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Help! I’m More Than Just a Sub, Problem Solver

Q:It seems I’m always a bridesmaid, never the bride. I am good enough to sub classes when one of my colleagues needs someone, but my supervisor still doesn’t give me my own class. I’m available, trained and ready; however, openings never come my way. Meanwhile, subbing requests come in regularly, so I must be doing something right. What can I do to “move to the altar” and get more classes of my own?

Marla Ericksen

Gloucester, Ontario

Ineffective communication is the main culprit when there is dissatisfaction with class scheduling. Here are a few suggestions to help you clarify your position:

First, make sure your supervisor is aware of your professional needs and wishes. Your boss should be willing to hear you out and should be honest regarding what you can expect. You need to know and understand the criteria your group fitness coordinator uses in the scheduling process. Variables such us seniority, experience, availability,
versatility, qualifications and member feedback often play into the decision making, and each coordinator weighs these things differently.

If lack of experience is the stumbling block, try knocking on a few other doors. There are many teaching opportunities—both paid and volunteer—at community centers, corporate wellness centers and YMCAs. Network within your community and see if you can create your own class by finding a group of enthusiastic participants and a low-cost venue (e.g., a church basement). In the meantime, you could find a mentor and refine your teaching skills by working with this person either formally (apprenticeship) or informally (attending his or her classes).

Be patient and have faith in your abilities. An enthusiastic instructor with a solid skill set will always find gratifying work. If it isn’t coming to you, then go to it!

Julie McNeney

Vancouver, British Columbia

I’ve seen firsthand the frustration this can cause. Here are my suggestions:

1. Continue to sub classes when you can. The person putting the schedule together will recognize this effort.

2. Ask your supervisor if you can audition for your own class. Say that you want to grow as an instructor and you have the necessary skills.

3. Continue training and enhancing your skills by attending workshops and other instructors’ classes.

4. Ask your peers for feedback.

5. Ask to partner a class with the
assigned teacher so you can show long-term consistency.

6. When you sub a class, ask the regular teacher about the intensity
level, the class personality and the type of music that works best with that group. Use these tips to your
advantage when planning. You will then be more likely to inspire positive comments from the participants. Encourage them to give feedback directly to the director via the suggestion box, notes or verbal comments.

We have a sub list for all classes, and our instructors know they are only to ask people qualified to teach the class they need a sub for. This way, we are fairly confident that the class will be of
a similar caliber. The instructor’s personality may be different, but sometimes participants like that. Having
a list of approved subs, listed by class,
is a great way to alleviate the kind of problem you are referring to.

Patty Carothers

Castle Rock, Colorado

Having been both a bridesmaid and a bride, I can see the advantages of both. Let’s start with what you desire: your own class. You need to bring your training and expertise to the attention of the director, sometimes more than once. Keep this person up-to-date on your availability. To cement your talents in the director’s mind, offer to present a short lecture on a current
fitness topic at the next staff meeting. However, avoid coming across as a know-it-all; your personality should portray a team player.

Investigate seniority rules. For example, how many people ahead of you are waiting for their own classes? You may simply be further down the line on the waiting list. When you sub a class, make sure the members know your name; repeat it before and after class. Provide industry-approved handouts with your name on them to remind students of who you are, and let them promote you to the director. That’s a great way of establishing a following without a regular class.

You may want to take a step back and look at the advantages of subbing: You can set your own schedule, be selective about formats, instruct all types of classes and teach a wide range of clients. You also fill a great need for the club and its members, who know they have a great instructor to fill in when needed.


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