Friday, June 17, 2016

how to spot a great teacher

This morning I went to my favorite Yoga class - Hot Power Fusion (HPF) at CorePower Yoga. Our teacher was amazeballs, and it got me to thinking about how you can really spot a great teacher. Here's my take.

1. Care for Students
First and foremost, great teachers show authentic care and concern for their students. They want them to achieve, and are there to help them though difficulties. When we began our session this morning, Terri told us that if we got stuck or didn't feel well, that we should stay in the studio so she could help us. Fast forward about 30 minutes when someone left: she told the rest of us to take a quick break and grab some water so she could check on the other student. I thought that action right there spoke volumes about the kind of teacher Terri is. At the heart of her work with us is a care for students.

Similarly, I've always believed in my work with students they will work harder for you and take more risks for you when they know you are on their side. Do some kids screw up? Absolutely. And they will definitely receive consequences for it. But it's *because we love them - rather than in spite of it - that they earn consequences for bad choices. I told a student once, "The day I stop asking and nagging and having the "talks" with you - that's the day you should worry." This was met with a middle school eye roll, but I just smiled to myself as I saw a bigger picture that this particular student couldn't quite envision just yet.

2. Thoughtful Planning
Great teachers also take time to plan thoughtfully for their sessions. One of the reasons I love HPF is that in the best classes, the teachers offer up an intention for our practice. They bring some kind of knowledge or wisdom to share with us that we can use to drive our practice for the day. Today, Terri brought the book You are a Badass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life. And then, as our eyes were closed and we were standing at the tops of our mats with our hands in prayer at our heart, she read to us about "sweeping out the self-doubt." Clearly that has stuck with me (and I have a new book to read).

And it wasn't just the reading, it was also the thoughtful planning of her music. There was noting haphazard about it. In the moments in the class when we were working hard, the music was faster and more up beat. When the class slowed down, so did the music, including a new version of Bulletproof that was amazing.

Thoughtful planning takes time and effort. The best teachers rehearse for their lessons, us writing teachers read the Calkins curriculum and make slides that we can use along with it to show students what we mean. We write memoirs along side our students so we see where they might get stuck.

Thoughtful planning takes time, but it really shows up on the execution of the lesson!

3. Specific Feedback
Another one - specific feedback. Teachers have to give great feedback so students can adjust their practice. In yoga, this takes on two forms, verbal cues and hands-on assists. When the teacher cues verbally, he or she will narrate what he or she sees and then give verbal cues to the whole group so everyone can adjust. Even more specific are hands-on adjusts, where the teacher will come over to someone and adjust their postures and positioning so that everyone can focus theirs more, and see exactly what the teacher means by watching!

As a classroom teacher, specific feedback is equally important. A long time ago, in my early years, I learned about how to 'SIP' kids - provide them with feedback that is specific, informative, and positive. Like Terri, in my class I might say something like, "Alright I see that Zach is ready to go - he has his notebook and pencil and is looking at me for more directions. Thanks, Zach!" That cue will let the other students know exactly what I'm looking for. Additionally, feedback takes on a written form as we read student writing, highlighting the things they did in such an awesome way, and also press them to think further by asking questions.

Feedback makes a difference as we learn!

4. Positivity
Another thing about great teachers is that they are positive. They're not just positive when giving feedback (although that is really important) but they are just positive people in general. I don't know about the Yoga Teaching World, but the education world can be really intense, and it's really easy to fall into those holes of negativity. It's really easy to get caught up in gossip and never smile. The best teachers? They remove themselves for negativity that drains their spirit and they keep on simling, remembering that teacher balance is so important, and that by doing something for themselves, they are in turn, making themselves better when they step in front of kids.

This morning, Terri was so positive, from the smile I got when I checked in at the front desk, to the eye contact in class, and the jokes about a certain posture potentially leading to a whole night's worth of sleep, and that maybe it might be a bunch of baloney, but we'll try it out anyways.

Positive teachers make their students want to return to their classrooms.

5. Ability to laugh at their mistakes
The last thing is that great teachers don't take themselves too seriously. They understand that there's *no way* for them to know everything or to do everything perfectly, and so when they screw up, they laugh it off and move on. They get that life it too short to worry about what someone else might be thinking about their actions - that kind of conversation in our minds only depletes our energy. One thing that master teachers excel at is constantly learning and growing and improving, and they don't let the little mistakes derail them from their greater purpose.

So - that's just what I was thinking in class today. I love Core Power Yoga and especially HPF, and I will definitely be returning to Terri's class... highly recommend!

What do you think? What else makes a great teacher?

1 comment:

  1. Those are all qualities of a wonderful teacher! The only thing I would add is flexibility. Great teachers, yoga or academic, need to be able to read just when opportunities or issues come up.

    Primary On The Prowl


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