Yesterday I went to my first class at Pure Barre. Having gone to Exhale and Bar Method, I was curious about the differences at Pure Barre. The class structure was extremely similar, but I found some different teaching inspiration.
1) Accounting for Transitions and Organizing Materials Saves Time – At Exhale, the weights and straps are stored in the back corner of the studio in bins on the floor. If all students arrive in a staggered way, then collecting these items before the start of class is pretty easy. Pure Barre has the weights organized on shelves right outside of the studio with the numbers facing out, so that you can grab them from the various shelves on your way in. Similarly, the tubes are hanging on racks so they’re not tangled, and they’re easy to grab. Pure Barre adds one extra piece of equipment (playground balls), and several baskets of these are staggered inside the studio and out. During class, Exhale has students return their weights to the bins immediately after the arm section (causing a big line). Pure Barre does not. I preferred this because we got a little more time to stretch our arms and transition to the next set of exercises.
My takeaway for the classroom: reassess my organization to think about how materials are used in context (versus whether I have enough space for them). I’d like to figure out the tasks I keep repeating (or that students keep repeating) and make them more efficient. I would also like to find the spots of downtime and cut them down to increase on-task time and cut off the starting points for boredom. I appreciate that both Exhale and Pure Barre classes go straight through the hour without awkward breaks.
2) Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable – I read a post by Nicole is Better that has a compelling lesson: “When you cross the border between comfort and discomfort, you have no choice but to step up your game. When you want to change, when you want to be better, you have to push yourself into discomfort.” My experience at Pure Barre yesterday was exactly that. Exhale was my first experience with barre classes, so I have a mental association with only being able to achieve the first levels of exercises (often shying away from doing the challenge modifications). I noticed at Pure Barre that the instructor didn’t explicitly offer many modifications to make the exercises easier or more challenging (though she did come around to correct our form). She proceeded through class as if everyone could achieve the same level of fitness, and lo and behold, I didn’t automatically downgrade myself (e.g., by doing side plank with a knee on the ground). Exhale offers options to push regular attendees, which I appreciate as well–so now I’m inspired to take those options the next time I go!
My takeaway for the classroom: Treat activities as if they are achievable by all students, emphasizing a “you can do it!” attitude instead of coming in thinking “they are going to have the worst time with this, it will be so hard,” and encouraging students to go for the challenge rather than to take the comfortable road.
Photo Credit: Pure Barre
Over the past few years, I’ve been going to the barre after work for fun and stress relief. No, readers, not the *bar*…but it still is a happy hour! Exhale Spa is near my school, so I always snap up deals from Groupon, Gilt, Rue La La, and Bloomspot when they are available. I’ve also gone to Bar Method, go to Lava Barre when in Virginia visiting family, and am excited to go to Pure Barre later this month.
Today I went to Denise Griffin Crowe’s Core Fusion Barre class at Exhale. Notorious for her tough classes, she has quite the following. Her 6:15 a.m. Wednesday class is booked solid until the next Mayan apocalypse. After experiencing her class today, I thought about the classroom management strategies that help teachers keep students focused on math group work when they’re tired…and pushing through a set of plies when they’re tired.
1) Get to know your students. Introduce yourself at the start of class to each student and find out if they have any injuries or need modifications. Not all students come to class with the same strengths, so the lesson can’t be one-size-fits-all.
2) Learn the students’ names. Though this is a relationship builder, it deserves its own spot. The Bar Method teachers are crazy good at doing this. Even if it’s your first class, they will somehow memorize your name and then use it when calling you out to fix your form or to praise you. When you come back for subsequent classes, they will greet you by name at check in. I appreciate that!
3) Interact with every student at least once in the class. It’s easy for a teacher to focus only on her regulars, but that can make newbies feel left out. Before I came to these barre studios, I’d only been to gym yoga or BodyPump classes where the instructor stays at the front of the class and demonstrates rather than going around to give feedback to students. Relating to number 1) above…don’t push your students too hard if they’re not ready. I had to stop and rest a few times during some of the leg work at the barre today, and I was glad that Denise didn’t scold me for doing so. I also noticed that she differentiated for advanced students rather than trying to keep the entire class at the same level.
4) Give a variety of feedback. Non-verbal feedback saves so much time and keeps the class running smoothly. For example, the instructor could yell “Little Sally, put your shoulders over your hips and do your plies lower” from across the room or she could come over to Little Sally, gently put her hands on Little Sally’s shoulders to align her and push her to the appropriate height level. Verbal feedback for correction should be done close to the student so that she doesn’t feel singled out or embarrassed. I never used to think about this when teaching math, but after experiencing well-done verbal corrections in barre class, I am trying to bring more of that to my teaching. Verbal feedback for praise can often help students push through uncomfortable situations and stay motivated. When I hear “great job, Kristina!” I work a little harder.
5) Structure the class well. Provide counts to let students know where they are and how much longer to expect to work. Every teacher I’ve seen has planned her class structure so well that transitions went smoothly and we ended exactly on time. The teachers also anticipate where students will have trouble, then help them make adjustments. The one time I noticed a blip in structure was when the teacher was implementing a new class format. She explained the changes in front of the class (they didn’t seem awkward there). However, I overheard her after class speaking about how she’d accidentally made one part too short.
I look forward to getting physically and mentally stronger from barre classes. It’s fun to find teaching strategies in unexpected places!