Teachings on teaching

Nearly all the folks who were on the retreat are yoga teachers. In addition to Angela, one has her own Mysore program, at least two assist at Angela’s studio, four teach led classes in a variety of venues, and another is in a teacher training program. So, part of the discussion during the week focused on cultivating the teaching practice as an extension of your personal practice. While teaching yoga remains in the realm of when-I-abandon-this-ridiculous-academic-career activities, the discussions on teaching were still relevant.

Angela presented two ideas that resonated with me. The first is cultivating a team of mentors who you trust, who can call you on your b.s., who push you to do better, and who contribute different areas of expertise to your teaching practice. While I have had mentors at various stages of my career, I haven’t cultivated those relationships as well as I should have. I have let many of these relationships drift because of my fear of disappointing people that I respect and admire, unconsciously assuming that their criticism will be as harsh as my own. This reminded me to re-establish those connections to help me feel more secure and, therefore, more able to give.

This, then, relates to the second idea: poverty needs versus abundance needs. Poverty needs are, most basically, food, shelter, safety, and relationship. These are basic needs that must be met. When they are not met or — more relevant to the folks on this retreat — when you consciously or unconsciously don’t believe them to be met, you will act in a way to fulfill these needs to the disregard of others. The position of ‘teacher’ can provide opportunities for money/sex/power/etc that may be exploited in response to poverty needs. (thus, leading to yoga scandals!) This is in contrast to abundance needs: intimacy and efficacy. Abundance needs are things you need to feel fulfilled, once your poverty needs are met. These needs are, at least to me, the kind of fulfillment you feel when serving or working closely with others toward a productive goal. So, in my world, mis-assigned poverty needs are evidenced by professors who claim students’ work as their own or take advantage of their position of power to demand favors or special dispensation. And abundance needs are met in effective mentoring relationships and building collaborations on exciting projects. This kind of discussion of mentoring doesn’t really go on in my world, despite the fact that effective mentoring is the core of graduate student training.

For me, I can see how I act out of poverty needs in mentoring relationships when I fear for (or burnish) my own reputation through my students or use my position to demand their approval. That said, this is the part of my work that I find most satisfying because it meets my abundance needs, as well.

One Response to “Teachings on teaching”

  1. (0v0) Says:

    Namaste, Wombat. For reals.