The Best Qualities of a Great Gymnastics Teacher
What is the most important quality to have when working with children?
The answer written on 99% of application received is "patience." Wrong!
The correct answer is: You have to love kids.
So let's take a look at the 10 best qualities you need to have if you want to be an excellent gymnastics teacher.
How to Start
When kids come to check in for class:
- Know your students by their names when they walk in the door. If you're really good, remember their first, middle and last name - boy will they feel like a movie star! And that's what is important—making them feel good!
- Remember special things about them such as where they went on vacation if they were gone the last week, or if they were ill the last week - tell them you missed their smiling face!
- Ask them details about themselves such as, "what is your birthday?" or "what is your home address?" Get them to think about important things they should know and be able to recite. Every once in a while I will throw in something funny such as, "Can I see your driver's license? How do I know you are really Sally?" Kids love it when you make them laugh.
- Remember that continuity is important with children so having the same teacher every week makes a big difference for 1. their comfort 2. their development 3. their progress.
- The real customer is the parent. If the children are happy and having fun, the parent—customer is happy. Make sure that you take time to give positive feedback to parents after each class.
Things Every Gymnastics Teacher Needs to Know
As a general manager and person who hires gymnastics instructors, once I have gone over the application and references I schedule the interview. The first things I look for in a potential candidate at our initial greeting are:
- Do you look me in the eye?
- Do you shake my hand when I offer it?
- Do you smile at me and seem confident?
Each potential candidate who makes it through the interview process is given a chance to team teach before they are hired. Once they are out on the floor with the kiddos, this is what a gym program will typically look for:
Energy, Vitality, Zeal, Zest!
Instructors should be bubbly, happy and smiling at the children from the moment you first make contact until they kiddos are out the door. Students should be excited to see the instructor at every meeting. Typically, classes begin with circle time or a warm-up. This should be filled with fun, fun, fun! If the instructor is embarrassed about being boisterous or being the center of attention, they may not be the right candidate for the job. They want someone who can hold the attention of the group and make the kids smile!
Make eye contact.
It's important that instructors make eye contact with the children. Eye contact establishes respect, lets the child know that they are speaking to them directly and that they are listening as well. It will also ensure that the child understands what the instructor is explaining. If the teacher is speaking to the child and looking somewhere else, how will the child know if the instruction is meant specifically for him or her? Eye contact is very important.
Work with all of the children in the class.
Instructors should make sure that every student gets a turn at each station. If there are too many stations for the kids to go through in an organized manner, take down as many stations as you need to so that the kids can move through the stations easily making sure everyone is taking a turn. Since you are an active teacher, you will be constantly moving throughout the stations, making eye contact and giving positive reinforcement along with one simple correction at a time.
Get involved, be attentive, be a constant part of the action.
Instructors should be very involved in the class. Because gymnastics requires so much body awareness, it may be difficult to verbally explain how to do a bridge to a 5 year old. If you can physically help them by gently leaning them backward over a mat or mailbox (as we call it) while spotting them, you can teach them how to do a bridge by being "hands-on". Teachers who don't get involved in the class are not as successful. Our job is to teach gymnastics. In order to do that, we have to get down on our hands and knees, poke, prod, pull, push, run, jump and sometimes catch - it's exhausting but it's worth it.
Maintain a high level of energy.
It's a well known fact that if you are enjoying what you're teaching, you class will be enjoying it too. Happiness is contagious. Teaching children requires that you start, maintain and finish with a high level of energy. The last thing you should do as kids are leaving is give a high-five or a foot-five (high-five with the foot) and tell them how awesome their forward rolls and straight-arm front supports were today and that you will see them at 4:00 pm sharp next Tuesday for class! You just reminded them what they did in class so they can tell mom or dad the skills you worked on - now the customer knows exactly what gymnastics their child is learning.
Work on a variety of events and stations—mix it up.
If you are allowed to make your own lesson plans, be creative. Refrain from doing the exact same stations every class. The more you introduce your students to, the more skills your class will learn. Make sure that you visit every event that is available to you. Be prepared before your class begins. If you aren't prepared to teach it will show.
When you are consistent you will make sure that kiddos have straight arms and legs, pointed feet, start and finish in a lunge, pin their arms to their ears and perform with correct technique. Upper level coaches will love you if you teach kids correctly because they will not have to re-teach the fundamental skills. The beginner level instructors have the hardest job in the industry because it's their responsibility to lay down the foundation for the career of the athlete.
Supervise and control your class—don't allow them to run amok.
It's important that you teach your kiddos to stand in line and take proper turns. This is especially important to teach to the younger kids because it's a social skill that is necessary for children in public, school and in life. Kids don't automatically know how to stand in line, they learn it. Once the teacher has taught the children to stand in line and take turns, it's important that they begin to work on stations. This is one way kids begin to learn problem solving skills.
Communicate effectively and use positive reinforcement.
Use simple statements and positive reinforcement. If you are giving a correction or feedback and your student is not understanding, don't ignore it. Find another way to say what your trying to say. Don't allow yourself to become frustrated because you will most likely frustrate the child. A simple way to success is to break skills down to their smallest pieces and teach them as parts. Once kiddos know all of the parts, put the parts together slowly and viola! You will have skills. Kids love to feel good, they love to get stamps and stickers and happy things. At the youngest ages you are looking for close approximations, not perfect 10.0s. If you see something that resembles a cartwheel, shout HOORAY! Give a high-five and tell Susie she is Awesome! She'll be doing cartwheels all over the place.
Be silly, be funny, bring out your inner child. This is the time when you can let go and de-stress. Don't worry about what other teachers or coaches are thinking of you. Don't watch other classes or look at parents to see who is paying attention. Zoom in on your class, laugh with them, have a good time and it will pay off in more ways that you can imagine.
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