This post reviews Pole Teacher Training, a new online Canadian pole beginners instructor certification with a focus on inclusivity. The Pole Teacher Training founders gave me access to their curriculum and preparation materials for the purpose of this post, and I can’t wait to share what I thought about it with you!
About Pole Teacher Training
I found out about Pole Teacher Training on Instagram, as you do for most things related to our industry. I was struck by the fact that they had chosen to give away free teaching certifications to polers from minority or marginalised backgrounds, in order to receive feedback and improve their training to reflect different experiences.
I found this a winning strategy, because as an industry we have learnt the hard way – through online arguments, weekly cancellations of high-profile polers and a general rift between too many pole dancers – that we need to be inclusive. But we can’t be inclusive if we don’t actually work with those we used to exclude. So I liked this approach, and wanted to find out more about Pole Teacher Training immediately.
Costing $467 Canadian dollars ($372USD; €314 and £268), Pole Teacher Training is an entirely online teaching certification for beginner pole instructors. Its founders and trainers, Terra Marie and Karolyne La Fortune (aka Kerosene) are studio owners, professional pole instructors and performers.
Terra, a movement specialist since 2003 and a pole dancer since 2012, owns Sensual Serenity Movement and Personal Training Kingston, Canada. She specialises in military fitness, pole dance, yoga, sports conditioning, correctional movement and dance. Kerosene has always loved performing and has been doing so through pole and burlesque since 2009 – she even played fiddle up on the pole during one of her performances! She owns Iron X Fitness, having gained a variety of yoga, fitness and pole certifications as well as Pole Theatre titles.
I hadn’t come across them before I heard about Pole Teacher Training, and I was happy I could learn from them and from their all-rounder approaches to pole.
Pole Teacher Training and the emphasis on diversity
Written by Rhapsody Blue, Pole Teacher Training’s diversity section opens the teacher training and has a lot of potential to really inform the next generation of instructors going forward.
The certification acknowledges that pole dance was pioneered by working class, marginalised people, and that as such it needs to be inclusive of sex workers, plus size bodies, queer and trans bodies, non-white people, disabled bodies and so on.
One of my favourite quotes from this section was:
“Inclusion is an active choice that we must make every time we enter our studios, strap on our heels, and climb our poles.”Rhapsody Blue – Pole Teacher Training
In short, a studio isn’t inclusive because it has students and instructors from different backgrounds. It’s inclusive because it welcomes them, empowers them, and actively works to do so everyday.
This is the first time I’ve seen such a thorough inclusivity section in an instructor qualification, and I really liked Pole Teacher Training’s aim of educating its certified instructors to resist oppression. Pole Teacher Training’s section on sex work is very firm on respecting and including sex workers, providing plenty of examples of how whorephobia manifests in the pole industry and on how it can be fought.
Even so, I would have liked the training to address the current debate on abandoning the term “exotic pole” a little more – the issue is just mentioned as a throwaway comment at the moment. I’m also not sure writing that pole “sport” comes from Mallakhamb and Chinese pole is helpful towards sex worker inclusion. It may give people the chance to distance themselves from pole dancing by saying they do it “for sport” and that their history is different. Even though elements Chinese pole (known as “acrobatic pole” in China) and Mallakhamb are now incorporated in pole dance training, it is well-known that the explosion of pole dance as a fitness trend is due to strippers teaching their peers and then opening their first pole studios in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
Plus, because I’m an academic killjoy and a pragmatist, I would have liked more practical advice on better inclusivity of other backgrounds, and of direct empowerment, which I think could take us even a step further. For example, while it’s important to note that different bodies may be able to execute different moves, how can thin pole instructors empower their plus size students beyond inclusion, compliments, and support, in a day-to-day class setting? How can a white instructor improve their class when teaching BIPOC students? How can instructors better manage neurodiverse students?
Finally, while I’d definitely say that Pole Teacher Training is worth its cost of $467 (CA) – more on my review below – it’d be also fair to say that not all wannabe pole instructors could afford such a price tag. I’d love to see more opportunities for payment plans, or discounts and ‘scholarship’ type arrangements for polers from lower income backgrounds.
All of this being said, a pole instructor certification with the aim to teach people how to become good teachers can’t solve problems that society hasn’t solved for centuries. While I would have liked more in-depth and more practical ways to address and limit inequalities, some of concepts are difficult to address in a few pages and Pole Teacher Training already does more than many pole brands I’ve seen.
The Pole Teacher Training curriculum
Pole Teacher Training’s training curriculum is very thorough, and got me nerding out big time.
Each section can really help a nervous beginner instructor feel like they know their stuff. From poles’ materials, their resistance and their grip to our equipment’s most vulnerable parts in terms of stability, to sciency bits of anatomy and pole-based physics, the nerd in me felt very much at home while going through Pole Teacher Training’s slick manual and online learning platform.
The training’s focus on diversity was also reflected in its manual, featuring drawings and pictures of polers of different sizes and backgrounds to illustrate moves and concepts.
The trainers’ careers as performers and movement specialists really shine through in the training, with a lot of time spent on activation exercises, safety for wrist alignment and very simple but innovative and cute ways to teach beginners how to work around the pole.
The practicalities of instruction, which in my opinion aren’t taught enough to pole instructors, are also thoroughly addressed in Pole Teacher Training’s online certification. From different ways to ask for consent when touching a student to introduction examples to use at the beginning of a class, from classroom management advice for tricky students to a strong focus on creating a community at the studio, you can tell that the training is informed by years of experience – and new instructors will really benefit from that.
As a university lecturer, I found a lot of Terra and Kerosene’s classroom management techniques similar to those I use with my undergrads, but not everybody has teaching experience, so it’s very important instructors feel prepared when entering their class for the first time.
Sections on the liability, legal and branding options of instructing were very welcome, particularly since, as a “new” industry, we don’t talk about them enough unless someone comes from those specific backgrounds. This is particularly relevant after recent scandals that revealed some instructors weren’t being paid to teach online classes: teaching is work, and it should be treated as such.
I found the videos and PDFs from Pole Teacher Training very thorough, helpful and fun. It was lovely to watch Terra and Kerosene interact, it really felt like being in a class with them. My only pet peeve about the videos was in the anatomy section, which is at present narrated by an expert who doesn’t seem affiliated with the training – I would have liked them to film them, as their voices and vibe were a lot more interesting and eye-catching! Either way, the training videos are professionally shot, very thorough and fun to watch.
The Pole Teacher Training qualification provides step-by-step opportunities for assessment as well as final exams. After each section in the curriculum, you will find a set of multiple choice questions that you can repeat until you get to 100% passing grade. This is a prerequisite to get to the next part.
To pass the certification, you need 100% passing grade on the written, multiple choice exam at the end of the curriculum and a minimum of 80% passing grade on the practical. The practical consists in submitting a lesson plan and the recording of a face-to-face or Zoom class teaching the moves required, whether that’s with another student or by play acting.
After submitting your practical exam, you will receive your results and certificate within 60 days. The practical exam fee is included in the course fee. If you do not pass, you may redo your written exam as many times as you need and resubmit your practical exam within 30 days.
Aside from the diversity updates I included above, I would have also liked to see the opportunity to meet with the trainers online. I’ve had mentor meetings in other online instructor training certifications and found that really helpful: it’s that extra bit of human contact, of connection, that is often missing from online courses and that can make the difference in your learning.
Either way, the course itself looks very professional and runs on the super slick online course platform Thinkfic, complete with video embeds, PDF attachments, multiple choice quizzes and drag-and-drop file upload sections. It’s a very intuitive user experience you can take at your own pace and that can really help you make the most out of the course, instead of having to click through multiple platforms.
I found the Pole Teacher Training qualification a slick, interesting, fun and informative learning experience. Even though I’ve been a pole instructor since 2019, having received offline instructor training and having gained various teaching certifications, I felt like I learnt something new thanks to Terra and Marie, their thoughtful approach to teaching pole, their teaching techniques and their advice.
I would definitely recommend this course to my past anxious, jittery newbie instructor self – I think I would have felt way more secure in my work having heard some of Terra and Kerosene’s wisdom!
- Cost: $467 (CA) plus practical exam resubmission fee of $97 CAD + tax. A 30 day extension can be given for an additional fee of $25 CAD + tax.
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- Contact Pole Teacher Training here.