Working with new instructors, I sometimes observe a particular fear about teaching intimidating students. Intimidating students can be an issue even for an experienced instructor, and for a new instructor, they can be paralyzing.
One reason is that the instructor may fear the judgment of these intimidating students. While the majority of the class presents no particular challenge, these students are a real threat to the instructor’s confidence.
As I talk with instructors and read the online forums, there seem to be two general types of intimidating students.
One version—often but not always female—is the workout “pro” who seems to go to multiple classes a day and has for years. She is good at all of them. Sometimes, she can come off as a little bit of what some instructors might refer to as a “diva.” It may seem that she “owns” the gym as her own private preserve. Her responses to instructors may seem to indicate that she knows more than they do.
The other version of the intimidating student is likely to be an outdoor rider or triathlete. These students seem to perceive their outdoor experience in a way that expresses their superiority over the rest of the class and even the instructor. They come to class in full kit celebrating events they have done. Even if they do not say anything, their display of experience can make them an intimidating presence, especially to a newer instructor. They may insist on riding in an “aero” position.
To be sure, these are big generalizations, but you may recognize a version of an intimidating student in your classes from these descriptions. How do you feel about those students? Do they intimidate you? How do you deal with that feeling?
Here are three strategies I suggest.