Becoming a group fitness instructor can be a challenging process, from passing the certification exam to learning how to create choreography, count, cue, lead and motivate a class. Therefore, having some support along the way from an experienced instructor can help new instructors navigate the fitness industry, develop sound skills, obtain valuable feedback and gain confidence in their teaching. As an experienced instructor who has been asked to serve as a mentor, have you thought about how you might facilitate the process and guide a new instructor toward success in teaching? Here are several mentoring ideas and strategies you can use to provide guidance and support to your mentees:
Perform an Initial Assessment of your Mentee’s Skills
Before you can provide direction and advice to a new instructor, you have to first assess his or her baseline knowledge and skills. This can be done through conversation by asking specific questions related to exercise science, class design and teaching techniques. In addition, you can set up a mock class (or attend your mentee’s regular class if he or she has already started teaching) to observe his or her teaching skills. Take notes as you observe the class and list out strengths, determine which skills need improvement and provide constructive feedback. Having an organized checklist that breaks down important skills into sections such as pre-class management, instructional and safety cueing, teaching methods, class management, and participant interaction and motivation may be helpful.
Once you complete your initial assessment, meet with your mentee to establish goals that are based on both your assessment and what your mentee is looking to accomplish through this experience. Establish a timeline for achieving those goals and how each goal will be assessed.
Create an Action Plan
Create an action plan to help your mentee work toward achieving your mutually agreed-upon goals. Your action plan should include a meeting schedule and specific expectations for both the mentor and mentee. Expectations you can establish for the mentee may include:
- Attending a certain number of classes each week to observe other instructors’ teaching skills and styles
- Attending the mentor’s classes each week
- Completing weekly assignments such as readings, practicing specific skills, creating choreography, or preparing to teach a class segment or combination
- Writing weekly reflections
- Participating in additional trainings or workshops
Provide Valuable Feedback
Provide regular feedback on your mentee’s progress toward his or her goals. When giving feedback, provide specific observations about the instructors’ knowledge, skills and performance, and offer suggestions on how these areas can be improved. While constructive evaluations are important for continual improvement, you should also give positive feedback and celebrate small wins to offer encouragement and motivation.
Follow up with your Mentee
Take the time to check in with your mentee between meetings to offer support, answer questions and keep him or her on track with assigned tasks. You can also use online meeting platforms to check in with your mentee or monitor progress if in-person meetings are not scheduled regularly.
Provide Opportunities to Teach
Provide opportunities for your mentee to prepare and teach a small segment of your class to gain confidence in teaching in front of participants. By focusing on small segments, your mentee can concentrate on perfecting specific skills and small choreography segments without being overwhelmed by having to teach a full class. Then, he or she can work toward teaching the full class over time.
Provide Resources and Networking Opportunities
Offer additional resources you may have, including previous choreography notes, books, helpful websites and suggestions for additional certifications your mentee may want to pursue. Also encourage him or her to attend workshops and conferences to experience a variety of class formats, gain additional skills and network with other health and exercise professionals. In addition, help your mentee make connections throughout your region to establish subbing and teaching opportunities.
While your role as a mentor is to help your mentees develop specific knowledge and skills needed to be an effective group fitness instructor, you also want to encourage them to avoid mimicking other instructors, and instead develop their own teaching style that is authentic to them. Every instructor has different ways of interacting with and motivating participants, so encourage your mentees to let their own personality shine through when teaching to offer a positive fitness environment and create a genuine connection with their class participants.