We have approached the second-to-last class.
Well, that’s not completely accurate. Today was the second-to-last core class. But in my journey on this teacher training path, I still have one make-up core class to finish (the one that was canceled due to a fierce February snow storm), eight tech sessions to complete, and a few miscellaneous tasks to wrap up (basically, reading a few more books, and writing brief reflections on them). However, the end is approaching; and I’m beginning to feel a sense of closure to this project.
But, not yet. Today was the second-to-last class. :)
The previous two core classes were teaching labs, where we practiced giving voice to (and adjustments of) small 5-minute segments of an asana sequence. Today’s session was a bit like a ‘final practicum’, where we pulled together everything we learned in those previous teaching labs, and taught a longer 20-minute segment of an asana sequence. However, there was a new twist. In today’s session, everyone was given a not-so-great “behavior” to exhibit while our fellow teacher-in-training attempted to facilitate their 20-minute class segment; in effect, today’s core session was designed to show us what could go wrong in a yoga class, and to challenge us to address the various issues as best we could.
May I pass on this one?
I’m not a fan of role plays in general, and I’m particularly not fond of role plays that attempt to catastrophize a situation. I understand the spirit behind this task (i.e., our program teachers want to do what they can to ensure we know what to do should problems occur in our classes – a very noble and good intention), but the execution of such tasks is usually flawed. Generally speaking, these role-play events go one of two ways: the ‘actors’ either under-state their role (because they feel uncomfortable giving one of their peers difficulty), or participants over-state their role (because they want to really push their peers – sometimes from a place of skillful intention, and sometimes not). In either case, the role play lacks realism, and does little to truly prepare the student for what they might face in the ‘real world’; however, these role plays can (and sadly, frequently do) backfire, causing the student discomfort (sometimes even angst) in the moment, while also introducing doubt and insecurity that previously wasn’t present – all of which can lead the student to question their skills, abilities, and sometimes even interest in the subject being studied.
Ugh. No thank you.
Alas, the situation is what it is; today’s role plays were going to occur whether I agreed with them or not; and I was required to participate, whether I liked it or not. So I picked up my mat, met with my two other classmates, and the three of us each took our turn teaching our 20-minute segment.
I was the first one up (just to get it done) – and my ‘problem students’ were pretty reasonable. One was told to complain that her shoulder really hurt (fine, I told her modifications she could do for various poses), and the other was asked to not do the poses I cued – in effect, ‘go rogue’. So, when I told my ‘class’ to step their right foot forward, he stepped with his left. When I cued Warrior 1, he did Warrior 2. Et cetera. Fine, whatever; I simply repeated the correct cue until he caught on (i.e., “step your right foot forward”), or demonstrated the correct pose at the front of the class and stressed its’ name (i.e., “Warrior One, arms overhead like this”), or if the error was minor, I just let him go on his own. It’s all good.
My peers had similar experiences teaching myself and the other student in our mini-class; my first issue was to have a sore wrist, and my second issue was to have hunched shoulders. One of my classmates was told to ask a LOT of questions (which she did well, almost to the point of being obnoxious), and the other classmate was told to whine and complain (which he did effectively as well). Near the end of the 90 minutes, all three of us were giddy (as some of the questioning and whining became almost comical), and during the last 5 minutes of the experience we were all laughing out loud – which was actually quite lovely. This potentially problematic situation turned into something light and fun, and it really was a terrific way to end the teaching experience.
After we three had taught our segments, we returned to the main room of the studio for a final debrief. During the review of what worked well, what didn’t work out so well, what questions we had, what we might do different next time, etc., the session facilitator made a comment about how the ending of each program was always bittersweet for her: she would miss us, but she was also excited for the next group of people to come after us. She then made a bit of a ‘kidding’ comment encouraging for us to be nice to the next batch of teachers-in-training, closing with the sentiment that “current students tend to get possessive of the space.”
I found this last sentence particularly interesting. One of the primary focuses of yoga is learning to be present, to focus on what is here and now (instead of remembering/re-living the past or anticipating/fearing the future). Yet clearly, both students and teachers alike have difficulty retaining and practicing this concept – even in the heightened-awareness space of a yoga studio. When the facilitator mentioned that another wave of students was to arrive, my immediate response was, “Well, of course more people will come; such is the ebb-and-flow of life. The old make way for the new, and the new become old, and so it goes.” And I was truly content with this in my mind and my heart.
It looks like yoga really *is* taking hold of me – and I know this is a result of the past year of focused attention, study, instruction, and guidance. And for all of that (for all of the work I have done, and for all of the knowledge so many teachers have shared with me [usually lovingly and skillfully]), I am deeply, deeply grateful.