Teacher, Trainer or Instructor?

Tomorrow is Teacher’s day. A studio owner cum Pilates teacher shared that his late teacher use to say ‘we should address ourselves as Pilates Teachers and not Instructors nor Trainers.’.

I never like to be addressed as a teacher, somehow the term makes me feel weird. Maybe because it makes me feel old… I always picture teacher as someone a lot older, with loads of experience in the subject knowledge and life.  And I don’t like to associate myself to this weird image I have.

The word teacher makes me think of formal learning, like education in a school setting. I am very playful, my teachable moments are usually not in a formal setting, so to think of myself as a teacher, I feel, it’s a challenge.

I took some time to reflect on this today and wonder if there is a difference whether it is to teach, to instruct or to train another person.  So I look for Mr Google.

According to Dictionary.com,

To teach is to impart knowledge of or skill in; give instruction in:

To instruct is

  1. to furnish with knowledge, especially by a systematic method; teach; train; educate.
  2. to furnish with orders or directions; direct; order; command
  3. to furnish with information; inform; apprise.

To train is

  1. to develop or form the habits, thoughts, or behavior of (a child or other person) by discipline and instruction
  2. to make proficient by instruction and practice, as in some art, profession, or work
  3. to make (a person) fit by proper exercise, diet, practice, etc., as for an athletic performance.
  4. to treat or manipulate so as to bring into some desired form, position, direction, etc.

Seems like as Pilates Instructors or Fitness Trainers, we do a combination of imparting knowledge and skill, furnishing information, developing & forming habits, thoughts and behavior, make, treat or maniplate our clients into desired form or position. So we do put on the different hats of a teacher, instructor as well as trainer.

When do we assume the role of a teacher, instructor or trainer? I think it depends on who you are dealing with, how the person sees you and how ‘right’ that moment is. There is a saying, ‘The teacher will appear when the student is ready’. I think it’s not so much about the presence of the teacher, but the readiness of the student – the willingness to learn. When we are open to learn, anyone can be that teacher in our life, as every moment can become a teachable moment.

We see clients with different goals, different personalities, different state of mind, different belief system. Yes, there will be teachable moments, there will be moments their mind go wandering, moments of willingness and unwillingness to do new things or learn and relearn things. As instructors, one of the most valuable skill to acquire is to be sensitive and able to read the state of mind of our clients and change your hats accordingly.

I read a book ‘Show & Tell’ by Dan Roam few years back about giving powerful presentations, and the 3 rules of Show & Tell he gave struck me on why some presenters are better than others:

  1. Lead with the eye and the mind will follow
  2. Lead with a story and understanding will follow
  3. Lead with the truth and the heart will follow

A good presenter uses a mixture of all those 3 techniques. Sometimes one more than the others. I think it is important to sense the state of our clients and know when to use a particular technique to connect with them as one of the keys to a successful session. Body language, things they say, how they move are some ways we can detect their state.

So, back to the topic, will addressing yourself differently change things?

Yes. Giving yourself a title, like teacher or instructor will affect you yourself and your client. If I’m going to address myself as a teacher, I may behave the way I believe how a teacher should behave compared to a trainer or instructor. The schema I have of these titles affect my expectation and the way I carry myself.

Likewise, for the client, they adjust their behavior and expectation based on their belief and the way they see you. And this relationship is like a cycle, if a person sees you as a teacher, the person will expect you to be a role model, to be learning from you and you will be expecting the person to be a learner, and that’s how the two of you will feed into each other’s chain of expectation.

So, will I address myself as a Pilates Teacher? No. Haha. But surely, I would like to wear the hat of a teacher at times, be that relief teacher, to be there when the moment is right for my clients.

Happy Teacher’s Day to you, whether or not you address yourself as Teacher.  We all were and will be someone’s teacher at some point.

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