“Even the smallest actions are steps in the right direction.” Unknown
I was teaching recently. To be honest I was feeling pretty good. I’d prepped my material, I was excited. I expected the class to go smoothly. Then my mentor walked in for a surprise visit. He wanted to check on my progress and see how things were going. He hadn’t seen me teach since pre-Covid – almost three years.
He walked in casually, gave me a nod and sat at the back of the studio. Immediately, I was tense and nervous. I started to introduce the next move but suddenly my voice got tight and I think I audibly yelped. I almost blurted out “Oh my God!” I could feel the tension in my body. I was scared.
My mentor was very nonchalant. He simply took out his cell phone and sat at the back and watched me teach. I was anxious and nervous but I got through it. At the end of the class, he stood up and gave me a fist bump on his way out. When I was done teaching for the evening, I emailed him right away asking for feedback. I wanted to know his thoughts on how I was doing.
He messaged me back almost instantly. But instead of giving me feedback he asked how I thought I had done. I said there was lots to work on but overall, I thought I had improved. He was direct and to the point and said “Since the last time I watched you teach, you have gotten 10% worse.”
My jaw was on the floor. I was so shocked. “Well, I know that 60% of my jokes don’t land, but overall I thought I have gotten better.”
“Aleks, 95% of your jokes didn’t land in that class.”
I protested. Surely it wasn’t that bad. “Aleks I watched and I saw. Why don’t you try recording yourself teaching and see for yourself? You have enough experience to figure it out.”
Again I protested. “I don’t want to do that. It’s embarrassing and I just cringe when I watch myself teach.”
“How will you get better, if you don’t see where you need to improve?”
So the next day I recorded and watched myself teach.
He was right. I’ve gotten worse. My voice isn’t authentic. My jokes aren’t sincere. I’m not high-fiving and my energy is completely fake. I felt awful. I immediately messaged my mentor. “You’re right. I can’t believe that I’m actually worse. It’s so painful to watch this.”
“Isn’t it obvious? This is how the students see me. I don’t want to be that person.”
“That’s not you. That’s how you show up. But now that you know, can you fix it?”
Immediately I smiled. “Yes I can! That’s easy.”
The very next week, I started recording all my classes. Monday was pretty cringy, but on Tuesday something amazing happened. I started to tear up. I saw the difference. Instead of 95% of my jokes not landing, it was 90%. I got 5% better in one night!
Now every class I am recording myself teach. We can all relate to the cringe factor when we think about our past mistakes or how we have shown up in the past or times we are not proud of what we have done. But I have learned to separate myself from the cringe. That’s not me. That’s just a version of how I show up. So if it’s not me, it is simply behaviours that I can change.
So that means that how I show up as a dance instructor, as a son, as a friend, can change and that gets me excited.
And so this week, don’t think about the cringe. Think about where you would like to show up better, make some small adjustments and things will improve.
Remind yourself to Make Room for Good Things as well as ignoring the cringe.
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