Less Things, More Focus: Teach Like A Yogie

Guest blog by Julie McKintosh, Assistant Principal at Keene Elementary from Keene ISD.

The Oven

The sign hanging above the door stated, “Leave your ego at the door”. Foreshadowing. 

This probably should have been my cue to take my ego right back to my car, but the yogi spotted my faltering resolve and moved in for the kill. Well-played. She ushered me inside and placed me in the last row with directives to watch the students in front of me. I am assuming this is her form of “grouping” her students.

First row, high kids. Second row, bubble kids. Third row, me and the 72-year-old man holding precariously to his cane. 

I didn’t have to leave my ego at the door. It wished me well and headed to the car. 

This is not just any yoga. This is hot yoga. The room is heated to duplicate the inside of an oven and silence is expected in order to engage mindfulness of self. In other words, suck it up buttercup.

Class begins and the yogi takes us through a series of sixteen poses. The whole class works precariously through the poses at different levels of mastery. I watch the “teacher” as each pose is called and modeled. We then work independently on each pose using other classmates as our guides and feedback from the yogi. Class ends. I go home looking like I ran through a Texas thunderstorm with no umbrella. 

Shockingly, I return to the oven. The yogi takes us through the same sixteen poses. Class over.

I return. Sixteen poses. Class over.

I’m back. Sixteen poses. Class over. 

Ego is vacationing in the Bahamas. Sixteen poses. Class over. 

Then a miracle happens. I was able to master three of the poses. Yep, just three. The other thirteen were still a mix of Bambi trying to stand for the first time and a pretty solid growth in “rabbit”. 

Then my silent revelry brings on a revelation. Yogi teaches. Student practices. Yogi assesses. Yogi reteaches. Student practices. Yogi reassesses. Student masters. 

Instructional simplicity.

Less things, more focus.

The 4 Poses of Instruction

The power of the four poses sits in its simplicity. Four core poses to master for quality instruction. Each pose grows to instructional mastery. Is this late-breaking news or recently discovered research? No, but the poses have been repurposed with fancy new words adding layers of unnecessary work. Master these four instructional poses and you will see student growth. 

Pose 1: I do. (Yogi)

We are inundated with educational articles, blogs, tweets, and posts espousing the merits of collaboration. Yes, we want our kids to “turn and talk”, “find a thought partner”, and “phone-a-friend”, but we can’t skip the critical first step. Teach them something.

The yogi did not begin class with “turn and talk to your sweat partner about the holistic benefits of the eagle pose”. The yogi began with direct instruction of the pose modeling each step and finishing with an exemplar. I have to know something in order to collaborate on it. 

Pose 2: We do. (Yogi + Students)

After direct instruction of the pose, it was time for us to practice. We began the steps of the pose in sync with the yogi. Though I resembled a newborn lamb the first attempt, I was able to watch the instructor throughout the sequence. This is where the collaboration piece came into play. I watched my peers which was a bevy of expertise levels. Each one was at a different mastery of the pose, but we were all working towards the same student objective statement: I will sit in an Easy Bake oven, twist my right leg around my left leg in a sitting position, and hold hands in prayer position. Appropriate final step. 

Pose 3. You do. (Students)

The yogi taught the pose. We practiced the pose with a room full of aspiring yogis. Now time to launch. The room is encircled in mirrors so that you can watch every angle of your pose in order to perfect over time. Over time. The expectation is that you will work through the steps sequentially to the exemplar. In the words of the yogi, “Don’t skip steps. I don’t care if you can nail the eagle pose if you don’t know how you got there”. Process matters

Pose 4. Assess (Yogi Feedback)

Assessment is critical in the room.The yogi is constantly assessing students who are in need of support. It should be of no surprise that I was delivered intervention-level instruction. Yet with every intervention, I refined my practice. Feedback is crucial to growth. If there is no assessment, how can you ensure learning?

Less things, more focus. 

The Lesson

Leaving class last week, the yogi spoke these words, “Yoga is practice, not perfection.”  It is a growth model. It is celebrating progress from A to B when D is the target. It is learning. 

Every year, bookshelves will fill and eduleaders will rise on the latest and greatest way to teach kids. It is important that we stay current. It is important that we grow as yogis. Yet, it is equally important that we stay true to our practice. The four poses. The silent revelry. It is in its simplicity that greater learning is achieved. 

Teach like a yogi. 

Namaste. 

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