I’m practicing this while teaching–it’s something I’ve done intuitively, knowing that the military drill sergeant style of teaching was never going to be effective for me.
It’s so important when giving corrections, or trying to engage an overwhelmed student trying to flee the hot room. Mostly, my students just seem to need to know that I hear them and am here for them–then they can and do what I’m asking. Or, even if they don’t, they’re less angry and more open-minded.
Now I’m consciously trying it, and seeing these principles reflect all around me.
To point, I had a student earlier this week who had a class that could have turned disastrous. She started to leave the room during Tree pose, to which I firmly, kindly asked her to stay on her mat so I could see her and make sure she was okay, and reminded her that we would be on the floor in a minute or two. She left, and fainted just outside the door. I made sure she was okay, had an experienced student look after her while I continued teaching, then checked back up on her and asked her how she was doing. It turns out she’d thrown up, but said she felt much better. I made sure she knew to rest outside for a few minutes, but I let her know that I would come back out in a few minutes and would ask her to come back in–even if just to lay down on her mat for the rest of class. When I did, she came back in with no resistance. She lay down for a few postures, but by Fixed Firm, she joined us of her own volition (no individual encouragement from me).
After, I talked to her–she was in her first five or so classes (which I’d known beforehand), she hadn’t been to class in five months (which I hadn’t known), and she hadn’t eaten much earlier in the day. But she wasn’t angry or even upset about what happened. I think she felt a little silly, but not too embarrassed. Most importantly, however, she planned to come back.
What does this have to do with the article, with speaking kindly? Everything.
I’ve seen this situation enough times, and dealt with it myself, to know that when the teacher becomes aggressive about staying in the room that it rarely ends well. Even if the students spoken to stays and is fine, others in the room start to feel trapped or may lose faith in the teacher and not work as hard for the rest of the class. More often, it leads to a confrontation in which the student alienates her/himself from their practice.
On the other hand, when you approach the scared, suffering student with compassion, the student knows the teacher cares about how they’re feeling and listens more. It keeps the student in a better place, psychologically. Even if they still leave the room, they’re more likely to come back whether in a few minutes or another day (I’ve extracted promises and shook hands with students who still decide to leave–they smile and come back the next day). I’ve never seen kindness fail.
Happy Love Thursday!