A couple of weeks ago at one of the gyms I teach at, I had several participants that were new to my class come in and set up their bikes while I was out of the room getting changed. There were three of them, plus one that already knew me from another gym who had recently switched his membership.
When I came into the room, recognising him, I started talking to him - inane things along the lines of, "Well well well, fancy seeing you here", etc. I've been instructing for about 3 years now, and I know that discrimination is out there. For the majority of it though, and rather unfortunately, the discrimination I have faced has come from two sources.
- Gym management
- Fellow instructors
The majority of members have been very supportive, and in general, attendance of my classes is pretty good. One class I have in particular at the moment started off with 2 people in it when I first took it over about 2 months ago, while now it gets 11-ish. It's a pretty good feeling. Members give pretty good feedback, most of them commenting on the challenge and the motivation that I give to them.
Sure, there are members out there that feel I shouldn't be teaching, and for the most part, they just don't attend my classes. That's fine, I'm not bothered, as there are enough members that do attend and I'd rather focus on them.
This particular day though, I walked into the room, starting having this conversation with one member I recognised, and the other people near him just sat on their bikes not really paying much attention. I made my way to the stage when one of them suddenly piped up "Oh... YOU'RE the instructor?!" The condescending tone in their voice said it all, I could tell exactly what they were thinking. I responded as professionally as I could, which was, "Yes, I am, and if you have any questions or need any help getting your bike set up, I'm here to help."
They looked a bit irritated that their remark hadn't really landed, but I'll be honest, that comment STUNG like anything. Something like that happening just as you're about to teach can throw you off your game. It was when I heard the Condescending Member turn to their friends and begin talking about how after the class they would go for a run and then do some weights afterwards that I thought "Ohhhhhhhhhhh-hhhhhooo, I somehow do NOT think that's going to happen!". I told myself that I would teach an absolute ripper of a class, and deliver this message loud and clear.
As the class started, I tried not to focus exclusively on this member, as there were plenty of other people in the room that I needed to look after too, though I did note that Condescending Member started to sweat rather profusely, get out of breath rather quickly, and all in all, wasn't keeping up with the rest of the class, and was in no way keeping up with me.
When the class had ended, I approached them and asked them how the class went. They said, "WOW. I did NOT expect it to be that hard. I really enjoyed that! Thank you, that was awesome! When else do you teach?"
I thanked them for coming and told them where/when else I taught and said that I would love to have them back in my class. I then followed this up with, "So you're going for a run now? And weights after?" Condescending Member said "... yeeeeeah.. I'll see if these guys want to...", with much hesitation.
Everyone slowly dribbled out of the room, I packed up the room, gathered up my gear, and started to make my way towards the reception area to put the microphone away. Condescending Member and their friends were sitting on the plush leather sofas that were near the reception, looking in no way willing or able to get up and go for a run and do weights. I called over to them, "I don't see you guys running!", and I got a pained sounding reply "I don't think there's going to be any running..."
I'd say I did the job.