey from somewhere. With practice, we improve as instructors. I'm determined that it will only a matter of time!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Confessions Of A New Zumba Instructor

After many months of saying I would, I've started teaching Zumba!

I watched the Facebook Zumba cover group for job postings but they usually get covered fast. Luck finally came my way when I got my first cover job not far from home.

I got to the location 10 minutes early with the teaching essentials: Ipad, sweat towel, drink bottle and Megaboom speaker. (I'm paranoid about not connecting to the sound system). 

I had butterflies in my stomach but when I got to the front of the class, there was no time to overthink. I pushed through with teaching the class.

The class ended with most people happy, I think. A few I could tell weren't having the best time. The studio was so hot the windows fogged up. I received some positive feedback and one person said she would ask the manager to bring me back.

I walked away a happy chick. Felt proud of pulling off my first professional teaching gig. The next day I went to my local gym and got in contact with the co-ordinator. They were looking for cover and I got my next job which was brilliant because the gym is a 5 minute walk away and the facilities are lovely. 

A strange thing happened in class-a lady stopped me mid track to ask me to face the mirror. It caused the class to stop. I saw a girl roll her eyes and guessed that this lady doesn't usually exercise her patience of all things.

My next cover was back at the first gym and I made the mistake of doing a Zumba class beforehand. When I started to teach, I realised I didn't have the energy to do verbal cues or pump up the class. I just wanted it to be over so I smiled through the exhaustion. No one left feedback afterwards. Oh well, it was a learning experience. Lesson: reserve energy to teach.

Recently I taught a double class which was a last minute job. Had to repeat the playlist in the second class. I planned to prepare different playlists but found out I needed an aux cable two hours before the class. 

I rushed to the shops and bought a cable from Poundland. I wasn't sure if it was the right one so I bought two other cables and a power bank from Maplin. On the last item, my phone battery died and I needed the location of the class. Lesson 2: carry a charged power bank.

The cost was more than what I'm paid to teach a class. Lucky I had a wall charger and got to charge my phone for a bit near the tube station. It turned out the £1 cable was the right one. Lesson 3: carry a 3.5mm aux cable and 6.35mm adaptor.

I must be doing something right because the next day the manager asked me to take on three regular classes a week. I still have lots to learn about teaching but it's progress!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Time Machine Moments In Bad Gastein

Grant and I discovered a gem of a Austrian restaurant on our ski holiday. It's so quaint and cosy, you feel like you're staying in a friend's ski chalet.

It's small-world charm is something we want to preserve so I won't mention it's name. But you will find it in Bad Gastein as it has a witch on it's roof. Just don't be like a tourist in there. Be like a friend of the hosts and you will have a true Austrian experience. 

The place is in a wooden hut next to the main bus stop of Bad Gastein but you wouldn't know it's a restaurant until the "open" sign is illuminated at night. The sandwich board outside only names 6 Austrian dishes with no English translation. You can't see what it looks like inside because the windows are sealed up at the front.

When we decided to take a chance on this place, I warned Grant if it's a dingy smoke filled pub, we're walking out. He opened the door and we were relieved to see a bar with a tiny kitchen. There were a few counter tables, two booth tables and 1 family table. The place was appropriately decorated with alpine paraphernalia. There was no one smoking which is a blessing as in Austria, smoking indoors is still allowed. 

Grant and I were welcomed by a tall and brawny chap who's real name is Hans. He's the owner and we presume he's lived in Bad Gastein for many years. There was a picture of his younger self in the drinks menu. He sings with a baritone voice as he serves the tables and would regularly chat with the customers.

We ordered a beer and a tap water from a blonde lady (his wife) dressed in an Austrian traditional outfit. The couple were the only staff until 9pm so we waited a while for our drinks. When we asked for the menu, the response from the lady was "the chief will come".

When "the chief" showed up, he spoke no English but cheerfully gestured the foods he had on offer, like spare ribs (action: holding and nibbling invisible ribs) and deer goulash (action: horns on forehead). When it sounded like he would decide our meals for us, we just went with it and said "but just for one person" in case it wasn't to our taste.

Again there was a wait but we enjoyed the warm atmosphere and Austrian music playing in the background. It's the type of music you'd gaily swing a beer stein to. We had no idea what would land on our table until he presented a mountain of ribs to the large party next to us, making sure we were watching.

We gave him a thumbs up. It all looked delicious. Cutlery, napkins showed up to our table and then he gave us a generous portion of spare ribs with roasted waxy potatoes and sauerkraut. And a jug of pan juice gravy on the side. Had we gone to heaven?

The ribs were so tender. There was enough food for four people and we finished the lot. When the bill arrived we expected them to charge for two but as we asked, they charge for one portion. They must have really wanted us to enjoy the ribs!

They bid us farewell when we when we left. The wooden door closed behind us and the music stopped. We were now standing on a dead quiet street with no signs of life. What just happened? Had we ventured into a time machine? 

We knew from travelling that we shouldn't go back to the same place, even if it was outstanding. We usually end up disappointed. We resisted the next night and unwittingly had a mediocre dinner elsewhere. The following night we just wanted to go back into our time machine.

I ordered the steak and Grant had the goulash. It was out of this world. I never expected the food could be so good from such a tiny unassuming place and it wasn't even packed with customers. My steak was done perfectly, I think it was a fillet. And it came with those lovely waxy potatoes. Best steak I've had in a long long time.

The bill came out a little pricer than expected but it was totally worth it for the food. We paid up and blonde lady brought three shot glasses to the table and poured out hazelnut schnapps. We took the shots together before we left. 

Again when the wooden door closed behind us, we were out on the cold silent street. The evening was as amazing as the first time. We had to go back for our final night in Bad Gastein.

That evening the place was full as it was a Friday night. But the chief and wife still welcomed us in. We waited awkwardly at first as there was no place for us to sit. The chief spoke to a party who let us sit with them, ensuring us that it was fine to do.

We sat down and said hello to our four table mates. I thought with the language barrier, we would have our own conversations but one of them struck a conversation with us in English and then we were all talking.

The four were from Germany, coming to ski together every two weeks. They have been visiting the area for 20 years and know the chief well, ever since he worked in a ski resort behind a bar. They spoke good English and knew how to have a good laugh. We felt lucky to have gotten to know them and they made an effort to make us feel welcome. Every now and then the chief dropped by to chat, sing or randomly say: "I love you baby" with a deep Austrian accent. The guys joked that it was the only English he knew.

The men ordered the spare ribs for dinner. Grant and I wanted something different. I asked for the kasespatzle (cheese noodles) and grant wanted the schnitzel. The look on the chief's face was of disappointment. He wanted us all to have the spareribs. I didn't think we would get the meals we asked for. But Grant and I just went with things, trusting it will all turn out.

Surprisingly we got the meals we ordered. The men let us try their semmelnudle, or bread dumplings.  Again the food was excellent and we knew would be dreaming about it for the weeks to come.

Grant got a fun scolding from the chief for using a fork instead of a spoon to scrape the crusty cheese from the pan.

After the meal a large party of apres skiers came in and we were asked to move tables. The men had already met them earlier at another pub so I think it was a queue for us to leave. We said our goodbyes and made our way to the door.

The chief, who must had known it was our last night shook Grants hand as farewell. He said a lot of stuff in German which we could only assume were kind words. He took my hand, touched my cheek and kissed my forehead about ten times. 

It was a happy goodbye and no doubt we will come back to our time machine of Bad Gastein.