Thursday, 25 August 2016

Stationery exercises: going back to school

Back in July, I walked past a local stationery shop and saw the sign displayed boldly in their window: Back to School. Like Christmas cards in September and Easter Eggs in January, it seems to get earlier and earlier each year. I love my job, and I’m lucky to do it, but the summer holidays are sacred to a teacher and the first glimpse of that sign each year is usually guaranteed to make my tummy do a little flip. This summer, however, the sign wasn’t quite as premature as it might normally seem; I may have closed my classroom door on the term but my pencil case was restocked ready for school.

Over the past year and a half, I’ve been back to school several times, and I don’t just mean at the end of a lovely holiday. After helping my friend start out in triathlon, writing a book about it with her, and then watching her development as a terrific running coach, Laura encouraged me to start coaching too. School holidays and weekends have been spent in classrooms, pools and running tracks, and back at home completing coursework and my coaching portfolio. The hard work and late nights have been worthwhile and, earlier this year, I qualified as a Level 2 Triathlon Coach and Level 2 Swimming Teacher so that I can take sessions with my triathlon club and help teach children to swim at school.
You can take the teacher out of school but she will still match her swimming kit with her revision notes: triathlon assessment weekend in May 2016.

This summer, BodyAid Solutions, a fitness training provider based in Peterborough, offered me the opportunity to take one of their courses - I chose the Level 2 Gym Instructor course. The tutors described it as a “stepping stone” qualification in the fitness industry and, while I’m not planning a big change in career path, it appealed as a good base from which to move on, to specialise further and to develop as a coach. I haven’t trained in a gym for a while, not really since I rowed, so it felt like it might be a taking a leap out of my comfort zone as I arrived at the venue in Peterborough; however, the mix of people on the course, with different aims, ambitions, backgrounds and interests, made it clear that there was no one single path to the classroom in which we were all gathered.

There was a good deal of distance learning to get my brain in gear before the course started. Materials were sent out a few weeks before the course so that we could complete the reading and revision on Anatomy and Physiology and the Principles of Sport and Exercise, ready for a multiple choice exam on the first weekend. Our tutors, Martin and Nathan, provided revision quizzes and answered questions before sitting the papers but it was definitely worth spending time reading the resources provided before the course. We were then paired up to work on practical tasks across the two weekends, putting the theory into practice to prepare a programme that we would deliver to our ‘client’ in the assessment on the final weekend. Working in partnership meant we could make mistakes, offer support and learn from each other – where my buddy, Rachel, offered corrections to my dynamic stretching technique, I was able to provide her with a fine selection of coloured index cards and highlighter pens. Support was on hand again from our tutors throughout, and their feedback helped us to improve across the 4 days of the course.

If I could choose only one thing I love about teaching then it would be the love of learning itself. I have really enjoyed coaching over the past year or so for the same reason. I’ve learned so much – about what I coach and about who I coach; about how they learn and about how I learn - and I am continuing to learn all the time. That sign in the shop window might have been a bit early but the idea of going back to school is an exciting one, not to mention an excellent opportunity to stock up on more stationery.

BodyAid gave me my place for free to find out what I thought of the course. The highlighters are all mine (but I'm happy to share).

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