Sometimes students scare the shit out of me. There are those few seconds when you can see something is going to go wrong and there's nothing you can do to stop it - even if you ran over to them as quickly as possible you wouldn't be able to catch them. All you can do is hope that they manage to land safely. Luckily for me I haven't had any serious injuries in any of my classes. Barely any minor ones either. Mainly because I don't teach moves I can't spot and I don't let students practice new moves without a spotter or crash mat. However, no matter how small your classes are it can be hard to keep an eye on everyone. And students like to mess around. They like to do things they shouldn't. In class I learn quickly who to keep an eye on and who I need to have a quiet word with.
There are posts online dealing with class etiquette but, as far as I can remember, they are all aimed at students. As most of your pole students are likely adults, you probably expect them to be respectful and mature in class but the fact is that this is often far from the truth. Pole is FUN, it brings out the inner child in so many of us, and in turn we giggle, talk when the teacher is talking and gossip and mess around. And all the while we think, "I'm an adult, I can do what I like, I'll be fine, this isn't serious". So, whilst these posts are good, I feel like we're missing the point. What kind of instructor allows their students to run riot anyway?
It is our job as instructors to ensure the safety of all students and letting them run wild puts them at risk. Not only does it create dangerous situations and a bad atmosphere but it also means your students probably aren't progressing how they should do. After all, how can they if they're not listening to you? Pole is fun, duh, but it's also fucking serious. People have been seriously injured, hello paralysis, granted usually practising in their own homes (more on this later). They may be adults but YOU are in charge. It is YOUR class, YOUR business and YOUR insurance.
But back to my original point; even when every single safety procedure is in place accidents can happen. Even a fall that looks horrific but ends with no injuries is scary because what if it had? I worry about what happens in classes where students are allowed to do what they want or encouraged to do things they are not yet ready for. I worry about these instructors that let their students walk all over them. One of the things I love most about all my girls is how hard-working they are, how kind and welcoming they all are, how they're all sensible but also have a laugh and fun together. I'm so proud of my students but the fact is that I played a part in creating that atmosphere. It's my goddamn job after all.
And I hope, I really hope, that when they get poles at home that they remember my advice and they look after themselves.
Tips for Instructors:
- Set the ground rules: I have a list of rules I make all new students read but even just getting them to sit down and listen to the most important rules in their first class will make a huge difference. My rules include class etiquette, safety and studio rules (such as simply cleaning up after themselves).
- Have a quiet word: if one particular student is being disruptive or dangerous just ask them politely to stop whatever it is they're doing. I had a new student who started doing hard spins we hadn't covered yet, so I politely told her that it is great she's so strong but that others in the group are not and could hurt themselves copying her, so could she please not do that. She's not been an issue since.
- Don't continue if people are talking over you: simple. It's not safe for them to be trying new moves without all the information available to them. Pause and wait. They'll soon be quiet.
- Reinforce the ground rules when needed: just a polite reminder at the beginning of a class does wonders. Often students just forget.
- Don't put up with bullshit or drama: luckily it's not something I have really had a problem with but just by having an air of not putting up with it I think I manage to stop it before it even starts.
- BE THE BOSS! You are in charge, you are the boss, start acting like it! But don't be a bitch either. Your students will respect you if you're firm but fair. Make your classes fun but safe.