know this topic has been addressed time and time again on the instructor forum, but it recently came up again while leading an orientation this past Saturday at my home club, the Buffalo Athletic Club. What do you as an instructor do when students are talking during Spinning class?
This happens to be one of my favorite questions because as a behaviorist by profession (and former 9th grade teacher), I find that many of the techniques that work in the school classroom also work in the Spinning room.
1. You have to set the tone at the start of class, reminding participants that there is no talking during class, for the benefit of both you and those around you. You can say things like "we want all incoming oxygen helping out those working muscles & heart.", etc (I usually insert a couple of light jokes about encouraging communication with your neighbor via mental telepathy and/or sign language).
2. If talking does occur during class, you must enforce what you stated at the start of class. It can all be done in a positive way--using both group and, if needed, individual reminders. This is why teaching off the bike is such an important skill, so you're comfortable working the room leading the class verbally instead of visually, and giving both corrective and positive feedback. If you have two stubbornly chatty people sitting next to each other, pause for a bit so you are standing directly between their bikes while continuing to coach the class. This usually sends a strong but non-aggressive message. Light humor works well but must you must be firm in your message.
3. As a last resort, I have had to approach people during class and say with a smile "Is everything OK here? I respect your need to have this conversation right now, but if it can't wait until after class, I'm going to ask you to finish it outside the room and please rejoin us when you're ready. Thank you so much."
I've been in some classes where the instructor gets very upset and either tosses out a sarcastic comment directed at the "talkers" (it's never a good idea to repay one rudeness with another, especially when wielding the mighty power of the microphone & instructor bike), or will start to raise the volume of the music as punishment. Let's face it, sidebar conversations during class are annoying whether you are the instructor or a fellow participant, but to engage in acts that are equally annoying tends to devolve the positive atmosphere we are trying to foster.
I have to confess that while on paper this all sounds good, it can be challenging to actually implement especially when you are a brand new instructor or subbing for an unfamiliar and rowdy class. I had a unexpectedly challenging experience while teaching a recovery ride at WSSC a few years ago. A few veteran and well known Spinning instructors were participating in the ride, but were also (I suspect) recapping a long and exhausting day of workshops amongst themselves. It was a tough call for me, but I ultimately had to stick to my guns and ask them to quiet down. While it didn't appear to be well received by them, several of the riders after the session thanked me for intervening.
In an amusing twist of coincidence after this weekend's training, my friend and Star 3 Spinning instructor Ed Esposito posted this clip on his Facebook page Monday morning from the television show "The Office" of the ultimate unruly Spinning student. It's been making the rounds on social networking sites this week, but just in case you missed it:
Over my next few blogs I'll be exploring the art of giving corrective feedback. This has been part of an interesting ongoing discussion in the Spinning community and especially on the WSSC site, mostly centered around Master Instructors correcting the form of participants during conference ride sessions. Check out the WSSC site at spinning.com or on Facebook to weigh in on the discussion. What do you do in class when your students need a little extra guidance?
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