As I've confessed to in the past, I'm an organization/office supply crazy person. What's funny about this is that I'm usually a completely unorganized, forgetful mess! Hence the obsession with thinking that if I have all of the right organization tools, which of course also need to be super cute, then there may be hope for me to get my act together! When it comes to planning my sessions I go through phases when I'm more detail-oriented than others. It's important for me to share that this is not something I do without fail or perfectly. Depending on what I've got going on in my life my written preparation for my sessions varies. I'm always mentally prepared though and this is incredibly important. Your clients can tell when you're fully invested in their Pilates process or just showing up and teaching exercises. Whether you sit down and plan it out on paper or just make the plan in your head before the session begins, please respect your clients and be prepared for every session. In my case, I've been teaching some of my clients for 14 years and don't always write their sessions out because their workouts and bodies are as familiar to me as the back of my hand. I'm also a very intuitive teacher so once I read my clients energy when they walk through the door, the final decisions about the session are made. That being said I love the way it feels when I have a plan. I also want to mention how incredibly important I think this is when you start a brand new client. One of my pet peeves is to hear a teacher ask a client if they've ever done an exercise before. That should never be a conversation that happens in a session. Just like it's our job to know how to set up the equipment, it's also our job to know which exercises they've learned.
Below are 3 ways I organize my teaching binder. I think any version of this is fantastic. Some people use regular spiral notebooks, or apps or their computers, but when it comes to planning out my sessions, I love old school pen and paper. If you're looking for an electronic version of this check out Pilates Metrics. Joseph Quinn has created new software that's dedicated to strengthening the Pilates industry through advanced analytics on your smart phone or tablet. It's amazing! There is an awesome interview with him on Jenna Zaffino's podcast Pilates Unfiltered. Make sure you check it out!
Tip #1: My binder
I'm a little bit too excited about the new binder I found just before the new year. I found it in the clearance section of Office Depot for less than $10. It's a TŪL binder. These binders don't snap open and closed but have special inserts that can be easily pulled out and in. You can also wrap the cover all the way around, so it's more like a spiral bound notebook. The design of the paper that it comes with is perfect for writing out a class plan. My favorite thing about this binder above all else is the size. It's standard paper size (they have the smaller size too) but the width is only 1 inch. It fits perfectly in my work bag without bulking it up. I love, love, love this binder!
Tip #2: The layout
The reason I like to use a binder rather than a notebook is because I can use dividers to keep it organized. I have 5 sections: Private Lessons, Tower Classes, Reformer Classes, Mat Classes and Studio Notes. Then there's just a chunk of paper in the back.
Tip #3: My method
I usually sit down on Sundays and look at the few days ahead and plan then. Then I do the same thing again on Wednesday evenings. I'm never married to what I plan though, and I think that's super important. One characteristic I see in teachers that concerns me is when the sessions become about what they want to accomplish instead of what the client needs that day. Be mindful of that because it can make your client feel like they're disappointing you, and that's the last thing you want! As far as my method, I think about what we did the session before and how we can build on it. If I'm teaching a tower class I plan for making the fewest equipment changes as possible, so the lesson flows. I also think about who's coming if it's a large group class. If I have a tower class of 8 people and one person can't curl I plan ahead for what I can have them do while I'm teaching the stomach series to the rest of the group.
I hope these tips give you some ideas for being more prepared and organized for your clients. All of these things help me be more focused and less distracted when I'm in a session, so the whole session is truly about the person (or group) in front of me. Never forget that your students are putting their trust in you to be the expert. Be professional and be prepared!
P.S. The best part of my Sunday planning: staying in my pajamas, wearing NO make-up snuggling with this little lady! There's nothing like puppy love.