Thursday, March 2, 2017

3/2/17 #sol17 Respect the Bubble

Respect the Bubble

I love spin class. When I had twin babies, spin class was the thing that got me out of the house and back into shape. Ten years later, it's always the exercise the draws me back. Which brought me here, to this class.

She was a new instructor; well, new to me as this was my sixth class back and I hadn't met her yet. Yoga music played in the background. Not my favorite kind of music to spin to, but I was willing to give it a shot. We were already well past the designated start time. Annoying, but I was trying to withhold judgement. Mostly.

And then she approached me.

"Your seat is too low. Here, let me adjust it." This stranger, without even an introduction, reached underneath my bottom and lifted my seat up.

"Um, that actually hurts," I mumbled, face starting to flush as I noticed everyone around me watching.

"And your tension isn't right. Add more. You should never have it that low. And your elbows are locked."

I tried to protest: "I've actually done this before." She ignored me.

I was humiliated. Here I'd been feeling pretty confident about my return to spin class. I know how to hover, how to sprint. I know the seat needs to be at my hip and my knees shouldn't lock out. But here this woman, who didn't even take the time to ask me my name, was adjusting my positions, telling me I was doing it all wrong.

She was, as my daughter says, popping my bubble -- invading that sacred personal space we all maintain.

I seethed about this moment for days. I chafed (literally and figuratively!) at her intrusion. I have avoided her class.

A week later, I realized something. Maybe I kind of do the same thing to students. How often have I grabbed a piece of writing and started commenting on it without even looking at their faces? How often have I focused on all the things they're doing wrong without once asking them what they think they did well? How often do I pop their bubble?

And that led me to consider two things.

First, maybe that instructor wasn't trying to humiliate me. Maybe, like me, she was feeling crunched for time and that she needed to hurry up and get to the teaching.

But, I also can't forget how I felt as the student: singled out, shamed, stunted. And so, I'm trying to be intentional about the ways I talk to other writers about their writing, whether those writers are 14 or 40.

I want to remember to respect the bubble.


  1. Love how you took that situation and applied it to your own teaching. Being mindful of our words and actions is so important with students. Yes, the instructor probably was just trying to be helpful, but she needs to learn a better "bedside manner."

    1. Hi Rose! I'm heading to the same instructor's class this morning ... steeling myself for that bedside manner!

  2. Wow. I love what you learned as a teacher in the moment of being a student. Wanting to always be ultimately respectful to our students as they learn. Lets me think about the way I approach children too. Thank you!

  3. Great reminder about how fragile that bubble really is. I hope you had a better class this morning with the bubble-popper. :-)

  4. I love your metaphor. That said, I bet the first thing you do when meeting students is say their names. Also, there is a difference in adult education and teaching children, which isn't to say respect and kindness don't matte. They do, of course.

  5. I read this right after I had popped the bubble of a student writer. Dang it!! You convicted me!! You so expertly brought this experience around to teaching. Awesome. I will keep this lesson in the forefront of my mind when I talk to my writers. They need to hear the good FIRST. And there is ALWAYS good. Then we can gently nudge, encourage, suggest. I hope the spin class gets better! BTW, I am completely addicted to spinning right now at the Liberty Township Cyclebar. It is AWESOME, and I always look forward to going. It's revitalized my exercise life! I'm SOOOO happy your joining the March SOLSC! I'll be following. :-)

  6. Really amazing how you turned the 'popping of your bubble' into wondering whether you do this to students - so reflective! You must be an amazing teacher. I totally relate to the intrusion of space - I would have a lot of trouble returning to that spin class.

  7. This post made me take pause and wonder how I might be approaching my own students and popping their bubbles! Thanks for the teaching moment that has made so many think!

  8. What a great metaphor and self-realization! Thanks for sharing...definitely made me think about how I too approach being 'helpful'

  9. I was totally feeling your pain - so many times this happens. I love how you turned it to your own teaching. That's a great thing to think about - the Bubble is perfect!

  10. first, I Lol-ed at the chafing part, such great writing.
    and you bring up good points. Being in that time crunch, all of us teachers understand the need to get things done and fast. Love your bubble metaphor, too. DO you think you'll give her another shot?