Going back to being a student

Suzy Bromwich-Alexandra reflects on her experiences of moving from being a teacher back to being a student. (14th August 2020)

I have been a student for a large part of my life, some of it has been great, some not so. Through my training as a tutor I believe I have learned how to educate people properly. I thoroughly subscribe to Einstein’s quote which I often share with students; ‘ I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn’. The western educational paradigm still largely sees itself as filling jugs – the teacher is the owner of the education which they give to the learner. How well does that work though? Think back to much of your education – how much can you actually remember of all the facts you were taught at school? For education to really work it needs to be embodied; you see it in action, you feel it change you. I have always told my students that you should be changed by education – it should be transformative.

At the beginning of lockdown, I was put on furlough from my job. I knew within a couple of weeks that I would have to find something to occupy my mind. As a natural thinker and reflector, if I don’t keep my brain busy it will turn in on me and make me question myself and everything else, so I need a focus. I had been getting increasingly into yoga and had started doing it daily as well as reading lots about it. I started researching teacher training courses and found that many of them had now gone fully online in response to the pandemic. I looked into one, but it was too ‘woo-woo’ for me as well as requiring daily meditation with the group at 7am which was never going to happen!

I came across Yoga Course which was just starting to have a fully online course up and running. I talked to the course leader who told me it didn’t matter that I am nearly fifty and I didn’t have to be able to do headstands or bend myself into pretzel shapes. I signed up and began to dive right into it, delighted to have something to occupy my mind. The course all runs from a portal – everything is laid out for you. There are twenty modules, you cannot move forward until you complete them in order. There are also webinars several times a week with the tutors which focus on breaking down poses, how to teach them safely and how to adapt them. There are also webinars on how to plan, how to promote your courses as well as the history and philosophy of yoga. The tutors are really down to earth and completely passionate about forcing you to be kind to yourself, they embody the philosophy that yoga is a process and not an end goal. They will not let you put yourself down or tell yourself you aren’t good enough. Indeed, if you struggle, they will remind you that this will only strengthen your ability to empathise with people attending yoga classes.

Each module has several pieces of homework as well as videos where the tutors take you through specific topics and poses. Predictably I immediately aced the written work, I have spent years supporting students and marking their work so it would have not been good if I couldn’t! Then I started to have to film myself teaching small segments, again my ego thought I would have no problem – I have been teaching adults for twenty years including physical stuff like massage, breathing and birth positions! What I wasn’t giving myself space for is being a beginner again, I was too used to being the tutor, the one who knows her stuff. My first two submissions I was asked to make some changes and resubmit them. At first my ego kicked in and I felt upset and cross with myself. Then I went back and re-read the feedback. One of the things I love most about this course is that the feedback is so kind and supportive. There is never a question that you have failed or that you aren’t good enough. The feedback is designed to pick up things that you can improve upon. Once I got my head around that suddenly my ego was fine. It reminded me that we talk to our students about how we have a responsibility when people are paying for our services to ensure that we teach safely and in a way that supports the wide range of learners who will come to us. I am a learner and I want to do the best I can for future clients, so I began to appreciate the feedback and use it to help me do better.

I asked for a 1-1 and one of the tutors called me on Zoom. She spent an hour with me, talking me through the work, showing how to physically do things as well as how to adapt them for me and for other bodies. She told me to stop speaking negatively about myself, we are all learning, and we are all different. Now when I do a piece of filmed homework, I watch the webinars, I watch other students’ submissions on our Facebook group, and I read articles discussing how to most effectively teach that pose or series of poses. Since I let go of feeling like I have to be perfect, I have started acing the physical stuff too, I let my personality come through and it works.

I am now onto module fifteen of twenty. I adore the tutors and feel so well supported. The course is laid out in the most accessible way and there is always support there. You can email and talk to a tutor anytime. We also have a really brilliant Facebook group for students. Everyone is at different stages so there is always someone who has been where you are. Everyone shares resources and ideas freely. We use each other to bounce ideas off and practice on each other. So, every day I do yoga and then I get stuck into learning and moving through the tasks. I have accepted who I am as a yoga student and I will be me as a teacher. I will not try to be like the tutors as amazing as they are because me is good enough and I can use my experience of teaching, learning and having an individual body with its strengths and limitations to help others work to do the same.

Suzy Bromwich-Alexandra is an Adult Educator with 20 years experience and yoga student. with a slightly crazy dog.