When Your Students Surpass You

When Your Students Surpass You

June 24, 2016

So many things come into play with this question, ego of course being one of them. The first question to ask is: WHO’S EGO IS AT STAKE? Followed by: HOW DO I DEAL WITH IT? It’s important to distinguish the difference between YOU thinking your student is seriously advancing in skill and YOUR STUDENT thinking they are advanced in skill. Sometimes you will agree, but not always.


If your student thinks they are advanced it’s important to ask yourself if they really are or not. If truly not, then your job as an instructor is to continue to instill the safety, and foundations that they need as well as continue to challenge them in fun ways. Students can fall under the false impression that they are better than they are. Delusions of grandeur can commence. It may be because their understanding of the material, their proprioception and their general ability are better in their minds than in reality.

This is when we as teachers need to be our best and lovingly hold these beauties back. It’s not about stunting them, it’s about maturing them through giving them variations that stretch their understanding or extra challenges that increase their strength. It’s your job as a good aerial instructor to only give them tricks when they are ready.

Make sure they meet the prerequisites that you think are necessary, even if they think they are boring. The number of times I have walked into a private lesson and had an “improver” level student ask me to teach spiral drop to ankle hang or some other advanced drop is wildly frequent. It’s ok to say, “Great, we can work up to that, let’s start here . . . “ Again, it’s about being loving. Not saying “NO” or “You’re not good enough,” but instilling the concept that this is a journey and you are happy to be on it with them, but we need to start at the beginning together.


So you’re a teacher, you’ve been doing this for a long time. You earned it the hard way, before Instagram or YouTube. You had to get the nuts and bolts first, you worked hard, you got injured and for some time you have not been working on yourself and your skills, but you’ve been teaching. And here comes this young student who has climbed to your level in a third of the time it took you to get there. They may or may not think or know they are advanced. But you know it, and you don’t want them to surpass you. Well, tough luck. It is not our job to hold people back when they are ACTUALLY READY. Even if they are going to get the next gig, or start teaching where you teach. If you are their teacher and you love teaching, then teach them what you know.

If they surpass you in skill but keep coming remember they are coming because you have something to offer, it might be nuance, it may be creative choreography, it may be character work, or they just may need some outside eyes and they respect you. If they ask you for a skill that is beyond your level think “IS THERE ANYTHING I KNOW THAT CAN HELP them with this skill?” You may have some excellent conditioning or pre-requisites that can get them ready. Do as much as you can as long as you can and then RECOGNIZE WHEN TO LET GO. The best way to do this is to send them to someone else you know. They might not even live where you live, but give options. This is the role of a real teacher, to have grace and acceptance of ourselves for who we are, where we are, and when we are; and to help the future flourish.

Dedicated to: Althea Young (17) and Ellie Rossi (13)Students of Paper Doll Militia who we’ve had the pleasure of watching grow from aerial fledglings. They now soar to impressive new heights and continue to take the aerial world by storm.

-Sarah Bebe Holmes of Paper Doll Militia

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