I’ve sat through several trainings over the years. Some have been really great, and some have been absolutely awful. And as much as these trainers get up in front of a room us how we can be better, so can they. And perhaps, they could learn something from CrossFit. It’s not necessarily that I want them to lift weights, or that I want them to do penalty burpees, but I want them to understand that there is another way.
- We need to be welcomed to change. The last thing that we should ever tell our students is that they should just quit if they do not have certain characteristics or abilities. NEVER in a million years could I imagine telling students to get out of my classroom and quit taking English classes because they aren’t natural readers or writers. Students can learn and can be successful. Yet, teachers are told this often in the name of teacher training. If we are or are not (fill in the blank) we should resign and get out of teaching immediately. In CrossFit, I’m not a natural athlete, and a number of people in my box are not either. And I have NEVER heard a coach in my box tell anyone that if he or she is not like Rich Froning, to give up now and get out of the box. Each coach makes everyone feel welcome, and feel welcome to make positive changes. And the change does not have to be dramatic. It just has to be. And the only qualification is hard work.
- We need to be told how. Most teachers that I work with know that we can change and be better/more efficient/more effective. We get told that in trainings pretty often. However, there is very little direction in HOW to do that. CrossFit coaches do not just tell us that we are doing things wrong and then walk away and leave us. They will break things down in to small pieces, stand there and work with the athlete, and make sure progress is made in the right direction before walking away. And then they come back and check – over and over and over again. I know that my coaches have worked with me to show me how to be better, and I’ve watched them do the same thing with other athletes in the box. And then, they keep checking and refining the how to do the move correctly.
- We need to know what this looks like at the end. You will be an effective teacher and your students will succeed is one of the most vague end results I have ever heard, and I have heard it hundreds of time in trainings. What in the heck does that mean? How does that look? CrossFit coaches will show you what the end results look like. They are clear, identifiable, and yet tailored to each lift or move or skill. They will also go the extra mile to show you what not to do and how it will go badly. That helps, too.
- We need to know what we are doing right. We are not always completely wrong. There are things that as teachers, we do very well. Yet, teachers keep getting the message that we need to get better, which seems to insinuate that what we are doing is not good, especially when we are told this by trainers who have never been in our classrooms. Heck, I got told that at my very first teacher training, and I did not even have a classroom yet. CrossFit coaches tell athletes where their strengths are, and how to use those to improve our other skills. At no point have I ever been told that everything I am doing is wrong, and my coaches carefully observe what I am doing several times before they say anything. I am told often when a lift looks good, so I can repeat those motions over and over and over again. And I am also told how to build on what I am doing right.
- We need encouragement. It is hard not to drown in negativity. It truly is. But negativity sells because that means someone can sell a product to improve your worker. But how hard would it be for a trainer who wants to help improve to come alongside of us and encourage us rather than tear down. Friday, during the worst workout ever, my cousin and coach stood next to me for the last nine lifts and encouraged me to keep moving. This was the point in the workout when fatigue and frustration take over. But she firmly kept encouraging me to keep going, and step by step, continued to give me instruction. And I set a PR by five minutes. I have another cousin and coach who encouraged me to try lifting more than I thought I could. And I successfully completed the lift eight times. Think about it. What could teachers accomplish with encouragement?
- We need positive self-fulfilling prophecies. As teachers, we keep things very positive in our classroom environments because we don’t want our students living down to lowered expectations and becoming a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. If we tell them they are something negative, or will never get it, well…they won’t. Teachers need the same thing set before them – positive expectations to live up to. It is not hard, and does not have to be overwhelming or burdensome, as some trainers would have us believe. It is simple – here is what we are going to do right now, here is what we will work on for a set amount of time, and here is when we will check and should see this much improvement. I did this Friday, with my coach and cousin. She let me do a workout with a certain weight. She also said that I was to do this again with her in six weeks, in which time she wanted to see an improvement of 10 to 20 pounds in the lift. My workout buddy has the same date with her. We have six weeks to live up to those expectations, and you better believe that we are going to be working our tails off to do it. Why? Because that is her expectation of us.
- We need empathy and validation. Trainers will often use the “been there, done that” demonstrations to illustrate a type of teacher, usually a bad example. We all have struggles. We all have joys. And we are all in this together. And to acknowledge this is so critical, because without it, we often feel alone and isolated. When I find myself struggling with something at CrossFit, more often than not, my coaches will offer empathy and support rather than saying that is just my problem. They will readily share with me their own struggle with particular skills, and what they did to work through it. Their way may not exactly work for me, but it is a starting point.
- We need community. Trainers can, without realizing, be very divisive. They split faculties into the haves and the have nots. This leads to isolation, and the feeling that there is no one, or very few people, who we can talk to. We stand on the field, alone. Why is that? CrossFit offers community to all of its members. I’ve seen other members who are drowning in a pool of their own sweat raise their heads and encourage others. My coaches have stood right by me and told me to pick up the bar, that I had not failed yet, and those same coaches are backed by several others members. I, too, have laid on the floor to support my workout buddy who was trying to die during Fran. That was not going to happen. That community and support is essential to everyone’s success. We need it. We crave it. And it opens up a door of trust so that we can support one another. We all win.
And at the end of the day, we need to be able to celebrate our accomplishments. The white board at CrossFit allows all of us to see progress and celebrate each other. It does not matter if it is a gain of a single pound on a lift, or cutting our time in half on a benchmark, each accomplishment is celebrated. We give out stickers and praise for students when they do well, but at what point do teachers get to share what went well for them and celebrate those accomplishments?
What could we learn from CrossFit to help better train teachers? Quite a bit. We just need to start.