What Makes a Good Teacher

Dad teaching daughter to ride a bike

This is somewhat subjective, mostly written from from a beginner/intermediate student’s perspective.

To be completely honest, when I first started taking exercise classes, I didn’t really understand why other people cared about who the teacher was. The instructor was just like a shapeless blob at the front of the room telling me what to do. I didn’t understand why students might not attend a class if there was a substitute. It all seemed close enough to me.

Obviously that didn’t last. A few months in, I started developing stronger preferences. About a year in, I started going out of my way to see a specific teacher. Currently, I pretty much only see teachers that I know and like. As an exception, a couple times a month I like to try something new, because you never know what you might find.

In the beginning, it also took me a long time to develop any kind of connection/familiarity with teachers. By now, it comes fairly naturally. It usually happens quite quickly, in a matter of weeks. At the same time, being a regular can also help you establish friendships with other students, if that’s something you are interested in.

I’m explaining this because it wasn’t initially obvious to me that a class can be a very different experience with a teacher that knows you. You will often get more comments and individual assistance. They might let you do more advanced options, and help you with them. It can also be very encouraging to have someone notice and compliment your progress.

So if you find an instructor you like, it can be worth tailoring your schedule to maximise your time with them. Aim for a regular consistency rather than occasional short intense bursts.

How to Choose a Teacher/Instructor/Trainer

But what if you’re not sure if you’re choosing the right person to trust your training with? If you like many instructors or if they all still seem interchangable to you, here is a list of things I would pay attention to to decide who would be good for me.

1.  They know that they are doing.

  • They are knowledgeable and strict about form and technique. To some people this can feel like criticism or like they’re being told off, so you need to be humble enough to listen.
  • They include a solid warm up, detailed instructions, etc.
  • They can demonstrate the moves, repeatedly if needed.

2. But they are actually good at teaching, not just doing.

  • They give lots of useful adjustments and correction.
    • I know some people don’t like that, but that seems like one of the main points of classes to me. I’d much prefer to be told if I’m doing something wrong than potentially hurt myself down the line.
  • They pay attention to as many people as possible, which can admittedly be very difficult (which is why I’m a fan of small group sizes).
    • Good attention split between regulars and newcomers.
    • I like it if there’s a consistent theme for people who come regularly, but not so much that it makes first timers feel left out.
  • They can handle all levels accepted by the class.
    • Bad example: aerial teacher who couldn’t think of anything for me to do when I couldn’t invert properly as a beginner, in a class that explicitly welcomed beginners.
  • They check if there are any newcomers or injuries at the start of the class and adjust their plan for the class if needed.

3. They care and help you progress, safely.

  • They remember your name and general level of ability (not necessarily the first time you see them, but soon).
  • They support, challenge and encourage you, while not pushing into exhaustion or injury.
    • They tell you when they know you can do better, or when you’re ready for the next stage, but don’t force you into it. I know there are some students who want to be pushed to their max, but that style doesn’t work for me.
  • They make you feel safe.
    • Bad example: someone shows you a new aerial move for the first time, and is then unable to get you out safely when you get stuck halfway through.

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