Cultivating Growth Mindset as Movement Teachers

Episode 02

As movement teachers, we know or have observed that growth is never linear and opportunities to fail greatly impact the growth trajectory. Today, we dive into a topic that is very much a pop culture phrase going around at the moment, the ‘growth mindset’. We explore what it means as it relates to movement teachers or studio owners and discuss what it looks like, the approaches toward it, and why it is important. We then take a look at how we can work toward cultivating a growth mindset as movement teachers and in our studios. Hannah then takes us through the C.O.U.R.A.G.E model as a tool for growing a growth mindset, including modelling opportunities for failure, being authentically you, taking action, and what grit means for movement teachers. Our growth mindset is what sets the tone for our student’s learning environment and is a fundamental and important skill because by us growing, our students will as well. Don’t miss this insightful episode, so start listening now.


Key Points From This Episode:

  • The concept of growth mindset in the corporate culture; what it is and how you get it.
  • An integral part of learning: failing. 
  • Hannah expands on the C.O.U.R.A.G.E model. 
  • Excellent teachers grow: what happens when we, as teachers, embrace growth and change.
  • We discuss the importance of setting an atmosphere as a movement teacher.
  • Where we can grow as movement teachers.
  • Why it’s important to facilitate and model opportunities for failures.
  • The authenticity of you and bringing a uniqueness when you show up.
  • Recovering from difficulty and trying again.
  • Action is more important than perfection: moving it forward.
  • What grit means for movement teachers. 
  • Leading with inclusion and making room for experience.



HT: Thank you for joining me today. We are going to be talking about growth mindset. What is it? I know it’s very pop culture phrase going on right now. But what is growth mindset? What does it mean for us teachers? Whatever you’re teaching, whether it is Pilates, yoga, dance, whether you’re a teacher or a studio owner, what is growth mindset? What are the approaches to it? Why is it important? How can we cultivate it? And some tools and how to do them. So let’s start the party.”




[00:00:38] HT: Welcome. Stick around if you want to learn about the art and philosophy of beautiful movement mixed with evidence-based exercise science. We’ll be having tough and inspiring conversations with other coaches, experts, artists, and athletes. Our goal is to challenge myths, explore concepts, and engage in healthy debate, as we dive deep with intrigue and curiosity. 


I’m your host, Hannah Teutscher. I’ve been teaching dance, Pilates, and yoga for over two decades. What I’ve learned is that movement can be the joy that integrates us all together. When we can trust and express ourselves through our bodies, we are unlimited in our ability to change ourselves and our communities for the better. We, as movement teachers and coaches, have the power to help people experience this war themselves. Okay, everyone, let’s dive in. Exchanging ideas and changing people’s lives one session at a time, this is The Pilates Exchange. 




[0:01:35] HT: The concept of growth mindset is really in in corporate culture right now. Everyone’s talking about growth mindset. What do you do? How do you get it? I’ve been doing a lot of thinking that growth mindset is so much more important for us as movement teachers. I’m going to detail why that is in just a few moments. But growth mindset affects all of us as human beings, but especially us movement teachers. It’s important for us, it’s important for our clients, it’s important for the studio culture, whether you’re an owner or you’re a freelance teacher participating in them. 


Let’s talk about this. Growth is never linear. It is a – I don’t want to oversimplify this really complex idea, because growth is not linear. It’s a process of trying, failing, trying again. We know this intuitively as movement teachers, we watch that all the time. Right? When you try something, it doesn’t work out, they try it again. I want to make the point that failing, trying, and failing is integral to motor learning. Motor learning, meaning movement learning. So we have to fail in order to learn. If you think about like a kid, a baby learning to crawl, how often are they falling over before they get up and they try it again and try again? That is essential what’s happening, like that is a growth mindset. They eventually, hopefully, if there’s nothing that’s holding them back, eventually, they will learn how to crawl, then they’re going to learn how to toggle around, which is taking a few steps, falling over, doing it over and over. Then, it will turn into a walk, it will turn into a run, but there’s a lot of falling over and failing in that process. Why is that?


Well, our brains need to find where’s the target. The target is for the, say the baby is to be getting up to that all fours position and then rocking a few times. Then taking those first little crawling steps forward. It is the target of moving forward. We take that target and shift it to, say like basketball. Okay. I’m a very short person, actually, so I don’t play basketball at all. But you could have the image in your brain that you’re shooting hoops, you have the basketball, and you want to make it into the hoop. Think about that player that you’re learning and you need to – how many hundreds, if not thousands of times are they going to throw the ball and miss the basket. Every time now, the brain, the person is looking and saying, “Ah, what’s going wrong here?”


And the brain is making minute calculations and they’re happening so fast. Calculations in the brain of like getting it, well, a little bit closer, and a little bit closer to getting the ball into that basket. Same thing with archery. You look at that bull’s eye and they’re getting closer, and closer, and closer to hitting it into the middle if you’re shooting arrows. Now, what does that mean for us? Of course, we want to get to the arrow. We want to get to the bull’s eye, we want to get to shooting the ball and going into the hoop. But the failing part of it is what’s interesting.




If say, the basketball player tried it one time, didn’t make it, and then stopped. That would be the end of it. That wouldn’t make the NBA player right there. It is doing it over, and over, and over again and progressing as we go. We normalize this in sports all the time. We normalize it less in the movement fields of a say, yoga, ballet, and Pilates. We’ll talk about that and get really deep into this in a future podcast. But what I’m looking for is the mindset around it, both in how we’re cultivating that for our studio space, our training space, and how are we cultivating that for us as teachers.


I’m going to use a model that I’m calling it the courage model. COURAGE model quickly is, C is for curiosity. O, open to make mistakes and failures. U is unique. R, resilience. A for action. G for grit. E for experiment or experience. We’re going to go deep into this in just a little bit. I want to make the point that in a growth mindset, we need courage, courage to try things out, courage to fail, courage to change. Why is that? Well, each and every time we learn something new, our brain is forming new connections, new neurons, make existing neural pathways, stronger or weaker, depending on what it is. A lot of experts are going to call that plasticity in the brain, neuroplasticity. We have to really lean into the idea that our brain is going to continue to change right up until the end of our life. The more we learn along the way, the more the brain is going to change, and the more plastic, say, more malleable it’s going to be. That is a good thing. Being able to adapt to new situations, whether that is in movement patterns, which is what we’re teaching, or new situations that are going on in our lives and our environment.


I think that’s incredibly exciting for us as studio owners and as teachers to lean into that idea that we are allowed to grow and change. Not only are we allowed to, we should. And when we’re embracing that, it actually gives our students more freedom to do that for themselves. Excellent teachers grow. They grow, they learn, they continue along that path. When we’re an excellent teacher, we can change people’s lives. There’s a great quote by Zayd Waghid, “Teachers are expected to teach, but great teachers also have a wealth of knowledge, and experience, and are eager to learn from their learners.” 


I think when we are in the studio space, when we are adapting, and learning, and accommodating our clients, that’s already putting us into a growth mindset. When we bring our, as teacher, all of our expertise, our personal history and our experiences, into the room with our clients, with our colleagues, and with our community. That’s the exciting part. It’s so much more than just cueing exercises. We know that inherently or intuitively, rather. We know that teaching is more than cueing exercises. We know that it’s more than creating some choreography, or some cool moves, or taking the latest thing that you saw from Instagram, and putting in your class. It’s about creating an atmosphere of change, of evolution. 


We do that because we want the best for them, we know that that’s going to enhance their motor learning. It also lifts quite a lot of pressure from us. When we go into it and we say, “Okay. I do not need to be the expert of everything.” I am allowed as a teacher to say, “Ah, I don’t know that yet” and continue down your learning pathway. If you’re watching someone maybe not get something that you’re trying to teach, well, yet. Then it’s an opportunity for you to grow. It’s not that maybe it’s the cueing, maybe you need to come up with a different modification or a variation for that person. It’s always an opportunity to try something else. It’s for us as the teacher to try to figure it out for them. Then by doing that, we leave opportunities for our students to grow in there.




We want to be movement teachers of the human body, not just specialists in a fitness discipline, not just specialists in maybe creating a certain aesthetic for yoga, or Pilates, even in dance. We want to look at the bigger picture to understand the limitations of the specific method we teach and how we’re going to overcome those barriers. That’s where we grow. In this, we challenge old beliefs, and we’re making room for new ideas. Just because someone said, it has to be like that before, whether we’re talking about, let’s say, a yoga guru, or Mr. Pilates himself, or in the dance world, maybe an old ballet teacher, or – just because they said it, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true. 


We have to always be challenging these ideas and these belief systems as we’re going forward, making room for new information. Part of that is going to be curiosity, our open mindedness. We want to be inclusive of our students’ unique needs, and their perspectives. Creating a place where we’re always interested in that process. How do we learn to serve our students? If we’re studio owner, how do we learn to serve our employee’s unique needs? That is with our curiosity, it’s about asking whys all the time. Why was it done like that before? Why can’t we change it or can we? I just think that’s a fun way of going forward, asking the wise. We got to get a little bit uncomfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. 


Even if we are asking the whys, there’s very few straight answers that are there. It’s a lot about leaning into the grey rather than the black and white in our field. Whether that’s in our queue – I mean, even in our queues, if you look like that, you can say something so clear you think for one person, and they’re going to do something completely different. That just happens sometimes. It’s getting uncomfortable with that, but it’s also getting uncomfortable, or getting comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. Oh, here’s an example. Say someone has a knee injury, and you’ve already had 10 different people with a knee injury, and you’ve successfully helped them rehab that injury through Pilates practice. Then you’re going to get to that 11th person and their healing process is different.


Everything that you know up until that point is going to be a little bit different, and it’s a little bit uncertain, and we have to lean into that. It’s being open for that change, that uncertainty. We wish for answers to be clear, but there rarely is any. So approaching that with a little bit of humbleness, maybe two of saying, “Hey, okay. I think it may be like this, but we could try this and keep on going front and forward.” Our goal is to embrace that, to find maybe previously unseen opportunities. That our job is then to bring our students, and our staff along the journey, so they don’t fear that uncertainty, but they embrace it, so that they can sustain the movement, sustain the momentum on whatever path that is. Whether it is learning a new movement, learning an advanced movement. Whether it is rehabbing from an injury. Getting excited about that process is fun.


Along that, we need to be open to make mistakes and to fail. I was talking about it just a little while ago that being open for the opportunity for it not to work out correct on that first try or the second try, that they’re trying – so that we’re getting closer to hitting the bull’s eye. What I mean is, maybe, you know, if you are – if you say you tree pose. We’ll take a simple one. Tree pose in yoga, and we can set it up for the students, and give them all the information they need, and be very exact. Okay. Now, you’re going to press your foot over here, and spread your toes into the ground, stand up tall. But if we also set up an opportunity for them just to try it out, and fall over a couple of times, it could be that their brain already figures out what they need before you queue it all to death, trying to get them step by – and trying to get them to be perfect from the very beginning. Because we’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for a pathway of going deeper and deeper into that.




That opportunity to make mistakes, to celebrate them along the way, that opportunity to fail and get up and, and try it again is so valuable for us, and how we model it as well with our cueing, with the way that we’re setting up, say, a new movement, or an exercise. It’s also the way that we show up in the studio space, being able to make a mistake, and roll with it, and then continue on. I think that modelling that behaviour of making mistakes, and failing to learn specifically from it is important. It might not be just about movement, for the studio owners out there. It may be about making some mistakes in the marketing campaign that you have, and then changing course, and doing something different. That’s a growth mindset right there. It creates momentum. 


Maybe you say failing forward or falling forward. There’s a little bit of situational awareness that we need, it’s the ability to see around beneath and beyond what we’re thinking. We have to be aware of the unique situation of our students, maybe the community or the culture within the studio, or even the outside environment. Because the progress of our students is always dynamic. Progress of ourselves is always dynamic. It’s never going to be a linear path, so we can’t control our students and their behaviour. But we can create situations where they can do their best, and in that is having opportunities to say, fail forward. Our job, we create classes, we create resources, and assets that guide that growth, and learning opportunity.


Going to U. U is unique. It’s uniquely U, it’s uncanny, it’s unconventional, unforgettable, unstoppable, like all the Us out there. It’s authenticity of U, of showing up with your uniqueness, with your unique ideas in whatever it is that you’re doing. That’s growth mindset. We don’t want to just repeat the same thing over, and over, and over again. It’s searching for that newness. Now, there is opportunity for us to try a model that we know has been working. That’s a good thing, too. But how do you bring that uniqueness in the way that you’re showing up in there. Authenticity is something that I model that for myself, but also for all the teachers that we mentor. We don’t want to do it just the way that our teachers, our previous teachers have done it. We want to develop a way to be unique in our approach to teaching. That’s moving our practice forward.


R is for resilience. We’ve talked about the making mistakes, right? But the resilience is recovering from that difficulty. We take the idea of our, say our tree pose in yoga. It is the resilience of trying it again. You put your foot down onto the floor, you fall over, and you do it again, and doing again. For yourself and your practice, but it’s also for the students in their practice. If you’re teaching a ballet class, and the person does appear wet, and they fall flat on their butt, fantastic. Give them the credit, “Congratulations, you tried it, let’s do it again.” Then maybe give them a little bit of information of how you think that they can improve it on the next one, but celebrating that, trying, and failing, and resilient of doing it again. Because the again, and again, and again part, always a little bit different. That’s our resilience. That resilience skill is going to last a lifetime.


We could practice that with our movement. We practice showing up and trying and doing. Those skills that we learn, it’s not just achieving the pirouetted, or achieving the teaser on the box, or achieving the tree, or whatever it is. It’s about our approach to the movement. Those are the life skills that we want in there. That’s the fun part. That brings us to our next letter.




A for action. You have to do the thing. It’s not just talking about it. It’s not just theory. It’s the “Yes, And” the action, and moving it forward. In theatre improvisation, that’s called the “Yes, And.” Say you’re improving a situation, and someone brings up an idea, “You, And” the idea, you go forward with whatever idea that they brought with you. The same thing with improvisation and dance. You try the movement out in your body, and you develop it further. You go on with it, you action it. A lot of times what happens is, we are so focused on perfection, whatever that is, perfection. That limits our ability to do an action, because we want to be perfect from the first go. 


I want to say that action is way more important than perfection, action, moving it forward. Whether that is developing a workshop, and trying it out, and seeing that it doesn’t work the way that you had wanted, or developing a class plan. And okay, it’s not perfect, but the action that you’ve done it, and then you could make it better on the next time, and the next time, and the next time. If we’re limiting ourselves, if we don’t take those actions, we’ll be forever stuck. Maybe it’s good enough. Maybe what you’ve learned, or the approach is okay, maybe it’s repeatable, maybe – but eventually, you’re going to get bored with it.


I’ve been teaching over 25 years, I could say, watching other teachers burn out, is that non-ashen, that staying in that reliable perfection. Okay, “If t’s not broke, don’t fix it.” I’ve heard that over, and over again. Okay, yeah, you can do it, but is it exciting enough for you to think about how many thousands, tens of thousands of hours of teaching do you have in front of you, hopefully. Taking actions I think is, it’s fun. I think it’s fun. That means that we’re growing, we’re growing with our students. The days of people perceiving that the teacher has all the answers, those are gone, or hopefully those days are gone. We have to eliminate that hierarchy within the studio, that allows for – it really allows for greater intimacy, a greater relationship, greater growing together when we allow ourselves to say, “I don’t know yet.” Whatever question they may ask, “I don’t know that answer yet, but I’m going to look it up, or I’m going to find some sources for you, or I’m going to refer you to this next person that might be able to help you.”


We don’t need to be the expert fixers, we don’t need to be the gurus, we don’t need to be the expert authorities in there. But we do need to take some action of exploring that curiosity that we’re saying before. Growing into that bigger view of our method, our movement method. I think this is about gaining the right from your students over time to explore more meaningful and purposeful teaching relationships. I think we do that by showing up, like in that way. Going back to that other idea, it’s also being an authentic presence in the room, that it is not about showing off what you have achieved through your movement practice or showcasing your expert knowledge. That’s a different type of teacher.


You could stand at the front of the mat, and you could show your beautiful, advanced practice. But I think that you – if we’re just doing that, maybe you’re showing that you’re an expert in your own body. You’re an expert in your movement practice, which is one thing, I think that we should all be developing our movement practices. But it’s not actually showing up authentically for your students. It requires much more self-trust, confidence, and self-awareness to be authentically you in the studio, and not having sometimes all the answers, about being authentically you, and cueing in the way that you really are. Maybe it’s not a yoga teacher voice or your voice exactly like, your cues exactly like your yoga teacher used to do it, or your ballet teacher used to do it. It’s about creating experiences that ignite others to be more present with themselves. 




I’m not talking about – I think some teachers sometimes they mix being off or misplace being authentic, and showing up to leaving all their crap in the room. Like, if you’re having a bad day, number one, you do not need to be the perfect true leader of everyone, and you also don’t need to make sure that all of your clients are in a bad mood either. It’s somewhere striking the balance, being professional when you show up in the room and authentic there. I think you understand what I’m saying. You don’t have to hash out your messy divorce with your students. That’s not being authentic, that’s being toxic in my opinion.


We’re going to bring it to grit, G in COURAGE. Dr Angela Duckworth said that grit is passion and perseverance over time. Well, what is that in the teaching world? Grit for us is knowing that our teaching is going to be on a continuum. We’re going to have to show up over, and over, and over again, and be passionate about the entire process, because it’s the gritty teachers, it’s the gritty people that have a successful teaching careers or a successful studio. By success, that is financial success, but it’s also – success is creating a community within your environment, creating successful coaching of people, students that are learning, and they’re engaged in the process. Grit is hard to do sometimes. Grit is a long-term game. It’s being there over that long, long period of time.




When I started teaching, I felt underprepared and overwhelmed. I needed to learn how to plan my training so that it made sense, but I wasn’t sure what was working and what wasn’t. So many teacher training programs leave out the actual art and business of teaching. This is why we created Train the Trainers. Train the Trainers is designed to give you the tools you need to create a powerful learning environment for your students, gain access to the vault of our collected knowledge where you can learn everything we have to teach you whether you are a freelance teacher, or a studio owner. Get constructive feedback on your teaching with actionable tools you can apply immediately. We can’t wait to be part of your teaching journey, and to help you grow in your business. Welcome to Train the Trainers. 




Teachers that model grit, that passion, that perseverance, that is the growth mindset, right? That is showing our athletes. When I’m talking about our students, or clients, or athletes, that’s all the same for me. Modelling that behaviour for them, and then for us. We can’t expect ourselves, or our students to be able to do that advanced move, whatever it is on the first go. It’s showing up over time, sometimes over years to get whatever to achieve whatever it is that movement thing that they want to do. That is for our athletes, but it’s also to keep for ourselves. That grit is the health of your studio if you’re a studio owner. In the long run, that’s the success of showing up with passion and perseverance. I love that. I love the idea of that, although it’s the hard stuff.


I could say that from my dance career, I was a gritty dancer. I was not – I was very talented dancer, but I was never the best in my class, but never the best in the dance companies. But what I was is very gritty. I would show up and continue to practice, and do more over, and over, and over again. That is what allowed me to have a long international dance career. Of course, I had talent, of course, because when we’re dancing at that level, yes, it’s there. I’m not downplaying those things, the talent that I had, or the physical privilege that I had. I accept that and I understand that. But it is also the grit of showing up when things got hard, and knowing that one bad day, or one bad week doesn’t make or break the entire career. One bad performance is not the end of everything. 




That I think is why I think it belongs here in our growth mindset for teachers. Grit is showing up audition after audition, and not getting the job but getting closer and closer to being then that final cut, and then finally getting the call for the job. That brings us to like our last one, E. Encourage is the experiment, the experience of doing it, trying things. We can’t stay at home. If you’re a dancer, you can’t stay at home and expect someone to just call you because you’re a great dancer and offer your job. You have to go out and experience the audition. You have to make room in your life to do those things, to experiment, to try it out, to go a little bit further.


For us as teachers, that make your experience with maybe a student that is not maybe your ideal client, or maybe is a little bit more difficult, maybe challenges you a bit more than is what’s comfortable. I think that’s also part of standing for inclusion, and individuality in the room when we’re talking about that. Inclusion is finding that like mindedness in our differences in embracing individual’s unique bodies, their personalities, their ideas, and their ideals. Teachers with a growth mindset deeply desire to do this, to lead with an inclusion, and embrace the individuality. That’s a primary growth strategy. With that, you earn respect. That captivates the hearts of your students, and the heart never forgets. Experimenting, experiencing that, setting up opportunities for others to experience that in the classroom, in your studio space, in rehearsals.


It’s our growth mindset that sets the tone for our students learning environment. It’s through this atmosphere that we foster positive and powerful movement experiences. When we think of growth mindset as a teacher, I would say it is a fundamental, important skill that I hope that all of you that are listening, that no matter where we are on our path, we could always grow. By us growing, our students will as well.


Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope that this ignites a little bit of an idea of how we can show up. and use a growth mindset for our own developments, for our own health as teachers, but how doing that also helps our students grow even more. I’m wishing you many hours of happy teaching. Join me next week for our new topic. 




[0:33:20] HT: Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. A great cost-free way of supporting us and the podcast would be to give us a five-star rating. You could also look down into the show notes and grab any one of the free resources for teachers. I hope to see you next week on The Pilates Exchange. Happy teaching, everyone.



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