“It’s not that hard!”

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Those are the four words that I absolutely hate to hear together.

Have you ever been in a a situation where you are trying to teach someone a new skill and notice that while they are trying they are not understanding and you quickly say “It’s not that hard!”  I mean you are telling this person what to do, how to do it, how YOU do it and it is so easy. You have all this knowledge and experience in this skill and this person you are trying to teach it to isn’t catching on fast enough like you did when you learned it.

Frustrating right?

Now, have you ever been in a situation where someone is trying to teach you something new? You are paying close attention, using all of your ‘good listening’ skills, trying to copy the exact movements and follow the information this person is giving to you but you still do not understand. You have absolutely no experience in this subject whatsoever. This is something you have decided to take on for the first time and you are starting from square one. You are not giving up, you really are trying  but just find it difficult at this beginning stage. You wish this ‘teacher’ would slow down and help guide you in the right direction and help you fix your mistakes instead of quickly shouting “It’s not that hard!”

Just as Frustrating right?

Like many of you who own a TV or frequent nbc.com to watch the latest episodes of your favorite shows, I sat down on Monday night and watched the second episode of “The Biggest Loser”.

Is it my favorite show? No.

Do I watch it all the time? Only if I am downstairs.

Is it inspiring and motivating? Yes.

I came to the part where Jillian’s team had an outdoor workout and one of the contestants, her name escapes me at the moment, was having difficulty doing the crab walk. I watched as this woman was in one of the most uncomfortable positions for an overweight person to be in, red in the face, and the look of agony on her face trying to walk on her hands. From what I saw, it looked as though she was trying yet she was slightly giving in at the same time. Trying to explain to Jillian that it hurt, or was hard, or something…only to hear “It’s not that hard!” being yelled at her. It caught me so off guard that I had to look up from my lesson planning to watch this woman face the motivating fitness beast known as Jillian and those four little words. “It’s not that hard!”

In that moment, I felt for that contestant and I realized those four words can do more harm than motivate. While the contestant did eventually do the crab walk she obviously had struggle. Yes, you may say she was just pushing the contestant out of their comfort zone but there are other ways and other motivators.

But I saw myself in her. Less than a year ago I was 300+ pounds and all forms of fitness were difficult and many times I thought I could not do it. I had to push myself to achieve what I have achieved now but every time I would desperately search out help or advice in my journey I would come across articles, videos, or comments that when summed up would say something like “It’s not that hard” or “Just put down the cheeseburger” or “Walk a couple of steps fatty.”

When I saw her demonstrate it with ease, the former 300+ pound me inside looked at her with a feeling of disgust and failure. Disgust because it was as if she flaunted her ability in front of me like “Ha-Ha look at me” (which I am sure was nowhere near what she was trying to do) and failure because “I” couldn’t do it. I wanted her to offer me a modification, or allow me to go slower, or take on smaller distances. Something that I can achieve. Those who are already in perfect health or in a position to educate others sometimes don’t take a step back and recall when they first started, or take the time to think about the limitations of others.

I must admit, I have even done this when teaching music to my students, whether beginners or intermediates, even private students…and I regret it every time. I go back and try to apologize or approach the situation in another way.

While I was student teaching I was taught that every student learns differently, something I already knew but was reinforced during the credential program, we were told to find other ways to reach a student and help them to understand. Not just show them one way, tell them it is the only way, and then tell them it isn’t difficult even though they are trying to understand. It is far too easy to forget where we started in our lives and in our careers and look back at our own struggles. We refuse to remember the  struggles we may have had and went through when it is something that comes so easy to us.

I can sit here and honestly say I cannot remember much of a struggle when I learned how to play the clarinet and will say it is easy to play. But I am sure if you asked my mother she would pull out a list of every squeak, every squak, every tear shed and every reed thrown in frustration. But I don’t remember a bit of it. And when I have students I forget that I started where they are and I can’t and shouldn’t expect them to to understand and do something immediately. I have to remember it will take time. What may take me a couple of minutes to figure out on my instrument may take 3 weeks worth of lessons.

As educators in ANY area, be it fitness, public school, crafts, cooking, or teaching someone a quick new skill, we need to take a step back. Ask ourselves what it really may be like for this individual who is struggling in front of us.

Saying “It’s not that hard!” can be interpreted as:

What are you, Stupid?

Really, a blind peg leg monkey can do this so why can’t you?

Ugh, I feel like I am wasting my time helping you.

I think you may be a lost cause.

Those are not things you would want to tell a child, so why is an adult any different?

Maybe I am the only one who feels this way. Maybe seeing it happen on TV with the contestant hit a little close to home. But it is something to think about the next time you are helping someone.

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