I want to share some experiences and some trial and errors to encourage teachers to continue with their mission, even when it seems like you’ve hit the wall, or run out of ideas, or question if you are making a difference.
Yes, we all hit the wall. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t know what’s on the other side. The climb over can be tough, but anything that’s easy is just that, easy. Teaching children is a challenge. Teachers need to be able to tap into their own light, with conviction, to put forth their best effort, class after class, year after year. All teachers understand that, right? But, what if you are teaching pre-school children? What if you are introducing them to something brand new and want them to love it so they will continue? What if you were teaching them yoga?
That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve been doing for 7 years. I’m writing this after just completing a week long camp for pre-school children. Ages 3-7. There’s my first typo–7. Way before I started teaching, our mentors such as Marsha Wenig, Yogakids International, put children in the 3-6 age group. That MATTERS. I’ve co-created a program for ages 3-6 for Grounded Yoga, and my partner, Sedef Dion, and I were very conscious of the age appropriate poses, songs, and chants. Sedef was in the teaching arena daily with classes as young as 12 months, and ranging up to 5 years old. Her perspective on “when age matters” was instrumental in our writing the program. We both considered ourselves to be in a labratory, using techniques and poses on different ages to see how they would respond, and our lab trials were successful. Some poses are just not age appropriate for pre-school. Ages 3-6. Please don’t confuse this with “I have a 5 year old that can do Vasisthasana”. So do we. I’m not suggesting that you limit your teaching to a particular set of poses, please push the envelope and when you feel your student is ready, introduce more challenging poses. What I am encouraging here, is that to have a balanced, successful teaching experience, teach to the age before you. Teach to that energy. If you teach a 10 week session to pre-school children, each week will bring a new energy, therefore new challenges. Be ready. Be repetitive, and don’t give into boredom. If you find yourself saying “maybe they can do this”, I bet you they can, but are they ready? The gift of teaching PRE-Grounded to PRE-School is “PRE.” Before. Teach them the basics of good etiquette on a mat, stacking bones over and over again, using laughter to encourage their learning. Don’t over estimate the goodness of teaching basics. When they are ready to take that important step to becoming Grounded, they should be ready.
Back to my typo. 7. I was delighted to see this child in camp, because she has been practicing with me for 3 years! Yes, she started at the ripe age of 4. She was allowed to enroll because she wanted to come so badly. I’m not saying that she didn’t have an amazing experience during camp, she actually benefited because I was able to allow her to “teach” to the other children. Yes, teach. The Grounded programs Quest for Elevation prepares the children to become teachers themselves, and it works. She actually left camp with an advantage on her peers because of this experience. But for me as the teacher, the days were a challenge to not only give her a rewarding experience, but to introduce brand new yoga to the 3 year olds. The basic poses are easy for children to master. The songs and simple chants are fun and engaging. The YogArt projects were simple enough for the range in ages, and the older children learned and embraced them, and as the photo and video shows, Age Matters.
I would never suggest that you not take a teaching position because the age range is out of the limits I’m suggesting here. Teach to all children, whenever you have the opportunity. What I am suggesting, is to be ready. Start with an open mind, and be prepared for the struggles that will show up. Having a 3 year old in your class is one of the greatest gifts a yoga teacher can have. The opportunity to share the joy of yoga for the first time to a child–Priceless. Having a wide age range of students will be a challenge. It will be hard. It will make you a better teacher. When that class is your class, walk into the experience ready. Ready for an amazing journey with obstacles and triumphs. Find your breath, and TEACH.