Progress Not Perfection – Why You Should Be Taking Progress Photos by Lottie ‘Adore’ Sanders

At the start of the year, we often cast our minds both forwards and backwards simultaneously. January comes around, and we may consider where we were the year before and ponder just where we would like to be twelve months from now – which often leads us to form our goals and aspirations. These goals can manifest themselves in a variety of ways – these could be life goals, mindset
goals, flexibility goals, or pole and aerial goals.

I was lucky enough to nab a space on one of XPERT’s amazing courses this month – Flexibility Flow (don’t worry, I’ll give you the full low down of my
experience in next month’s blog). Part of the course entailed taking a photo of a flexy move such as our split or backbend, then implementing the tips from the incredible trainer Amy, and executing the move again for a comparison photo. Needless to say, the change was incredible – but the experience got me thinking. Where are my photos of my early training days where I struggled to get myself up into a bridge, or the snaps of my not-so-flat Jade split? Well, these records just don’t exist.

Personally, this prospect made me a little sad. Baby pole dancer Lottie was pretty harsh on herself in retrospect. My attitude towards my self-perceived shortcomings was simply ‘don’t film me doing this, it’s rubbish’, batting away friends and instructors who offered to take a snap of my attempts at moves in class. My mindset led me to believe that the only real reason to take a photo or video of literally anything was if it was already, whatever that was in my mind, perfection.

Progress photos are a funny one. The name in itself suggests that each photo needs to be better than the one before. But any seasoned aerialist or sports person will tell you, the road to true progression is absolutely not a linear one. One week, you will come in and your split may be pretty close to the ground. The following week, you can feel like you’re back to square one. I won’t go into the several different reasons for this – tiredness, muscle soreness, hormones, temperature, lifestyle (the list goes on forever) – but what I will say is documenting these ‘setbacks’ is just as important as every shiny new progression you make.

Let’s take working on your front splits, for example, a fairly common goal for tonnes of polers and aerialists. You dutifully attend your stretch classes twice a week, and at the end of each class you give your splits a go. Your classmate offers to nab a photo of you, and they really insist on doing it because they’re a good training buddy, so you finally agree to handing over your phone. Sure, you’re wearing those leggings with a hole in them and your hair is scraped back in a Miss Trunchbull-from-Matilda style bun, and the lighting isn’t exactly Insta worthy. But that is a snapshot in time, a freeze frame of your very best efforts that day, a record of your hard work within that stretching session – and it’s important. Week to week, your splits may look frustratingly similar. But month to month? You may just see that space between you and the floor inch that little bit closer. Six months on, you may even be totally flat and contemplating throwing a yoga block under that front leg to start working on your over split.

When you’re living in the moment, it can become difficult to remember what things used to be like. Within the blink of the eye, you can forget just how hard you worked to get on the path you’re now on. The split that you now easily get into up the pole was months in the making; the active flex work, the strength training, the skin grip training, the breathwork fine-tuning. And what better reminder of all that culmination of your efforts is there than the ability to look back to where it all began.

The purpose of this month’s blog is pretty straight forward really, when you boil it down. Make 2024 the year that you truly commit to taking photos of your efforts in class. It doesn’t matter if you’re not looking Instagram ready, or if it’s not your best attempt of the day, because you forgot to get your phone out the first time. Heck, even if it’s the very first attempt you’ve given to get into your
splits in what seems like forever – take the damn photo. One day, when you’re flying through the air in a flawlessly flat Jallegra, you’ll be glad that you’re able to look back and see the start of your journey, too. This time next year, when you’re reading this blog and you remember the advice I gave you – that you followed, because you know I’m right – and you have a start-to-finish selection of photos of the amazing things you’ve learnt, you’ll thank me!

Tune in next month on the XPERT blog to find out all about Lottie’s experience on the amazing Flexibility Flow course – it’s going to be a good read!

Plan Like a Teacher, Teach Like a Pro: Review of XPERT’s Pole Instructor Plan Book by Lottie Sanders

Usually, you’ll find me talking on the blog about the amazing training courses XPERT has to offer, but this time I’m going to introduce you to a brand new product that’s sure to revolutionise your lesson planning. Introducing: The Pole Instructor Plan Book, an exclusive resource delivered by XPERT which is designed for you to take your pre and post class journaling to the next level. Stay tuned to find my top three reasons the Pole Instructor Plan Book is going to be your new best pole pal

1. Planned to Perfection – Once you cross the threshold from student to instructor, gone are the days of ‘just showing up’ to class. You have transitioned from the person being told what to do, to being the person to teach a group of others a new skill, and the one calling the shots on what they will be learning that day. The reality of this new prospect is that the best way to help yourself prepare for that responsibility is just to do just that – to prepare.

There are so many variables when teaching a class that you never know what will be thrown at you next. A question you’ve never been asked before, a student who simply isn’t getting on with any move attempted that day, someone visiting from a different studio who has learnt in a totally different way to your studio norm. You need to be prepared for anything. Of course,
you can’t predict for every single variable but you can create a cracking lesson plan packed with fun flow, tricks and transitions that’s guaranteed to keep your class entertained. This is exactly where your ‘Pole Instructor Plan Book’ delivered by XPERT comes in.

This amazing planner breaks down everything you may be teaching in a class, with sections for conditioning, static, spin, and choreography, you will never be short of space for filling in your best lesson plan ideas. And what’s more, there are handy spots for filling in pre-class announcement notes, and objective focuses too. There is no such thing as being too prepared – after all, it is much easier to remember the latest news at the studio that you need to promote to your students, or staying on task with what you wanted your students to achieve, if you have these objectives jotted down somewhere for your own reference.

2. Emphasis on Reflection – Planning is all well and good, but what is even better than planning? Reflection on that planning. Let’s get into the facts of this.

When we plan our lessons, we are writing up a dream list of what we would love for our students to achieve in that class. Within this, we have different markers for achievements – we want them to feel fulfilled, feel challenged, have fun, learn something new, and ultimately walk out the door feeling good. However, all of those things can be tricky to achieve in a single hour session, and it is certainly harder to predict for those variables when there are students you haven’t taught before, or if you are trying something a little different that day.

Not everything we do as teachers can be a success. It just won’t. You can teach a move textbook-perfectly, spot all your students magnificently, get them successfully into the pose, snap an amazing photo and there is still a chance you’ll be met with ‘I didn’t like that one’. Which is absolutely fine! We are allowed to dislike something even if we manage to do it. But it can be difficult to process these emotions as an instructor – after all, we are only human, and we want our students to have the best time and it can feel a little like failing if they have any not-so-positive feedback. However, I think we should flip that on its head. Feedback is good. Feedback helps you grow.

The Pole Instructor Plan Book comes with a handy section at the end of each double page class plan for ‘What went well? What did students struggle with?’ No longer do you need to sit and stew about the ups and downs of your class – write about it, instead. Often, it is not a ‘bad class’. Maybe it was just one move that didn’t work. Perhaps it was a particularly hot and slippy day, so the groans of reluctance you were met with at mentioning doing a pole sit was because of the heat. Did you have several students who attended a class or two on the same night, before yours? Moving forward, you can account for knowing that your students may be a little tired before your session. The variables are infinite, but the point is, if we sit and analyse these differences, we can come to realise that it is not all about us ‘being failures’ or ‘not good teachers’, rather sometimes, unpredictable things can happen. And moreover,
by jotting these variables down – we can plan for the future and ensure we minimise them happening again. Happy teacher, happy students, happy class!

3) All Your Plans, All in One Place – Lesson planning can be difficult. The pressure to come up with something new, exciting, and interesting on a weekly basis isn’t always the easiest thing. So stop worrying about always producing something different.

Let’s not get carried away here – of course, you cannot just show up every single week and do the exact same thing. But we can take previous lesson plans and adapt them. For example, in your intermediate class, you may work on an Outside Leg Hang for week one. So the following week, you might start working on a Hang Glider for those who are really nailing it. The week after
that, you want to change it up totally, and focus on a Cross Knee Release instead. But for the week after that? Don’t forget, you’ve laid the groundwork for your students and their Outside Leg Hangs. Don’t waste the progress that was made in those first two weeks by abandoning it to be forgotten.

All that being said – it is unreasonable to expect you to remember everything you’ve ever taught, and keep a mental note of absolutely all of it. So, pull out your trusty Pole Instructor Plan Book and have a little look back at the things you’ve taught in the past. The diary has a little space for jotting down the date, so you’ll be able to keep track of just how long ago it was you taught those moves, without the pressure of remembering off the top of your head. This feature is also especially handy if you get the inevitable question from your student ‘I want to work on what we did last week’, and you actually have a record of what it was you did. And if you’ve been doing your reflective journaling as I’d mentioned in point two above, you’ll have a record of troubleshooting these class plans too, so you can deliver them more confidently and better informed. After all, the better informed we are, the better our student’s teaching experience will be!

So there you have it: three key reasons to head to the XPERT store and drop the Pole Instructor Plan Book straight in your basket. Go to our Merch page to grab your copy, and get ready to enjoy all the benefits of good class planning coming your way.