I've been on break for the holidays and I have been taking yoga from a different teacher. I am a novice at the practice of yoga and I have been in much better shape at other times in my life, but this has been making me feel really good about myself and tonight I figured out why. Yoga teachers are always referring to where you are in your practice and when it is time for a certain pose they might say "and if this is available to you..."
So there are a few things about this that correspond to my "practice" as a math teacher. The first is that it is my practice and it's hard to get it perfectly right. I have to do what is available to me and that depends on a lot of things; it depends on how I feel, what I did the day before or right before class, where my head is and the students who show up to class. I was thinking of how this teacher feels with the novices and experienced members of the class and how she has to do something for all of us. Tonight, I didn't change for yoga and showed up in my jeans that are stretchy but still totally inappropriate for good practice. This sounds like my students. Last week during yoga, I had a nagging cough. Many times, I am so exhausted that I fall asleep at the end (and snore, disturbing the other members)...
I like the phrase "if this is available to you." How often have I presented something without saying this. My yoga teacher gives another option if the pose is not available. How often do I do that with the practice of math?
Then the word "practice." Homework is practice and I don't grade it. It would be ridiculous to be graded in yoga and it is fine to not get it right, you are still more relaxed and more limber and flexible after you have practiced. I suppose the only way to fail would be to not show up. Even if you just laid there for an hour in child's pose you would gain something though I would never do that because I choose to go to yoga and I definitely want to at least try everything, even when I am not feeling 100%. How come we can't be more like this in our practice of teaching and learning at school?
I like the way this teacher meets me and the other students where we are. She gave a challenging class tonight and I did most of it (even in jeans). I like to think that I meet my students where they are most of the time. I know that most of them believe that I understand them and that can go a long way with eighth graders.
I've been reading Robyn Jackson's Never Work Harder than Your Students and it is all about working on your practice both as a teacher and as a student (of teaching). It is amazing to me how a break in the routine can help me figure out this kind of stuff. The "gift" she talks about comes from hard work and also from how we are put together, just like in yoga.