There is a toy that was originally developed to help blind children learn about how objects exist in space. It’s a wooden puzzle consisting of five pieces, three shaped like arrows and two like honeycombs. Each piece has different indentations and notches so the pieces can fit together in many different ways, A set comes with two puzzles. The objective of the game is to put one puzzle together and then verbally direct a partner how to assemble the second puzzle so it matches yours.*
Researchers found the puzzle game (called the Empathy Toy), was effective for children and adults who could see, as well. The ability to instruct a blindfolded individual how to put together the puzzle created empathy, the ability to connect with another person and a skill that some sociologists and psychologists feel is at risk in a world that is becoming heavily reliant on communication via screens.
From a teaching perspective, empathy is perhaps the most critical aspect of connecting and empowering the person in front of you to move forward. We assume empathy is innate, but like all things, it is a skill that can be developed with practice. I often notice with new teachers and coaches it is difficult for them to explain a movement without doing it. In my early years of teaching, I was guilty of this. Without feeling it in my own body, I couldn’t quite verbalize what I wanted the client or students to do.
However, teaching isn’t about the teacher, and I learned to look at the movement through the student’s eyes. What was she feeling? Where was she stuck? What if I were feeling the same thing? What would I need to understand?
As time progressed, I became better at using my words. I learned to watch clients between movements to see what they did with the pause in between. Where clients subconsciously rub, stretch, and rotate are all hints to what they are experiencing. Can I improve the experience in any way? What actions and words are necessary?
This type of inquiry is what allows us as teachers to connect with people of all different levels and abilities. Teaching is not a defined science, and the only real marker of success is how successful a student feels. One of the most interesting aspects of teaching is as long as the teacher is willing to observe and explore an experience through a student’s perspective, the teacher will always be learning. As one of the creators of the Empathy Toy says, “…the goal is designed discomfort. We have this notion that easy-to-use devices are ideal, but in education, complexity is ideal.” **
Teaching is about more than distilling information. It’s about helping students understand, on a deeper level, the material. In my case, the material happens to be the human body. An acquaintance who takes my classes on occasion once told her husband, “the thing about Jenn’s class is you always leave learning something new about yourself.” This, more than anything else, is what I hope to accomplish with my work.
Yours in health and wellness,
Sensing, isolating, and integrating the spine
Saturday, 1/27/18 from 12-4 at Be Well Personal Training Studio, 3776 The Barnyard, Carmel, CA 93923.
In this four hour WORKSHOP, Jenn Pilotti, M.S. will discuss the spine's role in movement and exercise. Learn how it connects the upper and lower extremity, how to feel different aspects of the spinal column during breath and movement, and how to create stability and mobility for efficient movement. This workshop is appropriate for Pilates teachers, personal trainers, yoga instructors, or individuals interested in deepening their awareness of this area and their relationship to it. The workshop format will include lecture, partner work, and skills designed to tie together research and practical application. Register at www.bewellpt.com
Unlock the full power of the hips
Saturday, 3/24 from 12:30-4:30 at 360 Fit Haus, 1400 Colorado Boulevard, Suite C, Los Angeles, CA 90401
Join Jenn Pilotti, M.S., for an exploration of lower limb mechanics. Learn how the feet and ankles influence what is experienced in the hips and glutes, and how pelvis position influences the feet. We will discuss proprioception from the ground up, improve movement efficiency, and create a deeper sense of embodiment. Gait mechanics will be touched upon, as well as how the feet influence common foundational movements such as the squat and hip hinge. This workshop is appropriate for movement teachers, personal trainers, and those interested in deepening their knowledge of how this area works. Class format will be lecture, practical application, and partner work. Please bring a notebook and dress to move around.
Registration: Coming soon.
Revenge of Analog, by David Sax. Thought provoking read about actual, tangible things and experiences and their relationship to human interaction.
The Big Picture, by Sean Carroll. How physics shapes life. Fascinating, bias challenging, and science heavy (but written so the lay person can understand).