Thursday, February 24, 2011

Alone/Together in the classroom

I've been thinking about classroom community. Do we learn better when we know who we are learning with? Is a solitary pursuit more focused? Is it better to feel a part of a group or to be an individual in a bunch of individuals?

I have it all ways this semester. In my Ed class, we spent a whole day learning each others' names and interests. In Bio we work in pairs, so I know the students to my left and right. In Calc we all sit facing forwards and just casually converse before class...if even. In my once-a-month yoga class I don't know anybody and just come and go with a few words to my teacher.

And it's all good. I hate a forced community--I'd just as soon keep to myself. However, when I know everyone's name and the class includes a lot of discussion, I do feel more invested in the group. Is one better than the other--I think it depends, on what the subject is, how you are learning it, what the desired outcome is (is that an expectation?).

As a teacher, I try to learn everyone's name as soon as possible. I don't call on people in yoga classes, but if I can murmur an instruction using the person's name, I think its effect is more immediate. And whether there is talking or not, I want people to feel like I am keeping track of them--whether for adjustment purposes, safety, or inclusion. What's the point of taking a yoga class from a teacher if s/he isn't aware of each student (we've discussed this before, teaching vs demonstrating, remember)?

For me, I like a mix of alone and together in my yoga. I like the energy of a room full of people and the post-class vibe of everyone calm, relaxed, and happy. I hate partner work and I don't want to touch other students (when I'm a student, myself). I'm not really interested in conversation. It's a completely different experience than practicing at home, but it is still very solitary.

Alone or together. Where do you stand (sit, invert, twist)?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bumpy ride

The landscape continues to to change. Last week Linda Sama shuttered her Yoga Journey, joining another well-respected, provocative blog favorite it's all yoga, baby in the gone-but-not-forgotten category. It's getting lonely here in Old Timer Land. Both authors have very logical reasons for moving on...but I'm sad to see them go, and have missed their opinions during the discussions of 2011 (which, so far, sound a lot like the discussions of 2010/2009/2008/etc).

The departure of these dear friends and thoughtful minds from the conversation (at least in blog world), made me think about my own motives for continuing on with GTTSB. It certainly isn't a cash cow and does take up valuable time; the main reason, more than anything other, is that it has become a familiar habit that I can't imagine breaking. For me, this is like a yoga practice--I use it to smooth the lumps and bumps of daily living. Focus the mind and settle the thoughts.

In a sense, it is almost a journal, but one written for an audience. So, I must to use proper grammar and spelling and need to make sense in my ramblings. This is my written pranayama; if I am thinking hysterical thoughts--angry and unfocused--I have to center myself and become rational and reasonable. Not necessarily right, but at least I have to make sense. It's an exercise in making connections between all the varied elements of my life (yoking, doncha know) and forming a world view that is thoughtful and fair.

I'm flattered and a bit incredulous that I actually have an audience. In a way, blogging is very self-indulgent, so I am ever so grateful for all the connections I have made along the way and the voices I keep in my mind as I write (who might chuckle, who will recognize this picture, who will see themselves in my example).

I do feel there is starting to be a shift in focus and topic among the yoga bloggers, so it is fun to watch the scenery unfold: curvy yoga, recovering (from) yoga, saucy yoga, yoga intellectuals. I guess that's the privilege of senior status (so to speak), having been around for awhile I get to see how the new crowd reads the tea leaves.

You all rock. Blog archives rock. I'm glad to be one of you. Keep your seat belts on...

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Why do we do?

I'm still stuck on expectations. I really like my calculus' teachers declaration that, "I have no expectations. If I have expectations, I cannot teach you." It seems very wise that, as a teacher, you practice non-attachment to results. If the teaching is driven by wanting to see a desired result from your students, the whole enterprise moves away from learning to just getting something. That, to me, isn't good motivation.

But is there good motivation? As students and teachers (and parents and mentors) is that something we want to cultivate in certain situations, or should that be something that comes from within? Should the desire to learn be the individual's alone, or are there external influences that are good and healthy?

Probably, a little of both. I think the learning that is held the deepest comes from within. You may start to do something for external reasons, but the reason it sticks with you--and you with it--is because that something resonates and the activity moves from chore to pleasure (or habit?). But maybe the push or encouragement or rule some one else imposes is what you need to get started.

I think about sending my boys to school; while they're young, they'd just as soon hang out with a roomful of 6-yr-olds than stay home with me, but if it was framed as something they have to do, it might give them pause. But, that doesn't matter, they don't really have a choice, because of their age. Internal or external? Maybe by the time they're teenagers, the acquisition of knowledge and experience will have its own attraction and going to school is just part of the routine. (I don't doubt for a minute that there won't be plenty of groaning and foot-dragging, but that's all part of the teenage performance)

And maybe that's the way it is with yoga, too. Some one suggests it will improve your flexibility or strength, or maybe you have to do something low impact until an injury heals. I hope it isn't just to get rid of bra fat. But, whatever gets them in the room, I can tell when new students get hooked. The first few classes, they are usually a bit tentative--looking at everyone else, overdoing a pose, confusing right and left. But, the ones who stay move out of that place of insecurity pretty quickly. You can see their expressions shift and how quickly they come to stillness during the opening meditation. It's just a matter of days before they come up after class and ask where is the best place to get their own mats. I love that and I don't really think that has a whole lot to do with me as a teacher, but how they absorb the subject and make it their own. Internal or external?

You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.
If you build it, they will come. Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig. This topic isn't new, but it's what I've been thinking about.

Would you like to think about it, too?

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Periphery of Comprehension

For much of my life, I was a person who pursued things that I was already good at. All my education and career choices utilized skills that I had a natural talent for...if I wasn't good at it, it wasn't worth my consideration. I suspect this isn't a particularly remarkable trait...we usually like the things we are good at and are good at the things we like.

[Are you flexible because you do yoga, or do you do yoga because your are flexible?]

However, this latest batch of schooling (teaching certification in biology) does not draw as heavily my strengths. Or at least my strengths, as I've defined them. So it's very interesting to hover in this place between understanding and confusion, ease of effort and hard work. I kinda like it.

This whole project is very meta (one "t") in that I keep switching back and forth from being a student of the subject to imagining teaching it, so when I do get stuck, my mind vacillates between getting annoyed at the difficulty and appreciating the learning value of having to concentrate on something. In a way, it feels very akin to yoga and its work on quieting the fluctuations of the mind.

I suspect,(and I've said it before) if you can handle the insecurity of not knowing for sure (which is really all life is about, anyway, right?), it's a good place to be. Having to think, but not being validated with the right answer.

And then, when you do figure out the answer, or at least come to terms with the question, that can be its own reward.

But what do I know, anyway....