Talking back

I try not to be shy about asking my teacher when I don’t understand something. I feel some increased imperative now, as I seek to clarify my own knowledge so that I can best support my own students. I take care not to give an alignment cue simply as he does, but to ensure I understand it for myself. I find as a teacher one needs a lot of quiet confidence in one’s own message, and the truth of that comes from one’s own experience. I loved a wise comment from my teacher recently when we were talking about how long teaching prep takes — it’s not measured by the time taken in producing the class plan, the playlist or the sequence; it’s that really one has been preparing one’s whole life to teach in this moment!

But the quiet confidence of a teacher needs also to be balanced by some humility. None of us have all the answers, we’re all still learning and we all have such limited perspective. My teacher knows this; I see it all the time in how he addresses my questions and my concerns. For myself, I’m having a harder time balancing humility with the new-teacher need for confidence. My questions to my teacher and my desire to ‘know’ and to assert for myself easily turn into arrogance. I lost the necssary humility recently and overstepped my role as a student: I didn’t just question my teacher, I asserted that he was wrong on something. Not good behaviour, though he chose not to point this out to me.

And then as a teacher myself I recently had cause to correct a student, and on a point of behaviour rather than simple lack of knowledge or understanding. I hesitated to do it, to face an awkard moment, to own my responsibilities as a teacher. But it was a issue of safety, so it would not have been right to let it go.

And you know what? I got an email follow up from her that was full of love and respect for me. She wasn’t defensive or arrogant or irritated. She showed great humility in her response, even thanking me for my love and care. What can I learn from this?

Instead of beating myself up for not being such a good student myself, I’m choosing instead to count my blessings that I have these great teachers all around me, who through their own behaviours and reactions teach me much about how I could be. If only I can find my own sense of humility and graciousness.

So I’m back to class to practise under my teacher’s guidance, hopefully with a renewed sense of how to wear my own growing confidence a little more modestly. And with a big dose of trust that my teacher will allow me to make mistakes, perhaps one day to learn from them. It’s never too late for a new beginning.

4 thoughts on “Talking back

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  1. Today a student asked me a question. I straight up told her that I didn’t know the answer. I did the pose (utkatasana) and gave my best answer based on what I was able to feel in my own posture. I suppose that is the best I could have done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing that, Michael. Surely it is the only answer to give when you don’t know? If it was a genuine question from a regular student you can always return to it at a later date.. Or maybe they will come to offer you their answer?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel lately that I really don’t know a lot of answers to student’s questions and am comfortable telling them so. If it isn’t hurting or does not have the propensity for injury, I have them try to solve the riddle in their own body as it is not going to manifest the same way in me. If painful, I give them an alternate pose or modification.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I remember struggling with a pose that was causing me some physical discomfort and my teacher came over to me in every class for weeks offering me a different modification to try each time… By the time we’d exhausted all his ideas the issue with my lower back had somehow sorted itself out! And I learned a lot about possible modifications that might be useful in future!!

          Liked by 1 person

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