Wednesday, June 3, 2015

When Students Become Friends

This is an age old question in among instructor groups and message boards. It's easy to become friends with your students - I mean, we do group exercise because we like the social element of working out.

Much of what people love about Zumba, pilates, or other classes is that it brings people together on a regular basis. Your classmates may even see you more than your extended family does! And in some cases, you might have been friends with other students before you became an instructor. Friendship in our classes is inevitable, and it's not a bad thing.

But - there are pitfalls. Here are a few things to consider:
  • A policy on payments: If you teach a class and collect fees yourself, having friends in the group can be tricky. Do you stop charging people at a certain point? What if they help out a little, say prepping equipment? If someone owes you money, when do you put your foot down? These are all good things to have decided ahead of time, maybe even in writing, to stay away from awkward situations down the road.

  • Avoiding special treatment: Everyone who comes to your class wants equal attention, and it's important for everyone to feel like they get it. I'm not saying you would give more attention to your friends, but others could have that perception. I try hard to learn everyone's names and make eye contact across the room so it doesn't feel like there are any favorites.

  • Save the drama for your.. well, for anywhere else: Unfortunately, with friendships can come drama. You have to work hard to be sure any arguments or misunderstandings are handled ASAP, or else that negative energy is sure to follow you into the studio. Others will feel it and the quality of your class can be impacted.

  • Be in agreement on fitness goals: We all like to push our students to work hard and get results. But, if you have a friend in your class you should know what their goals are and if they have any unavoidable limitations. You don't want them to feel like you're pushing them too hard (which can be embarrassing) or like you're going too easy on them (leaving them feeling like everyone else gets more support).
Have you run into any issues with having friends in your classes? How do you avoid them?


  1. Hi Jennifer, nice post. I'm usually the only foreigner in my Zumba classes/Master Classes in my city in Japan. Since I'm so visible, I consciously limit my interactions with my instructors. I don't want to put them on the spot for "favoring" foreigners over locals. I swear, it's like a permanent high school sometimes (going on 3 years). However, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world! My hope is for my fellow Zumba members to look beyond my appearance and recognize the fun and love I have for Zumba. ray marrero aka the Zumba Samuri.

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