Watching my teachers teach

I’ve been a poetry and writing teacher for 27 years. This summer, my teacher Jörgen Christiansson surprised me with an offer to teach an introduction to Ashtanga class at his shala. Suddenly I was faced with learning a new teaching style, new teaching methods, new kinds of students.

Years ago when I took my first teacher training with Tim Miller, I did it to, as we say, deepen the practice–to apply the principles of Ashtanga to my own body and mind. Now, I’ve been asked to teach others what I know.

In my current teaching position, I also mentor new instructors of writing. One of things I emphasize is developing your own “teacher persona”: an extension of your own personality that you can use to effectively impart information. You can also use that persona to comfort, to motivate, to entertain. Find your persona, I say, in the personas of teachers you’ve had that worked for you.

Tim teaching teachers, including Bobbie.

When I was with Tim this past week at Mt. Shasta, it was like watching Tim teach for the first time–this time as a teacher myself. I realized, in my scramble to find ways to teach the Primary Series to new Ashtangis, I was heavily stealing (some might say “borrowing”) from not just Tim, but all my Ashtanga teachers. From the opening mantra to the little jokes (“Your boats are sinking!”) to easing the students into savasana, I’m almost unconsciously taking a little here, a little there, and working to blend them into my own style.

When I realized this, I got excited about the Confluence all over again. It struck me that it’s the commonality of all my teachers, the strong bones of Ashtanga that Guruji gave them, that allows the fleshing out of the teacher. Each class the same. Each class, different. What will I learn at the Confluence, I wonder, that I can in turn impart to my students? The teachers I will meet there are conduits for the methods of their teachers. That’s exciting stuff.

Posted by Bobbie

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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