The Art of Teaching
By Donna Farhi
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To get a sense of what is covered in the course, scroll down and click the three dots on the right to see more about each module.
Art of Teaching Curriculum
Chapter One: Pedagogic Model: A Fancy Word for Knowing Your Teaching Strategy
Most historic Yoga methodologies have relied on a student-teacher relationship that subverts the student’s autonomy and this pedagogic model has persisted within contemporary Yoga styles. The teacher gives instruction, and the student strives to accurately replicate the experience, posture or practice described. This makes for students who become increasingly dependent upon the teacher as the first port-of-call. This approach can gradually erode access to and trust in the student’s own perception, kinesthesia and interoception. Donna will explore the conscious steps teachers can make to create a context for students to become adept at investigating, deducting, adapting and evolving their yoga practice. We will learn about the conditions that foster people’s ability to perceive, process and integrate the signals from within their bodies. Not only can this approach yield exceptional results for students; crossing the bridge from Simon Says to Self-Sovereignty teaching can make teaching a satisfying lifelong career.
- Setting the Stage: How establishing “agreements” with your students can create the container for safe learning
- Safety: What makes people feel safe or unsafe and how individual interpretation can be managed in a group class
- Consent, consent cards, touch and verbal exchange
- Understanding pedagogy, andragogy and heutagogy as structures for teaching strategies that represent a continuum that can lead students from dependence to independence
- Identifying limiting pedagogic assumptions (teacher knows best) and learning to see with “intelligent not-knowing”
- The difference between exercise and inquiry, acquisition and inquisitiveness
- Uncovering unconscious higher allegiances: what stops people from trusting and forming a loyal allegiance to their own perception?
- Learning “how to learn”: Fostering the ability to vary our responses to information based on the context of each situation
- How we learn movement: Visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning and the advantages of inside-out rather than outside-in learning
- Educational Threshold: Helping students to learn new skills and to make their own decisions about a point of entry that honors their level of experience
- Engaging with students on a continuum from passive involvement to active engagement
- Strengthening the student’s capacity to use their own inner reference system as a navigational tool for practice
- Horizontal versus vertical communication models: How a shared-inquiry between teacher and student allows each to grow and evolve from discoveries as well as learn from mistakes
- We begin, proceed and return to wholeness: Acceptance and compassion guide all interactions so that each person is met exactly where they are.
Chapter Two: Personal Practice as Somatic Memory Bank
A teacher’s personal practice is the lifeblood of her self- nourishment and the resource for her deepening understanding and embodiment of Yoga. What a teacher learns through consistent self-practice creates a latent resource for her teaching. When this resource is firmly established a teacher becomes increasingly capable of articulating the felt experience through a rich and evocative physical language. To effectively teach from a perspective of deep inquiry assumes that the teacher/practitioner engages in this inquiry herself. Yet many teachers either never develop a strong personal practice or they find that their personal practice has become eroded over time. Personal practice time may become hijacked by class planning. How do we restore practice time as a sanctuary for personal nourishment and self-inquiry? How can this return to personal practice become, paradoxically, a rich inner resource for exciting classes?
- Establishing and sustaining a regular personal practice
- Separating teaching preparation time from self-practice time
- Re-enlivening a practice that feels stale and mechanical
- Practicing with an injury or health condition
- Preventing injury and healing injuries through self-practice
- Keeping a journal of practice discoveries, progress and ongoing questions
- Why attending yoga classes or online classes is not personal practice
- Adopting “Body Weather Reading” as a template for guiding self-practice
- Using developmental progression as a starting point for practice
- Balancing structure and spontaneity in practice
- Learning to zoom in and zoom out from specific calling points in the body to whole body integration
- Adopting external structures as launching pads for practice renewal and integration of new information
- Using your yoga library and online resources to build self-practice possibilities
- Isolation: Using peer practice and collegial practice times to draw support from collective focus
Chapter One: Developing Class Material
Keeping classes fresh and engaging can be truly challenging, especially when working with students over many months and years. Working on and revising class plans can radically improve the skillfulness of your teaching. Donna will share the planning template she has used throughout her career as well as strategies and approaches to developing class material.
- Developing class structures that support cumulative learning and reward the most committed students
- Implementing a class planning template that focuses on themes, building specific skills and progressive learning
- Creating smooth and logical transitions between practices
- Using your yoga library as a resource for development of new classes and sequences
- Evoking the felt experience: integrating poetry, music, extracts and art to enhance integration
- Building confidence through having a plan, becoming adept at changing the plan
- Class evaluation: Using student and peer feedback to hone future class material
- Going back to the drawing board: turning lemons into lemonade (AKA– from the class that crashed to the class that takes flight)
- Developing a thematic class portfolio
- Curating longer intensives, retreats and trainings
- Templates for giving constructive yet honest peer review
- How to receive a peer review and use it as a tool for self-development
Chapter Two: Refining Delivery
Many teachers lose students because of poor teaching technique and delivery. This is where we separate the teacher’s know-how from the nitty-gritty of delivery. Donna will discuss how to progressively build and layer instructions from gross to subtle, and from basic to complex. She’ll unpack the importance of sequencing, pacing and energetic modulation and how these elements can hold or undermine individual or group focus. Finally, she’ll discuss how the teacher’s vocal expression can make or break her career success revealing how vocal embodiment, tone of voice, and vocal authority can act as an indefinable lure (or deterrent) to participants.
- The three most common teaching errors
- Building instruction progressively: knowing when to regress, progress or pause
- Layering instruction from simple to complex
- The power of pausing: giving your students time to explore and process their experience
- Seeing patterns of dysfunction and addressing these in a group setting
- Improving retention by limiting the perimeters of inquiry and skill building
- When to walk away: knowing when to give a student time to trial new patterns, make mistakes, and form new neural connections
- The effect of pacing and energetic modulation on individual and group focus
- Common vocal habits that unconsciously erode a student’s trust in the teacher’s authority
- Using the voice as a means to convey nuanced somatic expression
- How cadence, tone and texture in voice expression can add depth to and flesh out the bones of instructions
Chapter One: The Dynamics of Connection While Practicing Self-Care
Students who return to study with a teacher over a long period of time do so because they feel seen, heard and acknowledged. Author Joseph Needlemen has said that people “feel loved” when we give them our “presence with awe”. This level of attention can be so rare in other aspects of a person’s life that to receive it from a teacher, therapist or healer can be utterly intoxicating. How do we offer this compassionate presence to our students while at the same time reducing the potential for unhealthy attachments and dependencies upon the teacher?
Regardless of who you are, at some point in your teaching career you may develop unhealthy boundaries between yourself and your student/s. Recognizing the warning signs of leaky or unclear boundaries is the first step in being able to reach out, get support, and reassert your integrity as a teacher. Modeling healthy boundaries not only leads to ethical conduct, it also sets a powerful example to others about the dynamics of self-care in setting limits, keeping agreements, saying no, and staying true to oneself. How can we establish a permeability to our boundaries that allows for an open accessible exchange between teacher and student without draining the resources of the teacher and setting unrealistic student expectations?
- Before: How to prepare yourself for class and the importance of intention
- During: Holding focus and creating a safe container for learning
- After: Managing student needs while honoring your own energetic limits
- Listening: Clearing the way to hear what is in between the lines of students’ questions
- Responding: Using questions as an opportunity to increase the student’s trust in their own perception–handing questions back
- Not-Knowing: The power of conveying that you too are in process with your understanding
- Observation: how to observe without intruding on a student’s process
- Commentary: how to voice your observations without breaching a student’s privacy.
- Vulnerabilities: Recognizing subtle (and not so subtle) signs that you are moving in the direction of boundary transgressions
- First ports-of-call: Seeking collegial and mentor support . . . when it’s time to get therapy
- What healthy boundaries look like before, during and after yoga class
- Determining when a student’s needs go beyond your scope of practice
Bonus session: The Ethics of Money
Money, money, money . . . Perhaps nowhere are boundaries most challenged than in the dynamics of financial agreement and exchange. From students who pay late, to those that want to extend class cards, to the private client who cancels at late notice. Asking for a fair and equitable exchange of value is part of how we raise our professional standards. It’s also part of believing in the value of what is offered. Donna will explore ways to create buffers that reduce the possibilities for friction and how establishing and sustaining clarity about financial agreements is good for both parties.
- Money is essentially an exchange of energy: what happens when that exchange is inequitable?
- Establishing and sustaining clear agreements around money
- Creating buffers to keep the teacher-student role clear
- Balancing financial realities with accessibility, work-exchange and scholarship structures
Chapter One: Becoming a Deductive Teacher
If you’ve ever been in a class with a teacher who has spent the entire session demonstrating on her mat, you’ll know that feeling that the session might have been more for the teacher’s benefit than for yours. In this module Donna will explore the importance of balancing demonstration, clear instruction and active observation of one’s students. Through observation we learn to identify individuals who are struggling as well as patterns within the group that we can address more broadly. While class planning remains key, being willing to zoom in, unpack, clarify, or change our plan is what makes for teaching that is relevant and engaging.
- Seeing with fresh eyes: putting all that you know aside to see your student in the present moment
- Gathering information: the value of taking your time to see the whole person and the whole perspective
- The Mini-Tutorial: strategically using mini-tutorials one-to-one in a group session to address the challenge of the individual and how to generalize this for group exploration
- Trial & Error: learning to let the student guide you towards the best option
- Detachment: taking the pressure off yourself and your students to “get it”
- Discernment: when a student chooses not to follow your instruction . . . when to step back, re-engage or set limits for a student’s safety
- Keystones: learning to identify where movement originates, habit patterns of initiation and using these as a springboard for re-patterning
- Process & structure: a glimpse into the dance between human developmental movement patterns and the evolving nature of structure
- Honing observation in everyday settings
- Simplifying the Complex: determining what enables or dis-enables a new pattern of movement to emerge and finding an optimal point of intervention
Chapter Two: Mastering the Art of Re-patterning: Offering New Choices Through Touch
Considered the mother of all senses, touch is to human beings as sunlight is to plants: essential to survival and nourishing to growth. Somatic research shows that movement is learned more quickly through the sense of kinesthesia (felt sensation) than the auditory senses (hearing instructions and translating them into action) or through the visual field (seeing and copying what we see). One of the most direct means of communicating qualities of movement and awareness of the body is through the medium of touch. Unfortunately, widespread abuse of touch within the yoga industry has led many students to fear “adjustments” and for many teachers to abandon touching their students altogether. Simultaneously we are living through an era in which the word “trauma” has become over-generalized and has led to a further undermining of the tremendous healing potential of touch. How do we restore the place of mindful touch between teacher and student?
- Establishing the Ground Rules for Touch: consent
- Approach: preparing for a mindful and safe exchange of touch
- Connection: offering a neutral cellular touch as a means to connect, listen and establish a kinesthetic ground from which more distinct and nuanced qualities of movement can be both felt and suggested
- Breath: communicating the fluidic breath current through touch as a foundation for more directive use of the hands
- Breath & Movement: ways to elicit a deeper breath response and to link it to movement
- Departure: imparting information as we break contact
- Differentiation: exploring how to “speak” to different body systems such as the skin, muscle, bones and internal organs through subtle shifts of quality of touch and intention
- Direction: learning to maintain the base support of cellular touch and breath for more directive re-patterning
- Regress: identifying when confusion leads to breath restriction and how to return to
- Application to asana in dyads
Returning Full Circle: creating movement re-patterning scenarios that educate and liberate the student from dependence to independence.