Teacher training can prepare you for a lot. However, experience is the best teacher when it comes to teaching an actual class. During graduation, a veteran teacher offered me this: “Don’t look at their faces, everyone looks mean. “
Never were truer words uttered. I teach gentle yoga on Mondays at 6pm at Pies Fitness Center. I also teach Hot Yoga on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month. I have subbed for teachers before but my actual first class was last month. I took the class to see what the format was like and to be introduced as their new instructor. I went home excited to build my playlist and sequence. I also spent an hour going through the flow of the class practicing cueing an imaginary class. This is an exercise I use for speaking engagements, presentations and interviews. Four students showed up, including another instructor, have mercy!
I think I’m pretty funny, most people laugh at the things I say even when I’m not trying to be funny-especially when I’m not trying to be funny. I gave these students some of my best material and I didn’t even get a snicker. I started to feel as though maybe I wasn’t as humorous as I once thought I was. Maybe the jokes are funnier in my head than in real life. Then I told the same joke to the students in the new teacher training class and received chuckles. To God be the glory! So maybe the people in my class were just concentrating and didn’t get the punch line. So not only do they look mean, they don’t respond to you either and they certainly don’t laugh.
I have also learned that class management is a skill acquired after much practice. I have seen many teachers tell students to go at their own pace and come back to neutral when they were ready. I tried it and it didn’t go as smoothly. One student wanted to take 15 million reps while the other looked at me like “what’s next?”
Sigh. Other instructors make this seem so easy. So remember the instructor that showed up for class? In some ways she was supportive. She would nod occasionally, giving me listening cues. She also interrupted class to point out that I didn’t finish a sequence on both sides. I soon learned that teachers are not always the best students. I offer amplifications and modification for yoga positions. However, the way I teach the position is the way I want my students to practice. I am offering it a certain way for a certain benefit. In hot yoga, the head to knee pose is done with both hands. If you can’t do that, pick up your foot or knee. But I want you to use both hands. What did the instructor do? Not what asked. She picked her foot up with her pointer and middle finger, wrapped it around her big toe and then extended her leg. Ma’am, that is not what I asked you to do. But unlike her, I did not interrupt the vinyasa, I simply took a mental note. After class, by my prompting, yoga instructor/student provided me with some constructive criticism about cueing.
Where I did get it all the way right is with my playlist. It is the perfect mix of traditional yoga, reggae, jazz, r&b and new age music. It’s the best part of what I have to offer. I’m still learning but I am certain this is a gift I have been given to give away. I suspect I will get better with time, practice and prayer. Know that when you allow me to guide you through a practice you will be offered acceptance; whether you can touch your toes or not.