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Focused teaching practice idea from Claire Ferry – 14/02/2022

Focused teaching practice
While all trainees are attending weekly classes to shadow, and over time moving from observation to demonstration to assisting to teaching, that does not start to give the idea of a feel of a class. I asked for some student volunteers to attend one of the peer days for a 1.5hrs class. I prepared a class plan based on the preliminary series and then allocated each of the trainees 3 poses in a row, so they could start to get the idea of teaching a series of postures. As well as knowing the asanas it meant they could have a chance to get into a flow, deciding what theme they wanted to stick with for the three, what emphasis to put on each, which one to take more time on and so on. It gave an opportunity for the trainees to get into their stride a bit, and not see the demo/teaching as an obstacle to get over before I teach the rest (!) but part of a real class. I topped and tailed the class, doing the sukhasana & invocation, then a couple of poses and savasana to finish. At the end the volunteer students were asked to give feedback by email to me (so it would be anonymous to the trainees) if they wished, or verbally if they were comfortable with that. Then (after the volunteers had left) as a group of trainees they gave feedback to each other – first describing how it went for them, what went well, what they would want to improve. Then the other trainees (who were also in the class) were able to give constructive feedback too. That meant everyone had to be keeping their eyes open and observing, and being open and honest in their communication, not glossing over things that could be improved, but also supportive.
It went well and I will definitely do this again. The trainees surprised themselves. They were all their own worst critics and it was good to have positive comments from me and each other so they could recognise how far they have in fact come. As time progresses through the (min) 2 more years of mentoring, we will be able to experiment with class scenarios, sequencing and so on. This was the first time I’ve tried this and we’re just starting into the second year of being mentored. Obviously year 1 was rather restricted with covid – no hands on experience, dealing with zoom etc – so I feel it’s important to get more realistic teaching practice. I think next time I will be more selective in my volunteers though – some didn’t turn up (because it was free), and while in a way I’d like relative beginners for the trainees to teach, in some ways it would help to have students who’ve been around Iyengar yoga at least a couple of terms.
I was then able to pick up on common areas for improvement and follow up, either individually, in shadowing, or in a peer workshop.
As I mentor I found it valuable because occasionally I could step in during the class to show something extra, where I might not when trying to keep the flow of a regular weekly class for paying students.
To be experimented with – I’d love to hear if other mentors are doing anything similar, or if they try this what they make of it. Other suggestions?

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