If you teach Pilates for any length of time, there will be a point when you need a sub and/or you are a sub. Today we dive into the world of covering classes, the etiquette of getting coverage for your classes, some considerations to keep in mind so your aren't spreading yourself too thin covering other teachers' classes, and some tips and tricks for making the classes you cover an excellent experience for everyone involved. Tune in!
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[00:00:00] Welcome to Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. I'm Olivia and I'll be your host. Join the conversation and the Pilates community on Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual and visit BuyMeACoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. Today's chapter starts now.
[00:00:56] Hello. Hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. [00:01:00] Today we're gonna be talking about the etiquette of covering classes and how to be a great sub when you are covering classes. So I love to put out my recommendations and maybe some tips and tricks for you, but I also recognize that every studio has their own internal protocol and probably has their own systems about how you would request a sub, how you accept someone's sub request and how to get the name changed on the class schedule and all of that good stuff.
[00:01:37] I've worked for studios where you are responsible for finding your own subs and you just have the phone numbers and emails of the teachers and you just reach out to them individually and then ask them to cover your classes. And I've also worked at places that use an app like Our People that lets you put in a formal sub requests that the managers can also see and then accept sub requests, you can [00:02:00] add them to your calendar. Um, the manager changes the schedule so it can be very hands on where you are doing it. It can be more hands off where there's management happening.
[00:02:11] Some studios have more of a quid pro quo vibe where if someone covers your class, you are expected to cover a block or some of their classes. I don't love that, especially if you are really busy or you're teaching a lot of classes, it can be difficult to cover someone else's classes back immediately when you're requesting coverage. Um, but some studios do run it like that.
[00:02:37] Ideally, I think, in a perfect universe, you cover classes when you can for other teachers at your studio, because we all work together and it's all of our studio. They're all of our clients, and we want the studio and our classes to succeed. I would say like an overarching umbrella here is just [00:03:00] don't be a jerk about asking for coverage and also for accepting coverage. And that means that don't not cover someone's classes because they can't cover you back. Like if you're able to cover someone's classes and it fits in your schedule and you're not overextending yourself, I think you should cover those classes. Don't say, I can't cover your classes if you can't cover mine, because that's lame.
[00:03:29] And at the same time as you're covering the classes, you can, I also wanna make sure that as a teacher you have healthy boundaries about what coverage you accept. And that, you know, in case of emergency and things, of course there's gonna be extenuating circumstances sometimes, but accepting classes that are a good fit in your schedule that you can cover.
[00:03:51] But if it's like a 6:00 AM on the other side of town and you have to be back on your side of town to teach at 8:00 AM like, yeah, maybe covering that [00:04:00] one class is not something you can do and you shouldn't feel guilty about not being able to cover it, but cover classes when you can. There should be a, I think, a little bit of a team spirit there.
[00:04:10] Don't take on more classes than you can handle in your schedule. Sometimes you are available, but you're not available because you're teaching, you know, six other classes that day. So make sure that you're always making time for yourself. You don't wanna feel spread too thin, especially around holidays and in the summer when people are tending to look for a lot of coverage because teachers are going on vacation or they have plans. Because you don't wanna feel resentful, like you're always covering people's classes and no one is ever covering your classes back. Ideally, again, we've got this balance where you're covering when you can and you feel comfortable with your teaching load. Other teachers are covering you when they can, and it all works out.
[00:04:56] Do let people not cover you [00:05:00] back because, uh, I think especially when I was getting started, And I really felt like, you know, oh, these classes are my classes, and like, I still feel that way, but I would cover people's classes and they'd say, oh, can I take one of your days? And like, I wouldn't have travel plans or I wouldn't be, you know, needing coverage. Really do, if your schedule allows, if your, you know, financials allow, do let people cover you back. Even if you don't have plans, just take a day off like for yourself. It's kind of actually amazing.
[00:05:37] I don't want you to feel so tied to your classes, although continuity is great and being reliable is great. It's also great to recharge. So if you do cover someone's class and they can cover you back on another day, like take that day as a mental health day or a little vacation. And treat yourself to something nice because you know you made up that class or that block of [00:06:00] classes when you covered theirs.
[00:06:02] Another thing that I've learned is that don't put your life on hold because you're gonna need to get coverage for your classes. Like if you have an opportunity to take a trip or go to a concert or go to a show, I think you should be able to do that. And I know when we teach group classes, it can be really difficult because it's every Tuesday forever and ever and ever, as long as there are Tuesdays, your class is gonna be on the schedule.
[00:06:28] And it's okay to ask for subs. Of course, we don't wanna abuse that and never be there to teach the classes that you teach on a given day. But it is okay to take time off and have someone cover your classes so that you can go do something. Or again, just so that you can have a long weekend or an extra day to yourself. Like it's totally fine.
[00:06:51] I think as teachers we can support each other and let each other, you know, do things and not feel bad or feel like, oh, they're [00:07:00] a bad teacher for asking for that day off. Um, and not feel like a bad teacher yourself for taking that day off to see a friend, meet your parents, like all of that good stuff.
[00:07:11] An opinion that I have that might be an unpopular opinion, especially for studio owners is that, you know, in the case of emergencies, I feel like it should be okay to cancel classes. Life happens. Sometimes things outside of our control happen. Your car breaks down, your kid is sick, your pet's in the hospital, you are in the hospital, or you are just really ill. You wake up and you're like, oh my gosh, I am not in a good place. I shouldn't be teaching. I'm probably contagious. It should be okay, uh, to cancel classes.
[00:07:42] If you've got a planned trip or something, definitely request that coverage in advance. But when these last minute emergencies come up and you're scrambling to get coverage for your class, in addition to dealing with whatever this emergency is, it's my opinion that it should be okay to cancel [00:08:00] classes. The proper channels and the protocol doesn't always work on short notice. You know, all of us as Pilates teachers are not standing by for another teacher to be sick so that we can step in and take their classes. It just doesn't always work.
[00:08:14] One of the worst experiences I ever had trying to get coverage is like I woke up in the morning, you know, sometimes you wake up and you just feel like trash, and I had a fever and I was nauseous, I was vomiting. I was not in a good place. I definitely didn't want to be teaching, and I spent like six hours emailing and texting and calling people and trying to get people to cover my classes that evening. And then you know, a manager asking, well, like, can you still come in and teach the first two? And I was just like, no. Like no, I can't. That was just gross.
[00:08:50] If you do what you can, and I would even say that like the calling and texting was definitely not helping me recover, um, and then when I finally got coverage for my [00:09:00] four o'clock class at like two in the afternoon, I was like, great. And like, this was like work. This was more stressful than if I had just gone.
[00:09:08] And I mean, especially post covid, like we shouldn't come be coming in to teach when we're sick. Like I know when you teach the early morning classes, if you do wake up and you're sick, sometimes you're like, I'm just gonna power through. But we really shouldn't have to do that.
[00:09:23] I know that, you know, studios are businesses and they wanna make money and they wanna be reliable to their clients, and we don't wanna cancel classes all the time. But at the same time, it's Pilates. We can cancel classes. Our clients are gonna be okay if we can't get coverage for that class.
[00:09:42] Coming up after the break, I'm gonna share some tips with you about how to be an awesome sub and do a great job when you cover a class for someone else. That's coming up next.[00:10:00]
[00:10:00] Hi there. I hope you're enjoying today's chapter so far. There's great stuff coming up after the break too. Be sure to subscribe wherever you're listening and visit BuyMeACoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the hows. There you can make a one-time donation or become a member for as little as $5 a month.
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[00:10:57] All right. I've got for you [00:11:00] all of the tips and tricks I've learned and tried when it comes to covering classes and being awesome as a sub.
[00:11:09] First and foremost, when you agree to cover a class, whether it's through an app or through emailing or texting with another teacher, add that class to your calendar. Whatever calendar you use, whether it's a planner, whether it's Google Calendar, add it.
[00:11:27] And I know that I over plan, so I never wanna tell other people that you should also be over-planning. But not only do I add the class that I'm covering to my calendar, I put reminders in my calendar a week out, two days out, one day out, and then the day of that say, Hey, you've gotta be in this place that isn't your usual place to teach this class that you don't usually teach.
[00:11:48] I think when teachers forget about classes and drop the ball, it's not because we are horrible, terrible human beings, it's because we're doing something that's out of our routine. And our routines when we're [00:12:00] teaching are already so strange. Like our Mondays might be the same Monday to Monday, but Monday is very different from Tuesday, and Tuesday is very different from Wednesday.
[00:12:07] So it can be really easy when you're juggling all of those dates and times and clients and studios in your brain, it's easy to forget the ones that are out of the ordinary. So whatever you need to do to make sure that you are going to be there when you said you were going to be there is great. Um, because it's like the worst feeling in the world to forget that you had something. It's just like, ugh. So whatever we can do to avoid that. Awesome.
[00:12:33] You might reach out to the teacher whose class you're covering and ask, you know, is there something you're working on? Is there like a piece of equipment that you're focusing on? Or something like that. In group classes, it can be like, nah, I just show up and teach whatever. But sometimes there is something, and if you can have a little continuity between you, that's cool.
[00:12:54] For one-on-one sessions when you're teaching private clients, I always [00:13:00] ask for a super detailed rundown of how that session looks, because private sessions can look vastly different between clients. And once I get that rundown from the teacher, that is what I teach. If I'm covering a private client, I'm not here to reinvent the wheel. I'm not here to be cutesy and creative, like I am here to follow the program that you're working on, and I can share insights or things that I see, but I'm not trying to shake things up. I'm trying to, you know, maintain the routine and rhythm for that client.
[00:13:32] Another really big thing is accepting that you are not the teacher whose class you're covering, so you don't have to try to be that teacher. You don't have to play their music. You don't have to have their energy. You don't have to talk the way they talk or move the way they move. You can be yourself and cover classes.
[00:13:51] It's actually much easier to be yourself and cover classes than it is to try to be the person who you're covering for. I always tell people when I'm [00:14:00] covering a class, Hey, I'm Olivia. I'm not so-and-so whose class this usually is, but we're still gonna have a lot of fun together doing this Pilates thing. If I cue things a little differently or say things a little differently, it's all Pilates, you know? Let's see where this takes us.
[00:14:14] So you're just very upfront about the fact that it might be different. Actually, it will definitely be different because it's a different teacher. You know that, clients know that, but stating the obvious is important because people are creatures of habit and they may have always done something the same way. And even though you're not looking to shake it up, you're just different. So giving that kind of disclaimer at the beginning that says, look, I'm not this person, but we're still gonna do Pilates together, I find breaks the ice really nicely.
[00:14:41] Another thing you can do when you have requested coverage is to really hype up your subs. Tell your clients at your usual time, Hey, I'm gonna be outta town next week, but this other teacher's covering the class and they're awesome. I've told them what we're working on, and they're gonna take [00:15:00] care of you. You're gonna be in good hands.
[00:15:02] I know that some clients take classes just with specific teachers and they're like, well, I only take so-and-so's class like, I get it. I know some clients are like that, and you can't make those people happy. But it is actually in the interest of your client's motor learning to learn from different people because teachers have different interests, different perspectives, different ideas about the exercises, and we benefit as movers from all of our teachers' experience.
[00:15:35] And so you can tell sometimes those difficult clients, you know, you know, this is a great opportunity for you to see how well you really know what we've been working on, because you're gonna be hearing about it from someone who's gonna use slightly different cues or get into exercises a different way, or make different connections between the exercises. So it's actually really great that you're gonna be learning from this other person.
[00:15:57] Lastly, maybe not lastly, but lastly [00:16:00] for this episode. I think it's important to keep in mind both as the teacher who's asking for a sub and as the sub who's coming into the class, that a sub teacher is not less than the usual teacher. Sometimes the word sub has a negative connotation, like, oh, well this is just someone who's covering the class. It's like, not the real teacher, but you are the real teacher. When you're teaching it, you are the teacher. Like that's what it is.
[00:16:31] So sometimes I even avoid calling teachers subs. I'll say that they're covering it or they'll be a guest teacher, and then it sounds like, Ooh, fancy like a guest star. It's like, this class is featuring this other instructor. And just knowing that you are a teacher who's gonna need coverage at some point. It doesn't serve us to say nasty things about other teachers. Like, we don't wanna create this atmosphere of clique-iness or, [00:17:00] you know, I'm better than you or this teacher's better than this other teacher, you know. They're always just different.
[00:17:06] Even when I'm teaching someone for the first time, and you can tell that like we didn't really connect, like we didn't really vibe or hit it off. I'll still tell them, you know, Hey, I'm so glad you came to class today if you enjoyed the Pilates, but my teaching wasn't really your style.
[00:17:21] There's so many other awesome teachers here like, try so-and-so's class. They're more like this and you. Let people know that you're not everyone's cup of tea necessarily, and it's very likely that the clients who are in your class, your regulars, they are your cup of tea and you guys are meshing together. But that doesn't mean they aren't gonna mesh with other teachers, and especially not the person who's covering the class.
[00:17:43] The most important thing is that our clients are there and they're moving and they're grooving and they're having a good time, and they can do that with multiple teachers so we can really lift our teachers up.
[00:17:54] Also a great opportunity for them to try a different teacher, but at a time that you know works for them because [00:18:00] they come at that time to your class. So only upsides to covering classes as long as you set those boundaries and you make sure that you are protecting your time and your energy, but also helping out and really seeing it is an opportunity for the studio as a whole to grow and to meet some new people who might really love your teaching style and want to take class with you as well when you aren't covering the class, at your usual class time or whatever.
[00:18:27] Really big thank you to all of the supporters on Buy Me A Coffee. I really appreciated hanging out with you, hearing all of your adventures in March. There'll be an April newsletter coming out soon with another opportunity for a round of coffee chats. If you'd like to get in on that, visit that Buy Me A Coffee page, contribute to the project. Not only do you get to be an awesome supporter of the podcast, but you also get to hang out with me and we can talk about all things Pilates.
[00:18:53] I hope you have a great couple weeks and I'll talk to you again soon.[00:19:00]
[00:19:05] Thanks for listening to this week's chapter of Pilates Teachers' Manual, your guide to becoming a great Pilates teacher. Check out the podcast Instagram at @pilatesteachersmanual and be sure to subscribe wherever you listen. For more Pilates goodness, check out my other podcast, Pilates Students' Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts.
[00:19:28] The adventure continues. Until next time.