Q:What steps can I take to get the teaching schedule I want? The facilities where I teach don’t seem to have any formal system for determining who gets what class when. Hints to my directors haven’t gotten any real commitment or definitive answer. I don’t think politics drives these decisions. Maybe it’s simply random—or the luck of being in the right place at the right time. Any ideas for being proactive? What have other instructors done to improve their weekly teaching schedule in terms of class type, time and frequency?

Michelle Damis,
Portland, Oregon

Keep an up-to-date list of the hours you are available and the class formats you teach. Then make sure the locations where you want to teach have a copy of that list. Remember that the more formats you teach, the more classes you can choose from. As a
director, I appreciate a versatile instructor who has taken the time to prepare a professional and current presentation.

When you do get assigned a class, be responsible by covering the basics! Maintain a current primary certification; show up; be on time; and be a team player. Word gets through the grapevine about who is dependable. Trust that directors (like myself) are more inclined to prioritize schedule requests for a reliable instructor than for a “diva.” Also,
if your facility doesn’t have a bulletin board, Web site or call line that lists open classes, suggest the idea to your director. If your facility does not have a clear policy regarding schedule assignments, the biggest step you can take is to ask for one.

Angie Ford,
Canberra, Australia

When you picture your ideal weekly teaching schedule, consider your motivations for teaching. Also decide how long you wish to teach. For me, fitness is a lifelong commitment (and pleasure!), so I want to consider the lifelong view when designing my schedule. For me, this determines the maximum weekly load I allow myself to take on. Thinking long term also helps me resist teaching when I’m ill.

Once you’ve decided your reasons for teaching, you will have the best chance of getting the class types, times and frequency you desire if you are interested in your facility’s program; flexible when your life and the club’s schedule change; and good at what you do. I believe that a group fitness manager will gladly work to meet an instructor’s requests if that instructor is an enthusiastic, quality teacher who is dedicated to the facility.

One should not expect to walk into a fitness facility and pick and choose classes. Take the initiative to find out why certain classes and instructors are allocated to particular time slots. Specifically ask what you need to do
to be considered for a class you want. And try to be the one who fills in or subs for classes. Your coordinator will appreciate and remember you for filling in at the last minute or during “tough-to-fill” spots.

Being flexible also makes scheduling easier. Personal schedules are dynamic. As your long-term and weekly plans change, so will your ideal teaching schedule. Keep your coordinator informed as your availability shifts. Be clear in your own mind as to the times and classes you can teach versus the ones you want to teach. Help out when you can, but set limits when necessary. (However, the fewer the limits, the greater the possibilities.) And most important, take care of the best tool you have—your body! If you are unwell, injured, overworked or overcommitted, take another look at your schedule. Balance the ideal with the real to be successful over the long term. ‰

Dahelia Hunt,

To truly answer this great question, you need to go through a six-point checklist and inventory yourself. Once you have all six steps in place, you will be ready to take on a class.

1. Be qualified to teach the type(s) of class(es) your facility needs. Get the training or certification necessary to meet minimum standards.

2. Determine your availability. Can you realistically teach if and when the club offers the class you want? Assess your standing as a team player: How much are you willing to work your schedule around the club’s needs (not the other way around)? I’ve dealt with instructors who felt they deserved a class built around them, not around the participants or facility.

3. Assess your proficiency. Do you really understand the class content and the participants’ style? Maybe you’re qualified to teach a prime-time, hard-core indoor cycling class, but you actually work best with a low-key group.

4. Are you multiskilled? If you want to teach more classes, then learn how to teach more class types.

5. Protect yourself by staying injury free. Take care of yourself by considering your future and longevity.

6. Look objectively at your attitude.
Be aggressive enough to go after a class but don’t push out others to get in. Maintain a measure of confidence, but temper it with a team attitude
so you avoid appearing arrogant.

If after this self-assessment you feel ready, then act! Don’t wait for a director to come to you. Step up to the challenge and say, “I think I am ready to take on this class. Please let me try out for it.” This kind of desire and interest—
combined with the six steps—should guarantee a win-win situation.

A:We Need Your Questions!’Fess up! You must have at least one burning question about teaching. Most of us could use another viewpoint from time to time. Get advice from colleagues, directors and leaders in the field. Send your question to:
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