What Makes a Great Kids' Yoga Teacher?

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“Teachers have a greater impact on student success than ANY other in-school factor
…and great teachers make great schools.”

Look up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, still looking, there’s another bird, another bird….

If you’re waiting for Superman, so are a lot of other people these days.  The new documentary “Waiting for Superman” is a popular topic among educators.  It’s an expose of the US public school system making a splash on the cover of Time, Oprah, and many other places. I haven’t seen the movie, but from what I have seen it seems to blames many of the problems with students dropping out and doing poorly on BAD TEACHERS and an OUTDATED education system.

The whole movie attempts to tackle many complex issues, but one thing it says is that great teachers make the difference for kids succeeding.

Does this apply to a kids' yoga teacher as well?

Some say it takes three years to get really good at teaching. The movie explains that in the USA, after two years, a teacher’s job is tenured – meaning its very hard to fire a bad teacher.

The Journey of One Kids' Yoga Teacher
A three year learning curve sounds about right to me. My first year of teaching, I developed my skills in classroom management; it didn’t just happen naturally.  In fact, I was so bad my first few classes, I remember I cried afterward.  A new teacher must discover how they can manage a class, or they won’t be able to teach the children. Some teachers never learn it, which is when they start to become terrible teachers who yell at or berate the children to control them.

A terrific teacher studies classroom management techniques and learns from other terrific teachers. Terrific teachers don’t blame problems on the kids in the class. They blame it on their own lack of skills, then do whatever it takes to develop the skills. Those who can’t manage a class aren’t terrible people, but are on their way to becoming terrible teachers.

Somewhere into my second year, once I could easily get the kids to listen, I began really knowing my subject: kids' yoga. Knowing your subject inside and out helps you run a smooth class. When you know your poses, games, and songs, you have fewer gaps referring to your lesson plans or checking your books. In my second year, I could connect with kids AND do the yoga smoothly and effortlessly.

The Transformation of a Teacher
By then end of my third year, a different kind of transformation occurred. I started developing the confidence to make the classes my own. When one studies art, they copy the works of the Masters to learn. In teaching, you start by using the tools you’ve learned from others, this stage gives you vital skills to build upon.

But eventually, each artist and teacher finds their personal style. Eventually you have to find your authentic passion that motivates you to keep going. For me it was doing less silly stories and introducing more real yoga concepts in my curriculum. It took me three years to really reach my stride as a teacher. I’m not saying I never have bumps in the road, but the three year mark  was when I knew I could walk into any class, teach the kids a great yoga class, and enjoy doing it!

If you teach five classes a week for forty weeks, that’s TWO HUNDRED classes a school year. After three years, you’ve taught about six hundred classes. The novelty of teaching wears off but an experienced teacher continues to go into each class with joy and enthusiasm. They do it because that is what a terrific teacher does.

A terrible teacher is phoning in their teaching! They aren’t excited about the students’ progress. Nor are they enthusiastic about the lessons. If they were honest, they would admit they don’t really want to be there.

To become a terrific teacher takes years of learning your profession and finding out if you really want to teach.

Professional Development Keeps You Terrific
The training doesn’t stop after three years. In most professions, regular professional development is expected. In my style of yoga we are expected to do 20 hours of upgrading every 2 years. I enjoy doing it. I also read other kids' yoga blogs and articles to stay up to date and stimulated with new ideas and new material. And I like to see movies related to education, like Waiting for Superman, to find out what is happening in the education system.

Most teachers don’t get rich teaching; most do it because they have a calling to teach and because they love teaching. That’s what makes a terrific teacher.

Those who are teaching for the security of their paycheck or because it seems like a good job with summers off – well, I can tell who they are in the schools I go to, because the kids are unhappy and so is that teacher.

Its not only the teacher who makes the difference - of course, the culture of the school, a system of education that recognizes many learning styles, the parental support, and finances are just a few of the factors. Terrific teachers don’t have superhuman powers, they can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, however, sources like Waiting for Superman seem to point out that many negative factors can be overcome by a terrific teacher.

Add to the conversation:

Do you think a teacher has more impact on a student’s success than any other in-school factor?

What do you do to be a terrific teacher?

What kind of terrific teachers have influenced you as a teacher or a student?