TEACHING…

Earlier this month (October) I was asked to write something about being a teacher, specifically being a teacher of yoga. The request came from Webucator and the project is ‘Teach Your Talent’.

As often happens when someone, this time a total stranger, approaches you with a request it gives you pause for thought. 

Travelling and living overseas has taught me so much
 about people, places and cultures.

I teach…at the moment I teach yoga but over my lifetime I have taught 4-8 year olds, I have taught counselling skills, I have held forth about how to work with those who have survived rape and sexual assault and I have taught English to aspiring young people in Kenya. 

Why have I spent most of my life teaching? A brief answer to that question is that I continue to be curious and have a deep thirst for knowledge. As the saying goes, ‘We teach best what we need to learn’! 

I am now 59 years old and I feel deep within that I will continue to teach for as long as I can coherently speak, inspire and enable others.

The Mekong…an amazing trip with our gorgeous daughter
 which inspired and uplifted me. 

I came to teaching indirectly. I originally wanted to go into catering but failed the science side of things and, as often happened back in the seventies the next best, and dare I say it, safest option was Teacher Training. This was the UK and in those days you did not need to do a degree course. So Teacher Training with a Certificate in Education was my way forward into employment!

All these years later I can honestly say that The Universe had a plan and it was a perfect one…Gill was to teach. 

I have loved being a teacher. Looking back I think I am right to say that I have been good at being a teacher.  

I need to take you way back in time to when I was 5 years old and only just getting used to the whole being-at-school thing. I cannot recall the teacher but I vividly remember her anger. I was totally confused and truly incapable of understanding the difference between 5+5 and 5×5! I now know that I was not quite old enough to comprehend that concept and I also realise that her anger was probably to do with her own inadequate teaching. Sadly that event coloured forever my feelings about mathematics. However, good can come out of everything. Years later at college I determined to do my level best to empower those I taught and endeavour to find ways to make learning a joy.

My days of teaching general education to children are most certainly over. My passion and energy is now spent teaching yoga to anyone who walks through the door. I care not their age, flexibility, experience or health. If they can get to my classes then that’s great, so let’s give it a whirl!

Teaching yoga is a joyful thing to me. All my classes are drop-in and therefore, I have a range of ability in every class. Having had a chat and discovered gently about any physical issues I then simply invite them to join in and ‘copy the shapes’ and not become too anxious about getting everything perfect.

Yoga is an everlasting journey of discovery…it is as long as a piece of string. My piece of string is endless. Learning ought to be a delight. To be passionate and to teach with passion I need always to be learning and to brighten that learning up requires a light touch and large doses of humour. It’s so easy to get too serious about your subject and not everyone will have your same dedication. It reminds me of the-born-again-vegetarian who left their humour way behind at the meat counter! To pass on what you have learnt does not require you to become a stuffed shirt about it all.

Years ago when I was a Supply Teacher at a lovely primary school in South Manchester I was asked to supervise a class of 5-6 year olds who were being taught by a final year student. I simply sat in class and did whatever she wanted me to do…so I listened to readers and I set up the art table and quietly observed. At break I asked her how she was…her face said it all and almost in tears she said she felt dreadful. I offered to take the class for the remainder of the morning whilst she sat with a small group and read a story. Lunchtime arrived and she asked me how I did it…what exactly had I done was my query? Well they did everything you asked of them without shouting and creating. “Do you like the children?” I asked “No, not really, they are such hard work.” 

It really is key to your success as a teacher, you must actually love your subject and enjoy your students. Once it becomes exhausting, boring or a trial then it’s time to take stock. The young lady mentioned chose to leave teaching. Doubtless that was a very difficult decision but hopefully she discovered something that filled her with energy and delighted her. I can but hope…

To teach effectively I need to speak from my heart.
The energy within The Temple of Ranakpur
seemed to speak directly to my heart.

I feel that to teach others is an honour. Your interest/passion has led you into training and then you can choose to pass what you have learnt on to others in ways that inspire and educate.

There is a responsibility involved both to yourself and to those you teach. To simply train in a subject is not enough. You need to find ways to harness your energies in order that you teach effectively. It is very easy to become exhausted when standing before a group who are possibly/hopefully hanging on your every word.  I am very good at sticking to my times and never allow classes to over-run, it’s an inconvenience to everyone and bad manners. Think of your boundaries!! 

I jump at every chance to learn something new. It may not seem related but if I feel a lift in my heart after reading/hearing about something I use that as a clear indication that it is of huge importance to me to find out more. 

Teaching a beginner is always a delight. I so love the fact that they have been brave enough to attend my class and it’s then up to me to make them feel welcome and comfortable in their space. I teach that in yoga what occurs on your mat is all that really counts..that is your safe space. It is not important or useful to spend time gazing over at that amazingly flexible body on the other side of the room, because once upon a time they too had to start learning yoga. 

You really only need a mat in order to practice and enjoy yoga.
Blocks, bricks, belts and bolster are useful but not vital!

This has become slightly more than I had envisioned so let me draw it all together. Teaching for me is about being passionate, knowing my subject and being willing to remain a student forever, adapting to whatever the situation is, having a sense of humour and knowing it’s absolutely fine to admit you do not always know the answer and suggesting folk go off and Google for themselves! Also of importance to me is being able to speak my truth when my instincts tell me that will be of support to everyone. 
One last thing..I simply adore being taught. I love not being responsible and with that freedom I can absorb all that feels right to me. Namaste.

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