There are lots of tried-and-true bells and whistles passed around as methods to “manage” a classroom. Whether it’s counting to five, whispering or waiting, all of these techniques have their place in the day to day affairs of the classroom, but they are simply quick fix methods that wear out rather quickly.
For yoga teachers newly entering the classroom with no prior experience, the job of classroom management can be a puzzling one. It’s barely an issue in adult classes. I often receive questions like, “Help! I want to share yoga with these bright children, but I can’t get them to listen for more than a couple of minutes!” This situation can begin to spiral downward as the teacher becomes anxious about the students behavior.
Co-creating a harmonious classroom environment starts way before the first moment of class. Being prepared, centered and ready for pretty much anything will help set the tone for a productive experience. The inner life of the teacher is the touchstone for harmony in the class. Let’s break this down a bit.
Think for a moment about the term “management.” In this case, the teacher is considered the manager and therefore responsible for shaping students behavior. While this is true in some aspects, there are other styles of teaching that put more responsibility in the hands of students and produce better outcomes. Allowing students to be responsible for themselves is giving them a gift of trust. For the teacher, that means letting go of total control and opening up to the experience students need rather than working to mold students into a rigid curriculum.
When curriculum lives in a thoughtful field of trust, creativity and conscious relatedness, a “system of care” is in place wherein “classroom management” is fluidly woven. In other words, managing the behavior of students is not a separate issue to curriculum. In many ways, it’s the basis for it. Our pedagogy will inform how we listen, interact and guide students.
Utilizing a Contemplative Pedagogy means that listening to students, interacting with what is and guiding the class gently and confidently in the desired directions are the main objectives of the teacher. This is a very different approach than: “I need to get my students quiet and listening so we can “do” yoga.” In contrast, the way in which we guide students to yoga can also be , in and of itself, a yogic teaching. The paradox never ceases to amaze me: the more I listen to students, the quieter they are able to become…..because they feel heard.
Yoga teachers often instruct that “getting in and out” of poses is just as, sometimes more, important than being in the pose. I concur and offer that “getting in and out” of yoga class in general is equally as important to the process. Have you ever been to a class where the teacher stomps around, fiddling with the stereo, singing to themselves, as if there is no one else in the room? While adults can easily deal with this kind of behavior from teachers, children cannot thrive with such a lack of relating. Even if we are not doing other things when our students enter, it can be helpful to ask ourselves how available we actually are to them. Are we focused on a plan? Or are we whole heartedly receiving our students into the experience of learning?
How we are as teachers sets the tone for our students behavior, or beingness. So, perhaps the most effective way to manage our students behavior is to manage our own.
To stand steady and centered amid the chaos
To know the direction and be willing to take a different path
To place students emotional well being above all else
Because what does it matter if our students have gloriously beautiful quiet asana practices if they feel hard and lonely in their hearts?
So, if we are having trouble getting students to listen for more than a few minutes, maybe we can take a few minutes to stop and listen.
Other posts in this series: