My Aerial Origin Story
For those of you unfamiliar with my aerial history (take a peek at this and this), I started aerial hoop in my mid-20s. I had never had any experience with aerial circus skills before, but it looked fun and a good way to get fit. A friend and I attended an 8 week course for beginners at a well-known London aerial circus school. Once I had completed the first course, I signed up for a further 8 weeks but was unable to complete it. The reason? I have a sneaky suspicion my instructors were bad.
It’s Not You, It’s Me
I want to make it clear right off the bat that I am not here to blame, shame or maim these two instructors, or the circus school. It was clear to me that these two women were highly skilled performers, they were also friendly and positive; but unfortunately they were not the right teacher’s for me. I often left these classes feeling embarrassed by my low skill level, and in the second set of 8 weeks when I attended without my friend, I felt lonely and unsupported.
For years I thought it was me; I thought it was my fault I didn’t enjoy the classes. I knew I liked aerial hoop, but was too jaded by my previous experiences to try again. That was until I met Hayley of Highness Hoop.
What makes a Good Teacher?
You see that woman in the background? That’s Hayley.
When I joined her aerial hoop class at Wild Training Gym in High Wycombe, I was still fat and weak like years before, nothing had changed, yet in Hayley’s class I went home feeling empowered and proud. How did Hayley achieve this? What did Hayley do differently? What makes a good teacher?
Listening to your students: One of the first things I noticed about Hayley is that she listened to her students. If someone in the class was interested in learning a particular move, Hayley would work that into the class or a following one. Students, whether they be young people or adults, want to know they are respected; and being listened to is a mark of respect.
Clear lesson plans: Good teachers have a plan, they think about what they want their students to learn and how to get them there. Hayley’s lessons plans, although I never explicitly saw the plan, were obvious to me; we’d start with warm ups for safety, and then body conditioning portion of the class was designed to target the areas of the body we’d be using for the rest of the class. The following exercises and moves had a clear pattern to them, and even though Hayley was willing to adapt as she went, it was clear to me that there was a focus.
Planning for different skill levels: In all my aerial classes I have been medium to low in terms of strength and skill, but this should never be an issue. In the class of a good teacher, you should never feel as though you are being left behind or unsupported. A good teacher is aware that his/her students will be at different skill levels and will make provisions to cater to all levels. If a teacher only teaches to one level, those who are higher ability will get bored, and those of lower ability will give up. In that first class I attended in my 20s, the hoops were too high and I didn’t have the strength and knowledge to get myself into the hoop. Again and again the instructors modelled, and at the end of a 90 minute class I was the only student who still had not mounted the equipment. I was humiliated. Why had no one helped me? The next week I returned to the class expecting the instructors to have lowered a hoop, alas, they had not even noticed my struggles from the week before. I had feared a similar situation in Hayley’s class, but I was mistaken. From the get-go, Hayley acknowledged my skills and experience and made sure I was able to achieve and have pride in my work.
Caring and nurturing: Half way through my course with Highness Hoop I found myself performing (or trying to perform) a trick that scared me. I don’t know why, not much scares me, but this one did. I am a tenacious little monster though, and I really wanted to try it. I called over Hayley and explained my fear. I had expected her to “walk me through” the move, but to my surprise she told me not to do it. She explained that were was nothing to gain from forcing me to do a move I was scared of, that it would be unsafe for me to perform a move that my body was not ready to do. In some ways I was disappointed, I really wanted to nail that move, but ultimately I was relieved. I was glad to have such a caring and nurturing teaching; someone who cared about how I felt, and wanted me to be best version of myself.
I am glad I didn’t give up on aerial hoop entirely, but in retrospect I wish I had sought a new instructor sooner. Not everyone learns in the same way, and it is important to find an instructor you feel is compatible with your style.