Teaching is a Lot Like Climbing the Himalayas
Teaching in the classrooms, hallways, and the windowless gymnasium of one school for over a decade has helped me discover what it means to be a yoga teacher to children. Long term students especially helped. I think being a teacher is a lot like climbing the Himalayas. There are many peaks and valleys on the path. When I find myself in a valley I try to remember that I am making progress. The valleys on the climb are always at a higher elevation than where you started.
I remember the first peak I reached as a new teacher. Eagerly marching into class, lesson plan in hand, full of excitement. The students gobbled up all my games and activities. I thought that to teach kids all I needed were some good games and songs in my pocket and I had them. I had teaching all figured out. Or at least I thought I did. Those long term students had something else in mind. The beautiful summit I was on had a great big valley waiting on the other side.
The First Valley I Got Stuck In
After a few years of teaching the same kids I started to hear, “We played that game already” and “We did that before.” Its surprising how fast one can descend. Before I knew it I was in a valley, I’ll call it the valley of boredom. Anyone who’s ever taught kids knows that boredom means soon kids are talking to each other, daydreaming, or worse, doing things that turn the whole class’s attention to them and away from the teacher. Boredom means trouble for a teacher.
The kids weren’t the only ones feeling a dullness. In this valley I felt more like a camp counselor than a yoga teacher.
To get out of this dip I first had to recognize I had a problem. I was getting tired of the yoga song and dance. It was hard teaching in that valley. Every class felt like I was putting on a show and the kids practically throw rotten tomatoes at you if they don’t like it. They have no filter. A quiet class can quickly mutiny, filling with shouting, laughing and disregard for authority. I considered quitting at that time because the next peak appeared insurmountable.
I had a choice to make, either go forward or go back, but I couldn’t live in the valley.
Not All Yoga Games are Created Equal
Experimenting I noticed that not all games are created equal. Some games are just silly fun and when the kids played them they got more silly. Games with teaching moments got the kids quieter and more centered. You could play these games more than once because they spoke to the heart of the child. They led to discussions of real yoga ideas. As I chose my activities more Consciously teaching yoga became a pleasure again. Things were looking up.
Then last week I had another realization with the children. Twenty five kids filled the gym and their voices began bouncing off the walls. Out of habit I searched my mind for a game to fill the last twenty minutes but these students had heard it all before and nothing seemed to quieten them down.
“If you only knew who you were. If you only understood how powerful you are. All the power that ever was or will be is here now. You can harness that power if you can take control of yourself and learn to focus your attention. If you can do that you can be whatever you put your mind to.”
A Quiet that Surprised Me
By the time I finished the whole room was quiet, a quiet that surprised me. The kids were waiting to hear more about who they are, longing to hear about what life could offer them. The kids wanted to do yoga not play games.
Teaching kids long term comes with its ups and downs. You get to know the kids, their names, their personalities. and help them navigate the stages of learning. But a teacher also goes through the ups and downs on the path of learning. When a teacher grows they can connect with students on a deeper level, beyond summer camp, to experience the bliss of yoga.
I’m grateful for the gift of being a kids yoga teacher, especially knowing that the valleys can lead to breathtaking views.
Please share your advice or questions about these peaks and valley on the path of learning in the comments.
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Discover Real Yoga and Real Fun in the Young Yoga Masters kids yoga teacher training weekend. Come join us and give yourself a weekend to refresh and renew your practice. It’s worth the trip to Toronto.
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- August 8 – 14: Intensive Week
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