In adult yoga classes, rarely do you find students running around with exercise balls, complaining that they are hungry or tired (out loud at least), or throwing yoga blocks into the air. It’s not easy, but the hugs at the end of class and the growth you can see are worth it! Here are some survival tips for a new teacher:
Don’t forget your own practice
It’s so easy to be caught up in your busy schedule of teaching and inspiring children that you forget your own practice. You tell the kids to breathe slowly and wait to react in difficult situations, yet you are speeding your way to class and panting once you walk through the door! We have to practice what we teach for our own health and for the children we teach! I recommend setting aside one time slot a week for a class with your favorite instructor. Try your best to maintain that consistency and it will help you manage all the chaos of becoming a new teacher!
Set expectations ASAP
The first day of class always sets the tone for the rest of the year. Children are very perceptive and can read you very quickly. It’s a tough balance to be an authority figure but also kind and approachable. As yoga teachers, it’s an even more difficult line because we tend to be scheduled after school, when kids are already tired from a long day. In order to let children know we are there for them and we are their teacher, it is important to set the expectations the first day of class. I prefer to have a poster board that states the class structure with pictures and the expectations. I keep the main order the same every time (shoes off, introductions, breathing, yoga, break, balancing, shoes on). The kids know what to expect and can feel safe and secure in the structure.
I’m not sure what it is about being a “helper” but whenever I ask who would like to help me with ____, every child raises their hand before they even know what I’m asking them to do! Look out for children that are working hard and participating and choose them to take on leadership roles. For example, leading the breathing in the beginning, picking their favorite pose to teach the class, ringing the bell, lining up the yoga mats, and leading sun salutations are all great leadership roles for kids. There are endless ways you can include “helpers”.
It’s so much easier said than done, but your energy is so contagious as a teacher! When you walk in and you are in a great mood and stay positive and engaged all of class, it is more difficult for children to lose interest. A great example is when class is utter chaos. Some children are running around in circles and you ring the bell. The bell doesn’t even stop the chaos. I look around the room and see a child sitting patiently waiting for directions. I compliment that child, “Thank you Ashley for waiting so patiently. I can’t wait to tell you what surprise we are going to do next!” I then continue to talk quietly and sometimes whisper. I don’t think this works every time but when I stay calm and positive, it always makes it easier to handle the chaos and eventually the children come down to that level.
You have to LOVE working with children to teach kids yoga! You probably have a very good reason why you do what you do. I once had a 5 year old tell me, “I was having trouble sleeping because I had a lot of worries. I breathed and did twists and it really helped me calm down. Now I don’t have all the same worries.” There is so much beauty in what yoga can do for everyone. Even a 5 year old has a lot of worries and we are lucky enough to be able to help!