What makes a good teacher? There are hundreds of teachers right here in our city alone. Hundreds of thousands of teachers worldwide. When we are all taking out keys from the same lineage, what is it that draws us time and again to some teachers, and vow never to return to others.
The way I see it, there are three key components into the heart of teaching; purpose, curiosity, and care.
At the heart of teaching is the why, your purpose. It’s not enough to just show up with a crafty class and creative sequence, what keeps people showing up for you is the ‘why.’ What drives people to your classes and will keep them coming back for more is when you are connected to your purpose. Your teaching style may change, your sequencing will grow and become more intelligent. But who you are at the core, your beliefs, that stays the same, that is the constant. The beacon and the lighthouse that keeps bringing you home.
There will be times in your teaching career when you feel wiped out. Exhausted. When the classes aren’t coming, your numbers aren’t filling, you’re not quite making as much – impact, money, difference – as you wanted to make. And you will question what you’re doing. If what you’re offering is of any value to anyone. What’s your worth. And your worth will start to be attached to class sizes, facebook likes and Instagram followers. It’s fucking hard. And there are going to be times when you just want to throw it all in.
What will keep you inspired. What will keep you coming back class after class is the ‘why.’ Why do you want to teach? What drew you to this practice in the first place. Do you remember your first class. What was that like. What was the teacher like. Who introduced you to the practice, and why. How does this movement make you feel. What do you have to offer that is unique. What are your strengths, what are you powers, what is your purpose. What draws you to certain classes and teachers and not others.
Getting clear on the why, so that you can let that be what fuels your own practice and your teaching. Are you teaching for fun? To educate. Do you want to help people get in to shape, do you want to empower. Why are you doing what you’re doing.
If you can get clear on the ‘why’, others will naturally be drawn to you and continue to come back for more.
Curiosity, is really an expression of critical thinking. And critical thinking is what is going to set you apart from the masses.
The practice of yoga and Pilates are traditions that have been passed down through the generations, primarily by word of mouth. And we, as students and new teachers accept what our predecessors have to say with blind faith. This is dangerous. This is dangerous with anything.
It’s important for us to do our own research. To not just take what has been taught at face value, but to ask questions, to research, to reach out, to practice and feel things in your own body.
Otherwise you’re just parroting what has been done before. And just because it’s been done before doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. There are a lot of things that have been done before, and we now know better.
For example, when Pilates first came to the scene, Joseph was trying to straighten out the spine. Not from a scoliotic perspective, but actually get rid of the natural curves of the spine. The ones we need for absorption and mobility. We now know better. Through research, through time and practice we now know better. But it took the critical thinkers to question Joseph’s initial teaching.
Don’t be afraid to question. This is the passion. When you love something so much that you don’t just want to accept someone else’s reality of the practice but really truly adopt your own. This is where questioning and research are healthy. And it’s not to just go against what has been traditionally done. There is a lot of good still around from the teachings of the past. But approach your teaching, your sequencing, your home practice even with a critical mind.
When we just take the teachings at face value, we’ve checked out, we’re not really taking any responsibility for our own practice or that of our students. And being present in your own practice so that you can really feel what is going on in your body and present during your teaching so that you can really see what is going on in the bodies of your students is key.
Question the teachings of the past. Not to be a rebel, but to allow curiosity to drive your passion.
This seems like an obvious one, but it’s not obvious to all, and if there’s anything that turns me off of a class, it’s not being cared for by the teacher. I don’t need my hand to be held, to be ‘oohed and ahhed’ after or adored. I just want to know that my teacher sees that I’m here in their class and that they give a fuck.
Get to know your students names. Get to know their bodies, their abilities as well as limitations, any injuries they may have. Establish a relationship with your students. This does not have to lead to long walks along the beach, you can keep this quite professional. But these people have taken time out of their day and money out of their pocket and it’s an honour that they have chosen to spend it with you.
Greet them when the walk in, watch them as they practice, offer help where needed. I know it can be hard to physically ‘get’ to every student each class, especially when the classes can hold up to 50 and 60 people. But see everyone. Offer a verbal cue, a simple body gesture, a smile even. It’s important for people to know that you are there for them.
The main thing here is to be present. Don’t just start the ipod, hop on your mat and go on auto-pilot. Really show up for class, each and every class that you teach, and create a safe and supportive environment for your community.
Let your passion and purpose drive you, it won’t steer you wrong.
I want to know what you think. What keeps you coming back? What do you think makes a good teacher? Leave your comment below :)