How to Teach Zumba Without Actually Teaching Zumba

February 5th, 2010

On day three of teaching seven hours of aerobics at the local middle school my body started to fall apart about half way through the third hour.  I simply could not go on.  My back, my calves, my sides, my shoulders, my fingernails, my eyelashes, my spleen, my northern hemisphere, my southern hemisphere, my tonsils (which were removed when I was six), my appendix (which I still have) my chin hairs, my ear wax, my tongue, my eyebrows, my interior crustacean, my anterior crucifix, all of my crusty little niblets, my chilblains, my intercessory pustulitis, my gums, the gaps between my teeth, my Uranus minor, my Ursula major…  Everything was either frozen in agony or screaming in pain.  I had to figure out a way to teach four more hours of Zumba aerobics to large groups of very energetic middle school girls without actually moving any part of my body.  So even though I was so weak that I barely had enough oxygen left to make my blood red, I managed to squeeze a new lesson plan out of my brain.  

This is what I did…

1. I got the girls to show me dance routines that they already knew.  I allowed them to leisurely scroll through my ipod looking for songs that matched their dances in tempo and then I settled back and managed to stay conscious and watch them by holding my eyelids open with my fingers.  

2.  We made a large circle and passed around various eight count dance moves.  Each girl had to come up with a new move when it was her turn and we all tried to imitate it.  For my move, I laid down on the ground and took a nap.  

3.  I took lots of long slow drinks of water between each activity.  

4.  I wept inconsolably.  (For at least five minutes – I could have gone longer, but I was starting to get dehydrated and had to stop when the dry heaves kicked in…)

5.  I took extra time to explain a few Zumba steps by drawing them out in great detail on a chalkboard. 

6.  I quizzed each girl ruthlessly about what she had for lunch. 

7.  We sat on the gym floor, crisscross apple sauce, and talked about our dreams.

8.  I asked the girls to name a famous atheist.  They didn’t know any, so I listed a few off…

Katharine Hepburn

Benjamin Franklin

Thomas Paine

Robert Frost

Thomas Edison

Dave Matthews

Helen Mirren

Ken Follett

David Gray

Ani DiFranco

Kevin Bacon

…and Daniel Radcliffe (I think it is clear that Harry Potter is the reason for this one.)

9.  Not really on that name a famous atheist part…

10.  I let them play with my ipod and then they ‘freestyle danced’ to their favorite tunes.  Turns out that they know all the lyrics to all the songs.  They didn’t really dance as much as they sort of ‘acted out’ the songs.  It reminded me of the early days of MTV except without all the eyeshadow and hairspray.  

I’d like to think that they learned something about Zumba in those last four classes, but mostly I think they just learned the contents of my ipod.  We did have an incredibly good time though.  The girls were so much fun, extremely well behaved and they seemed to enjoy the class tremendously.  Almost as much as I enjoyed teaching them.  

Off to convalesce…


  • “add on” (as we call #2) is great fun and a great way to spur the creativity in dance class (tap in my case). We’ve even done almost half of a recital dance this way. I admit I suck at it. : )

  • Nanc in Ashland:

    Come on, Rechelle, if your belly button isn’t hurting, you can’t be in that much pain! Aspirin, hot cuppa, chocolate, all good for muscle pain. And I adore Helen Mirran–even more since I saw her do the celebrity lap in Top Gear’s reasonably priced car and then explained the concept of a bus pass to Jeremy.

  • Katherine:

    You need a nice long soak…then a massage…try not to succumb to the urge to not move…or you won’t be able to for a long time…but I’m sure you know all of this….


  • Maria:

    I want the red tray. That would look so cute in my kitchen.

    I’d also like to talk to the school about being more eco-friendly and get some cloth napkins and pottery bowls for the chili. All that Styrofoam!

    Oh, and Epsom salts. And CD massages. And all children w/in a 100 foot radius must wait on you hand and foot. Totally required for 32 hours.

  • Twin-Skies:

    Rechelle, Thomas Paine wasn’t an atheist.

    He’s a deist, just like I am :P

  • Kathy J:

    That which does not kill us makes us stronger. BWAHAAAA like that makes you feel better. That is the problem with sayings they may be true but they don’t solve the problem right away.

    I think I vote for advil and a hot bath.

  • Be careful discussing religion even if only asking for famous atheists.

    You may want to send the friendly atheist a friendly email about how he avoids this. He has discussed a few times on his blog at

  • Martha in Kansas:

    I was just wondering how you survived! Glad to know you’ve not totally seized up. Having them invent and teach is brilliant!
    I thought Helen Mirren was Quaker. Now I’m gonna have to look her up.

  • I’m so excited! Kevin Bacon with just one degree of separation! Well, sorta. I’m counting it anyway.

    Also, one of your first comments made reference to belly buttons hurting. I have to ask that such words never be repeated. I can take a list of famous atheists. I can handle talk of exercise. But THIS? This is just too much. Please do not discuss this most sensitive of body parts. I’ll be feeling it all day now.

  • Sandy in MI:

    Did you really only get 1 celery stick and three baby carrots? I wonder how many servings of vegetables the school counts that as.

    Also, a bit surprised you haven’t mentioned the new Emma on PBS. Have you not been watching? Are you not excessively diverted? Oops, wrong book.

  • I like that the cake got the big spot on the tray!

  • Lucy Golden:

    It made you pooped just when you spoke of doing all those Zumba classes in your previous blog…I hope you got to soak in a epsom salt laced bath!

  • Lucy Golden:

    Ooops…Made *me* pooped!

  • I’m all about the delegating and distracting when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. As for iPod music, I think it’s a good thing they didn’t see my play list unless they’re all fans of 70s & 80s disco.

  • Sandy – that was CARROT cake. I think that counts for a vegetable too! At least in my book.

  • Jill:

    Oh lordy, naked chili. No cheese, sour cream or nacho chips. You poor thing. At least there’s carrot cake.

  • CJ :):

    Rechelle, I didn’t teach hours and hours of Zumba, but my Jazzercise class got me in the upper quads yesterday…the instructor of yesterday’s class was WAY into working legs. So, I sort of but not quite feel your pain. :)

    I would debate Positive Atheism’s inclusion of Thomas Paine, though. Although many believe his writings tended toward atheism, he was a deist who nevertheless firmly believed in church-state separation. Many of the Founding Fathers were in the same boat.

  • Nekochan:

    I found your site from an atheist blog and I have to say I find you hilarious! I thought I might only be interested in your atheism-related articles but everything I read from you makes me smile! Keep up the wonderful writing!

    (That name a famous atheist almost killed me!)

  • Seven hours of Zumba! That would kill anyone! I love me some Zumba.

    Anyway, I just discovered your blog via friendlyaethist and wanted to say hi. I love your writing and will be adding you to my blog reader. I’m also a former Christian, now an aethiest. I totally related to your Apology from a Former Christian post. It sums up my feelings.

    Who the heck is Pioneer Woman? Sounds like I don’t even want to know.