At Friday night’s teacher training session, we spent a lot of time on our monthly check-in, so that each person would have the opportunity to talk about their meditation experiences this month. After check-in, we worked on teaching practice.
We broke into two groups: five of us with N, and six with J. I was in N’s group, and working with her was really different from practicing teaching with J. We went through a basic class structure – she had one student teach a pose, then she’d talk with us about positive things she’d observed and other things to try next time, then another of us would go and then we’d talk over what that person did. This was useful because J will often remind us of things when we practice teaching, or correct us when we get something wrong, but N made a specific point of highlighting things that each person did right. That’s helpful for both the person doing the teaching and the rest of us, to know that Miriam made a good point when she said this or that Gillian had a nice way of phrasing that. A couple of people in our group weren’t too confident in their teaching, so highlighting what they did well helped to reassure them; I tend to be overly critical, so it also reminded me that each of us had smart, useful things to say.
The thing N mentioned that she liked about my teaching was my voice. She said that I have a good, soothing yoga voice. Then she went on to give some strategies for what you can do if you don’t have that kind of voice: you should never fake your voice, but you can pay close attention to your tone and modulate your volume. I really liked N’s approach here: she was able to tell me something positive, and then use that as a teaching moment to help others develop their skill.
I taught two things: sun salutations, which I feel pretty comfortable with, and shoulder stand. I volunteered to teach shoulder stand and told N it was because I’d never tried teaching it before. Teaching shoulder stand was a different, unique challenge. With many yoga poses, the teacher should tell you how to do it and then shut up and let you have an experience; shoulder stand is different because a student can actually seriously harm herself in this pose, so it’s better to teach through the whole thing, continuing to talk so that the student can learn more about the proper alignment. I got some things right (use your hands to support your back; don’t let any weight rest on your neck; try to bring your elbows parallel to each other) and missed some important things (your hips should be square above your shoulders; your back should be perpendicular to the floor; and I said that your weight should be in your shoulders, but I neglected to say that your weight should be in your upper arms too). And hearing N talk about the pose afterward was really helpful. (N told us that this will be a pose that we will be required to write up later on, so you’ll hear more about this in the future.)
Overall this might have been my favorite practice teaching session. The other group, working with J, did not have such a nice time, which made for an odd energy in the room; the other group had some people getting upset and some people getting angry, but my group was very pleasant and very supportive. I’m not sure how this can be avoided in the future. Maybe next time we’ll keep the same groups but swap teachers, which could be enough to mix things up.