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Learning Through Empowerment

I recently took a lead climbing class that got me thinking about the importance of teaching through empowerment. For a little background, there are several different types of rock climbing. By tradition, I am a boulderer, which means I’m not attached to ropes, but I am never going up more than 10-12 ft above the ground. Lead climbing is a different beast. It involves taking a rope up a tall wall (60ft) and periodically clipping that rope into the wall so that if you fall, you eventually get caught by the rope. I decided to take this course mainly because the rest of my climbing buddies were doing so, and despite the contradicting feelings of my strong perfectionism and strong fear of falling from heights, I got to the gym to be taught.

One of the most dominating thoughts that I had as I was driving to this class was, “I hope they teach this class like IMPACT teaches their classes”. I was also scared to take my first IMPACT class, but I was greeted with an environment that was prepared to help walk me through my fears. At IMPACT, we cater to different learning styles, so you get to see, process, and practice everything that you will be doing. We also layer on information so that you have integrated different skills into your body without even realizing it. We set our students up for success and consequently, when they win they walk away feeling more empowered and more confident in themselves. This way of teaching and learning carries on past the class and gives students skills that will help them in other areas of their lives.

I thought about this as I walked into the gym and saw the lead climbing wall looming 60 ft above me. My stomach dropped even with my feet firmly planted on the ground. I remembered my suited instructor telling my class to allow ourselves to be beginners. There was no expectation that we would be perfect at everything that we were learning, nor was that the point. The purpose was to trust in the process, allow our teachers to teach, and to silence our inner mugger enough so that we could be beginners and watch ourselves grow. Deep down, I knew I had the tools to help me work through my fears. I channeled the skills I had learned through IMPACT and remembered that I had done scary things in the past, and I have made it through them.

During the class, I remembered to keep breathing, I told my instructors about my fears and communicated my needs, and mostly, allowed myself to be a beginner. I was pleased to find out that our instructors taught in a very similar way to IMPACT-- telling us what to expect from the day, giving us ample practice time, and allowing us to set our boundaries while encouraging us to try new things in a safe and supportive way. I knew I would walk out of this class with new skills, but I am pleased to say that I walked away from our class empowered and have come back to lead climbing several times since then--I’ve even almost made it to the top of the wall!

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