Saturday, February 5, 2011

Teacher Training vs. Teaching

It feels like it's been a while since I said anything about teacher training.  But I have had lots of thoughts about it recently.  It's been almost 8 months now (what?!?) since I graduated, and here are some of my recent observations.

Similar:  As a trainee and as a teacher, you typically spend a minimum of 3 hours a day sweating in a hot room, with a day-and-a-half off per week.

Different:  As a trainee, you never really have to do more than 11 classes in a week (unless you have a make-up class or you on demo team in week 9.)  As a teacher, I am sometimes in the hot room (counting both teaching or taking) for 11 classes in one weekend.  "Weekend" as in "three day."  This is one of those weekends.  Basically, the amount that you sweat at TT is nothing compared to how much you might end up sweating as a teacher.

Similar:  Hydration and sleep are top priorities at all times!

Different:  As a teacher, nobody makes you stay up late watching strange Hindi movies.  Now I only stay up moderately late, and I'm watching episodes Doctor Who instead of Mahabharat.  (And by the way, David Tennant, how sexy is his hair?!)

Similar:  Dialogue, dialogue, and more dialogue.  Talk, sleep, and breathe dialogue.

Different:  When you are a trainee, everyone around you is dialogue-obsessed.  You hear it in the stairwells.  People are practicing wind-removing pose in the parking lot.  (I have pictures of this.)  When you say the dialogue, you have a whole room of people checking to see if you're doing it right.  When you're a teacher, no one is checking (for the most part).  There are plenty of times when no one in the room knows if you're saying it "right" (nor do they care).  This means that it is up to you to keep yourself honest and stay on track.  (And if you happen to have a dialogue trophy sitting on your desk, it is up to you to uphold the high standard for the whole studio, so don't slack!)

And then here are some more differences:

Opposite:  At training, you are always saying your dialogue for a bunch of people who already know it.  You basically just recite the dialogue.  At best, it's role-playing.  As a teacher, you are giving instruction to a bunch of people who sometimes have no clue what they are supposed to be doing.  You have to actually teach using the dialogue.  This is a whole different ballgame.

Opposite:  At training, everyone tells you what to do.  When you are a teacher, you are responsible for telling everyone else what to do!  It's the difference between being a passenger on the bus and driving the bus.

Opposite:  In posture clinics at training, you're always kind of worried about "How am I doing?"  When you teach class, you stop thinking about yourself.  You think about your class and think, "How are they doing??"  (And also sometimes, still, ".... but really how am I doing?")

Opposite:  At training, people are always around to tell you how you are doing and clap for you when you do well.  Heck, even if you kinda suck, your group will still clap for you!  As a teacher, you have to chase people down and ask them if you want someone to tell you how you are doing.**  And the clapping?  Not so often.

Here's the thing, though: teaching is great.  Teaching is like a million times better than being a trainee.  Why?  Because you're actually doing something!  When you're in training, it's all just a big simulation, a preview, a teaser for the real thing.  It prepares you, kind of... but really, nothing can prepare you for what it feels like to lead a class.  With apologies to The Matrix, no one can be told what teaching is... you have to see it for yourself.

I had an awesome class this afternoon.  I had been at the studio all day - I took the 9am, taught the 11am, then advanced class right after the 11 ended, and then I barely had time to shove some microwave Pad Thai into my face (thank you Trader Joes!) before students started coming in for the 4pm.  And coming in.  And coming in.  And coming in.  Um.  I ended up having FIFTY-FIVE people in my 4pm class, which might be some kind of record for me.  (Our weekend and evening classes typically have 30-something people, or maybe 40+.)  I have no idea where all these people came from.  It was some combination of Groupons, 30 day challengers, studio regulars, and random people who just decided to show up for some SuperBowl weekend yoga.  I thought this was supposed to happen in January, not February?!

Anyway.  My class of 55 people.  Man, that room got hot.  It was a constant balancing/juggling act to keep the temperature under control, keep everyone moving (or at least alive), and keep the newer folks from bolting for the hills!  One of the new girls ended up sitting outside to get air for a couple minutes, but she was by the window where I could keep an eye on her (I have no problem with this), and she rallied and came back in after some coconut water.  Hooray!  

It was funny, because in the beginning I could feel the whole room being like, "Yo, holy crap, I dunno about this, this is a whole lot of people and it's really hot."  I felt a tiny bit of doubt myself, in a very very small and secret place inside myself, when I looked around the room and thought, "Geez, all these people are here listening to me to find out what to do, and I have to convince them to do this whole yoga class?!"  (I almost never think this.  It's the equivalent of looking down when you're in the middle of a tightrope - you just don't do it.  I take my responsibility seriously, but I can't dwell on it!)

But as class went along and we got onto the floor, there was a definite turning point - I felt it - when everyone was like, "ok, alright, this is actually quite cool."  I got the fans running and started cracking little jokes, and I can't even remember what I said, but the whole room laughed.  Not just once, but a few times.  It was fun.  We were having fun together.  The great thing about Bikram yoga is that yes, it's so hard sometimes that it's almost a sick and twisted joke, but everyone is in on the joke.  After rabbit pose, one woman headed for the back door (which I was standing near, adjusting the fans).  I grinned at her and said, "Oh, stay!  You're doing so great!  There's only 5 minutes left."  (More like 10 minutes - it was a white lie.)  She looked at me and said, "Really?  Promise?"  I said, "Would I lie to you?"  She turned around and went back to her mat, and the whole room surprised me by spontaneously bursting into applause.  Someone even went "wooo!"  It was terrific.  

We finished the class strong, and everyone staggered out looking shell-shocked but happy.  My favorite post-class reaction: "That was terrible and awesome!  SO awesome!"

I'd do that again.

Of course, now I am torn between feeling awesome (because today was really fun) and feeling like I've been beat up by a gang (because today was no joke)!  I am spending my Saturday night on the couch drinking Gatorade and watching more Doctor Who Episodes.  (Exterminate!!)  Just like at teacher training, I have no life.  And just like at teacher training, I am having an unreasonably good time.

Same thing tomorrow!


** Side story to go along with that point: I have found an exception to this rule.  A couple months ago, when I visited Diane and Teri's studios, I discovered the funniest thing.  At both (completely separate) studios, the students are used to periodically taking class from visiting/traveling teachers who are there to get feedback from the studio owners.  And after almost every class I taught at either of those studios, the students would come out of class and tell me, "You did a good job."  Not "great class" or "thanks for class," which are the usual comments - but rather, "You did a good job."  And I swear, they would practically pat me on the arm when they said it.  "Good job, dear!"  It was the funniest, sweetest thing.  It still cracks me up, just thinking about it.  But that is an anomaly...

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