Who's class is it anyway?
Today’s professional yoga teacher works long and hard to build a reputation and make a living in what can be a limited market. Competition from health clubs and other activities mean that it can be a seven day a week - 52 weeks a year commitment. Taking a break or finding cover in times of illness or other events, means building up a reliable network of cover to provide continuity for students. Yoga teacher and writer, Wendy Jacob looks at some of the pitfalls and offers advice on how to keep yoga classes covered
and effective when the teacher goes absent...
Teaching in the 21st century means learning and abiding by numerous guidelines and procedures that have been introduced to protect the learner and can fraught the supplier – you, the teacher. It also means that teachers need to use all the skills that they have learnt to survive in the marketplace and stay in touch with the reasons that they embarked on a career in yoga.
Professional teachers are mainly self employed and work within various environments from peoples homes to private health clubs and in the workplace. Many will also run workshops, holidays and organise other activities to compliment their work. All these require a level of knowledge of the various issues relating to these different environments – from health and safely, professional liability through to the ability to balance the books, market services and keeps students engaged with their practice.
Not surprisingly, many teachers from time to time need a break and rather than cancel classes rely on other teachers to cover class.The following are a few tips on how to keep classes flowing:
Continuity and familiarity
Who should cover a class depends on the style of the class and location. If the class is regular practice then students will prefer to have a teacher who is familiar with the style and content of the class. If it is a course that follows a syllabus it will need a teacher who is qualified and familiar with the course content. All teachers require cover for holidays, sickness and other unforeseen events. Some thought should be given in advance to the type of cover each class requires and any necessary
qualifications and experience that may be required.
Finding suitable cover that is available is often difficult. Student teachers are invaluable and often grateful for the opportunity to attend classes and develop their own practice. They will be able to practise their teaching skills and offer continuity to students and may be available at short notice if they are not running their own classes.
If continuity is not on hand, students may benefit from the opposite - opportunities to learn new skills. Teachers from other disciplines such as tai chi or Pilates are often happy to introduce students to their skills and students find it refreshing to learn new disciplines.
Self practice is a last option, when there is no qualified teacher available. This would be at the discretion and with the agreement of the students and is only really suitable for students with reasonable knowledge and no health problems. No fee should be charged for this (effectively, they are being allowed to use the space at their own risk).
Covering a class is a challenge and sometimes teachers have limited time to exchange information with their cover. It is a good idea to have a checklist and written instructions at hand and check in advance that cover has up to date professional qualifications and liability indemnity. Matters such amount and method of payment should also be discussed and agreed – important if the two parties do not meet!
Practical instructions should preferably be in writing with information about getting to the venue and any details about opening, locking up and preparation clear to follow.
Any details about students should relate to physical limitations and health issues – likes and dislikes should be kept to the minimum!
Most yoga teachers will be cautious and observe students carefully to ensure they are working at an appropriate level, but it is useful to have some idea or a few hints e.g. they did a lot of back bends last week, so warriors may be a
good idea for this class.If possible ask one member of class to act as guide and help your cover
Be prepared! Arrive early and unless you know the venue be prepared to adapt to whatever you
find...Cold, overheated, noisy, dirty....Moving furniture and sweeping the floor is not unusual and if your students arrive with duvets and mittens it is likely your lesson plan will need to be adapted to create more warmth!
Spend a few minutes chatting to the class, introduce yourself and ask them what they like to do. This is often better done on a more casual level going round the class rather than being greeted by silence as you ask people to respond to you in front of their peers.
Give instructions such as payment and any other announcements before class starts as they will often float off at the end leaving you with your mission uncompleted.
Familiarise yourself with the layout of the room and where you should place your mat – remember you are covering someone else’s class and filling their space, not creating your own.
Limit correction and individual attention apart to safety.Trust is important in yoga and it often takes a number of classes before students adapt to your style and way of teaching.
At the end of the class offer thanks and tell them when their teacher will be back or any other announcements that you have been asked to give. Do not use this as an opportunity to market your own classes or services. You may be asked where
you teach but it is better ‘etiquette’ to say that you will ask their own teacher to forward any enquires....
A few tips...
Remember you are the teacher! I remember coming into one class and finding my cover lying on her mat waiting for the class to start! A teacher is there to teach and provide a welcoming atmosphere – not to do their own practice. I also recall attending a teacher training day and the teacher was more interested in her own warm up than greeting and welcoming her students. Making people welcome and helping them to integrate and find their place in class is an important ‘tool’ in any teacher’s repertoire.
Be clear about your style. If you regularly teach ashtanga and are asked to cover a Hatha class adapt to the class you are teaching. They are not there to watch a demonstration of your skills.
Allow students to adapt your poses. Tell them that if they are used to doing something in a particular way then that is fine by you.
Without teachers willing to cover it would be impossible to offer a reliable, energised and stable class, so many thanks to all those who provide and offer this service and the students who welcome and gain from their skills and dedication.