For Instructors

New term, new students: How do you present yourself?

I am excited for the start of another school year!  While I don’t have children so it’s not the excitement of my children going back to school, it’s the excitement of having a new teaching schedule and new students signing up for my fitness classes.  At Dartmouth College, where I teach twice a week, there is a physical education requirement whereby each term, students enroll in fitness classes to complete their PE requirement. Thus, each term brings new excitement because of a varied population of students from diverse fitness backgrounds, and also of staff members who also add diversity to the class.  I quickly paid my dues last year, I think, with a slightly less optimal time slot for myself and this year, I’ve lucked out into a more optimal 5:15pm time slot by the gracious scheduling of my supervisor. I’m hoping that it was enrollment that helped to push me into a better time slot, and am excited that this might lead to a greater turnout in the class.  As I reflect upon how I’ll present myself to the students, I figure I’m going to continue on with my “take no prisoners” attitude.  The basic thing is: challenge students.  No need to coddle, but challenge. Of course, I always offer options and I encourage students to be safe (always challenging when working with 18 year olds who think they are omnipotent), but ultimately, I try to model continuous non-stop interval work so that the students have the encouragement to be successful.  I had one former student say to me, “Wow, when you said no breaks I thought I’d die…but turns out, I didn’t need the break after all!”.  It’s a tenuous dance that I try to have though—while I want to challenge and push, I also don’t want to overwhelm those who are still at a level when the need to have a break. And so I always tell students that it’s ok to take breaks, and that if they need to, they should do it—that I would NEVER call anyone out on that.  Curious how other instructors present themselves to their students, especially if you’re in a system like mine where enrollment can change dramatically every three months?

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