Where I found my “balance”

karate kid quote

Heads up, this post is going to be about “working out”. Six years ago, as a reader that would have been enough information for me to decide to stop reading this post. In fact, prior to 2010 I hadn’t worked out in 5 years (unless you count endless trips to my kitchen to refill my cereal bowl with Lucky Charms) and I really didn’t want to hear about anyone else’s exercise routine. So, I get it. But, bear with me, this post is different.

I had many excuses as to why I didn’t exercise…I was pregnant, I was trying to get pregnant, I was too tired, I was too busy, etc. In reality, the reason I didn’t workout was because no workout resonated with me. That is until March 2010 when I was reluctantly dragged by a friend to a Bar Method class. After one class I was hooked. If you would have asked me then why was I hooked I wouldn’t have known the answer. But, now I know exactly why: The Bar Method has given me balance literally and figuratively. The Bar Method has made me stronger physically and it has made me stronger professionally. 

You may be wondering, “Professionally? The Bar Method has made you a better educator?” 

Yes, that is correct. The Bar Method has made me a better educator. 

The Bar Method has given me first-hand experience as a recipient of effective instruction and assessment. As a student at Bar Method classes, I am certainly concentrating on my form and my goals, but I am never able to completely turn off the Instructional Coach part of my brain. The upside is, I am not thinking about my to-do list while I am in class.  I am constantly noting how the The Bar Method demonstrates the hallmarks of high-quality instruction and assessment.  In fact, I think Jim Knight would say that the Bar Method has got the Big 4 down (for anyone who takes Bar classes…pun intended:)

Simply put, The Bar Method reinforces:

The importance of clear expectations, consistency, and modeling: all classes follows the same pattern. The teacher briefly models each exercise. Then, she continues to instruct while simultaneously assessing and correcting students. The class is structured so that the muscle groups are worked in the same order each class. The variety comes in with the type of exercise participants will be engaging in that day. Students are easily able to adapt to changes because there is flexibility within structure (again, Bar students, pun intended). 

The unwavering need for differentiation: ALL exercises have challenge options as well as options for modification. Notice I said ALL exercises as opposed to students being on a challenge track or modification track for the entire class. Similar to K-12 schools participants are often stronger in one area than another.  They may need a challenge during one exercise and a modification during another. Plus, some participants have special considerations: pregnancy, prior injury, etc.

The positive effect of goal-setting: The instructors are always asking participants to set personal goals. Some studio owners offer incentives for reaching goals. Having tangible, measurable goals makes reaching these goals compelling to students. You will often times seeing participants converse with others about their goals, “how many classes do you aim to take this month?” “Have you been able to do push-ups on your toes yet?” “Can you give me any pointers about how you raise your legs during flat-back?”

The power of immediate, actionable feedback: This is my absolute favorite item on this list. The instructors give each individual participant (sometimes upwards of 20 in a class) applicable feedback throughout class. Students taking their first class receive as much feedback as students taking their 1000th class. Bar Method teachers and studio owners get feedback when they take class. The power lies in the timing of the feedback…in the moment. “Lisa, straighten your arm and step your right leg out more….” That feedback is helpful to me during the exercise. If the teacher told me that after class it would be too late. And, because the teachers give honest feedback, when they give non-attribute praise (rather than, “good job, Lisa” they will say, “excellent form, Lisa, your shoulders are perfectly aligned”) the recognition is that much more credible and meaningful. 

The necessity of being reflective in our practices: I have been taking class for 6 years. Many of my instructors have been instructing this entire time. I have watched them reflect on their teaching practices by implementing changes over the years. Some of these changes are systemic (exercise set-up has changed) or personal (musicality of the instructor has improved). The founder, owners and instructors at The Bar Method model a growth mindset as they are constantly showing their learning even if that means a change in a past practice.

Quantifiable results: The Bar Method works.  I promise.  I am not a before/after picture person, so you’ll have to take my word on this one.:)

This post is not a sales pitch for The Bar Method. Yes, you may like this workout and you should absolutely try it, but this post is about teaching and learning. Regardless of the content, excellent instruction and assessment remain the same. Think about classes you have taken as an adult student (academic or otherwise). What about the classes made them effective? What could have been improved? How can you apply these reflections in your own practice?


Footnote: Why The Karate Kid reference for this post? 

  1. Mr. Myagi is my favorite coach.  I had to have a coaching connection. This is an instructional coaching blog after all.
  2. I like the quote. The best “lessons” do more than cover content, they stick with us for life.
  3. On days I don’t go to The Bar Method, I go for long walks.  The theme song You’re The Best Around is one of my favorites. True confession? I often listen to it on repeat for the duration of my walk. Go ahead and click on this link…see if you can only listen once:)

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