Turning Ordinary Teaching Moments into Magical Ones

by  Clare Dunphy

Have you ever wondered, at the end of the day, what exactly came together in the moment to make you feel like you were a great teacher that day?  Something clicked and everything seemed to work; the right cues at the right time, how your student responded, and the effect you had on their movement.

Let’s take a closer look.

We communicate in many subtle ways and our clients respond to us not only according to their style of learning, personality, and mood, but to ours as well. Brilliant teaching moments happen when we widen our awareness of how we impact the ‘space’ around us and by developing techniques for greater effectiveness, sensitivity, and empathy. We not only create a space for better learning, but we create a space for transformation.  How we listen, and especially how we respond, to signals from our clients can create a simple shift that can turn an ordinary moment into a magical one.

Did you know that when we communicate, most of the message’s impact is non-verbal? In fact, just 7% of a message is transmitted by the words we choose. 38% comes from non-verbal cues, and most of the impact comes when non-verbal and visual cues are used together!  Therefore, it is important to not only be aware of our verbal cues, but also our voice dynamics, posture, and touch – all of which impact our message.

Every message we hear is filtered through our past experience, present state, and future desires. Basically, it is “interpreted.” That message is then responded to and received again, then perceived and interpreted, by the receiver. In Pilates, we think we are clear in our cueing until we see the students doing something entirely different from what we are ‘saying’.

What happened?

Most likely, they ‘heard’ or interpreted our cue differently from how we intended!

Communication comes through many channels: our eyes, words, body, tone of voice, and intention. So you can see that there is much room for misinterpretation. We can learn to be better teachers by practicing being congruent in all the ways our message is delivered, so that message has a better chance of being received as it was intended.

Romana regularly reminded us that as teachers, we are both students of the body and students of human nature.  She was masterful at reading situations, movement and people. I was always amazed at how she could pinpoint that one simple cue or touch which created a major change for the student.  She was teaching us how to pay attention and listen with our whole self so our response/cue/touch was on target and in the moment.

Think back to your favorite teacher when you were in school. It’s not just the facts they imparted, but how they made you feel – comfortable, secure, and special. Can anyone feel too supported, too liked or too loved? How can we cultivate a transformative student/teacher relationship?

First, establish a feeling of trust so every student feels that we have his or her best interests at heart.  Clear communication is imperative, along with an awareness of all the ways we communicate, both verbally and non-verbally.  This allows us to adjust ourselves to different situations and make choices that turn a good session into a “sense”-ational session. Since communication is a two-way street, how we listen or receive communication from our client will inform us in our teaching choices.  Observe with all your senses – not just what you see, but how their mood and energy feels that day. Pay attention to what they say, how they say it, and how that makes you feel.

It helps to recognize that everyone is open to the present moment in a particular way, both parties bringing their own history and filters to the now.  The way we are open, or our mood, moves beyond emotion or feeling. Our mood describes what we are open to encountering, our view of the future and possibilities, and the distance we put between ourselves and others. Try to understand what your client’s mood is.  What are they open to encountering?  This will help you position yourself to find the right thing to say, in the right way, and at the right moment.

Each session or class presents us with ample opportunities to discover something fresh in the moment, and another chance to be enriched through the student/teacher relationship.  Magic is no accident….


bw headshot 2Clare Dunphy Hemani is the founder of Progressive Bodyworks, based in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Her roots in the field of human movement began at Northeastern University where she earned a BS in Physical Education in 1985, and holds certifications from PMA, ACE, and the Pilates Guild. In 1995, Clare began her Pilates studies under Romana Kryzanowska (first generation Master Teacher) and has since studied with several other teachers. Clare is a presenter on Pilatesology.com and filmed with Pilates Anytime March 2015.  Clare hosts two free video channels on vimeo.com for students and teachers interested in supplemental learning to keep the work vibrant in their practice. As co-author of the Peak Pilates Comprehensive Education Program, she mentored many teachers and teacher trainers between 2001-2013.  Clare’s studio is a unique space where students and teachers around the world come to hone their technique and study the art of teaching. Committed to preserving the authenticity and tradition of Pilates, her approach is refreshing, energetic and supportive.  Clare is excited to bring her talents her new program Pilates Avatar, launching late Spring, a comprehensive audio program designed for students, teachers and studio owners.  Clare’s gift is her willingness to share knowledge generously and her ability to explain concepts in simple, clear ways.  Her mission is to support the potential in all students/teachers and to keep the spirit of Joe and Romana alive in her work.  Follow Clare at www.progressivebodyworksinc.com.