Lesson Planning 101 – Level Up Your Lesson Plans by Lottie Sanders

Whether you are a brand new pole and aerial instructor or a seasoned pro, a fundamental part of teaching life is lesson plans. A lesson plan is a key part of keeping your classes on track and ensuring that you have a framework to follow – after all, so much of pole and aerial can be quite unpredictable, it’s nice for us teachers to have at least some predictability in our busy schedules. But the question is, are you actually utilising your lesson plans to the best of their ability? Let’s sit down and have a little chat on how to maximise the effectiveness of your lesson planning, and ultimately, how to make your teaching life easier.

Regressions, progressions, alternatives and everything else in between – This may seem like an obvious one… but is it? Let’s take the humble Fan Legs move. This is a staple move featured in beginners classes everywhere, as it’s a great foundation for so many more advanced movements. That being said (as much of pole and aerial is), it’s actually quite tricky, and can take students quite a while to master. Within your class plan, it is so important to make sure that you’ve catered to every single one of your students as best you can, not only making sure that you’ve got challenges ready for your students who are effortlessly executing their Fan Legs, but you’ve also got something equally as interesting and fun for those who aren’t quite there yet.

Do not just prepare your progressions and regressions as simply ‘something harder, something easier’, and give no further thought. You might have a student who has done that same regression a thousand times over, and they deserve something a little special every now and then, right? Don’t allow yourself to be put on the spot through lack of planning – if you know you’re doing Fan Legs, make note of a few combos, creations and alterations you can throw at your students. In my opinion, there is no such thing as too many notes!

Make a note of your extra hints and tips – we all have those little ‘tricks of the trade’ secrets with certain moves, you know, the knowledge you simply soak up from repetition, experience, and to be blunt, getting everything wrong before you get it right. As you’re jotting down your next lesson plan, cast your mind back to all the times you’ve trained those moves, and think of any extra tips that might be useful.

Of course, as instructors, we will always be moving around the room and troubleshooting as we go along, but if there is a fundamental, universal tip that helps beyond your standard teaching points, it’s useful to have that reminder jotted down somewhere. By implementing this strategy in your class planning, it also helps us to reflect and be more mindful within our teaching practice. Think a little deeper about not just what it is you’ll be teaching, but how you’ll be teaching it too. By casting your mind back to your own journey, it’ll help you get into the mindset of how your students might be feeling as they give this a go too, which ultimately will make you a more understanding teacher.

Repetition is more than okay – this can be such a common insecurity amongst teachers. This is the thought that we must always come up with something brand new every single class, with the fear that students will get bored with what we have to offer. Fundamentally, we all know this isn’t true, as otherwise choreography classes spanning four to six weeks simply wouldn’t exist and no-one would book on. However, this knowledge won’t necessarily change that worried mindset as we approach our drop in classes.

Fundamentally, repetition is a good thing. There are certain moves in pole and aerial that we just need to keep working on in order to progress. Routinely remind both yourself and your students of this fact. On top of this, repeating stuff can actually be quite fun and satisfying – yes, we come to class to try something new, but equally we come because we just enjoy pole and aerial. We also come to class because it’s a bit of ‘me time’, an hour or two out of our busy schedules to dedicate to feeling good. What better way to celebrate yourself than to practice a move that you’re absolutely amazing at? By factoring in a few familiar favourites within your lesson plans, you’re giving your students a little slice of consistency which will ultimately not only help them reach their goals, but will also allow them to feel good about themselves with a ‘oh, I’ve done this before, I can do this!’ mindset.

Always plan extra, just in case – it happens to the best of us, sometimes it’s because class is quieter than expected, maybe it’s hot outside so motivation levels are a little low, or sometimes your students just give you that look of ‘can we move on now?’ Unfortunately, an inevitable part of teaching life is sometimes we will fly through our lesson plan and things will all feel at a little bit of a loose end. The trick to conquering this dreaded lull in the class? Pre-empt for it.

As you write out your lesson plan, pop in an extra trick or combo just in case. By having this in your back pocket, you know you have something to fall back on, instead of having to think on the fly. And if you don’t use it – it just means that you’ve already made a start on your next lesson plan already, as you can simply incorporate that trick or combo into your next class.

Your lesson plan can be a tool – realistically, our lesson plans are a tool that can just keep giving. They’re useful for the class you make them for, and they are helpful for future classes too. For example, within the ‘Pole Instructor Plan Book’ delivered by XPERT (I can highly recommend this product for keeping your lesson plans all in one place) – there are whole sections for reflection. Effectively, by writing down what we’ve taught, we can then look back on what went well, what didn’t go quite as planned, and consider what we can do moving forward. And also – who’s to say we can’t repeat lesson plans in the future? No-one, that’s who! By having a record of what you’ve done in the past, you can improve on, and just copy over the best bits of your previous lesson plans.

So there you have it! Five whole ways on how to make your lesson plans work better for you. I hope you have a great week of training, and look forward to chatting with you again next month

Training Together: Your Guide to Being a Good Pole and Aerial Pal by Lottie Sanders

Things are finally starting to warm up over here in the UK (well, the weather is certainly warmer, but I can’t say there’s much less rain), so getting back into a full training regime is starting to feel a little more manageable. We love our pole and aerial studios for so many reasons – the wonderful equipment, our favourite instructors with their epic lesson plans, the thrill of getting a trick in class and the studio erupting with applause. The list could go on forever. But today, I’m focusing on another reason we love our home-away-from-home as much as we do: community and friendship. Ultimately, our pole and aerial training is a hobby, and a huge part of what keeps us coming back to our studios time and time again is the sense of community that comes with that. Even if our intention when we start out as an aerialist has nothing to do with making new friends, it’ll happen anyway, and there is something so magical about that.

All of this got me thinking – we talk an awful lot about how to be a good student, or how to be a good instructor, or studio owner, or all these other quite ‘official’ roles within pole and aerial, but when do we ever talk about how to be a good pole and aerial pal? I think it’s about time we chatted about just that: so this month’s XPERT blog is all about how to be a good training buddy in three straight-forward steps!

1. Support is a two way street – Every class has that student who is a natural born cheerleader. They clap, and ‘woop’, and celebrate the victories of others without so much as a prompt from the teacher. And doesn’t that feel great? When you finally master the elusive trick that you’ve desperately trained for weeks upon weeks, to be met with a hearty cheer from your classmate, a cheer filled with genuine happiness and warmth. The glorious reception makes your achievement that little bit sweeter. Now, it’s time to ask yourself – when your class cheerleader nails their trick, do you give them that same energy back? Or are you always relying on them to bring the noise? At first, it can feel a little bit awkward cheering for someone you don’t know very well, I get that, especially if you’re not a particularly extroverted person. But wouldn’t it be a little bit unfair if you only basked in the praise of others, and never dished that same praise back out?

If you’re reading this and thinking ‘oh no, I’ve been that person’, please don’t panic. We can forget these things easily. But take this blog right here as your reminder that support is a two way street, and it’s only right that if someone is giving you boundless backing in class that you dish some of that love to them in return. And honestly, if you feel a little self conscious dishing out that praise, I promise you no-one else will feel that awkward energy – they will be too busy smiling their head off at a compliment from one of their classmates.

2. The green-eyed monster isn’t welcome here – this might seem a little bit blunt but hear me out. Jealousy and envy are unfortunately an unavoidable part of life. Classes within our pole and aerial studios are often graded into level one, level two, and so on, but due to the nature of our wonderful artform, not everyone will have the exact same ability or skill set within those groups. There will be someone who is splittier than you, and there will be someone stronger than you, and there will be someone who seems to get things quicker than you, and it will be
frustrating. There will also be someone that looks at you and thinks ‘I wish I had what they had’. It’s a cycle. Very few things bring down the vibe of a group than someone being negative – this is true of life, not just pole and aerial classes. Inherently, jealousy and envy aren’t exactly positive emotions, so please just leave them at the door. We are only human, trust me I get it, but when you are in a group environment it’s important to remember that you are not the only person in the room. Stay grounded, and keep re-affirming to yourself that whilst there are things others are good at, there are plenty of things that you are also good at, and we are all on our own journey.

3. Be present in your practice – safe to say, we live in an age of distraction. Even as I write this blog today, the notifications pinging up in
the corner of my laptop have tempted me away from my typing more times than I’d care to admit. I would be remiss to not mention this fact of modern life when talking about being a supportive pole pal. We have all been there. For whatever reason, we aren’t quite engaging in our pole and aerial class like we usually are. Our mind is wandering, we’re not really concentrating, we may have even snuck a few looks at our phone under the guise of getting our camera out for a photo. I could talk forever about how this isn’t within the spirit of why we come to class, but I know no-one is intentionally self-sabotaging – we all know it's naughty to sit and scroll on Instagram when we are supposed to be training, and yet from time to time, we do it anyway. However, in a class scenario, it’s not just you who is facing the disruption of your wavering attention span.

When you are sharing equipment with somebody, it’s actually quite nice to have some back and forth whilst you’re training. A little ‘wow, that was amazing’, or ‘go on, you’ve nearly got it’ goes a long way and can make us feel much better in our practice. If the person we’re partnered up with isn’t really engaging, or scrolling on their phone, there’s a whole layer of support we’re missing out on – leading to our lesson feeling quite lonely. Next time you find your mind wandering in class, remind yourself of why it is you come to class. Yes, it’s to train, and yes it’s to progress, but it’s also to socialise and spend time with your pole and aerial pals – don’t neglect them by letting your mind wander too far elsewhere!

So there you have it, three ways to be the best pole and aerial pal you can be. We are only human, and it’s impossible to always be in our very best form, but keep these tips in mind and it’ll go a long way in helping to maintain those precious training buddy friendships!