Inspired by the Velveteen Rabbit…How Teachers Become Real.
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.
But the Skin Horse only smiled
– From the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams –
We have loved so many teachers (both yoga and classroom) and witnessed many of them grow into their authentic selves. Together, as a Grounded community dedicated to this highest vision, we find that:
- Teaching isn’t always shiny and pretty and sometimes it hurts and our insides get rearranged. That’s all part of growing into real.
- Teachers often feel, much like the Velveteen Rabbit, stuffed with sawdust. Over time, we clean out our stuck patterns in order to reach kids at a deeper level, far beneath the surface.
- We cannot become real all alone. We’re not even supposed to. Real Teachers collaborate with each other and seek to elevate themselves together.
- Real teachers nurture their students ‘curiosity and natural exploration of the world. This happens when we put away the manuals, the scripts in our heads and let go of any superficial mechanics.
- Real teachers find their credibility lies as much with their intellectual knowledge as it does with their ability to learn and teach love.
This passage prompted me to ask several authentic Grounded teachers,
When did you become a real teacher?
The day I became a real teacher was when I realized my weakness was also a strength, not because I had simply transformed it into a strength, but because someone who needed more of what I had was receiving part of me and growing as a result. Just by expressing my nature fully and comfortably, my student took the risk of trying on my strength. At this point, I knew I was for real — a real teacher.
— Kelli Love, Certified Grounded Teacher
I had been teaching group and private pilates classes to adults for over 10 years when i finally put my 1-year-old Grounded training to use teaching high school kids. a teacher at the high school had contacted the studio where i taught looking for someone who would volunteer their time teaching weekly yoga or pilates classes. i didn’t feel ready to teach kids. i didn’t feel it was financially responsible to volunteer my time while paying for childcare at home. i was pregnant and petrified i was getting in over my head. and i was right. teaching high school students is very different than teaching adults. when a grown person shows up on the mat they want to be there. they’ve arranged their schedule and their finances to make the class a priority. they trust the teacher for the most part and will perform the actions the teacher describes to the best of their ability. high school students will chew gum, text, wear socks, talk to their neighbor, and sit out whichever poses they don’t feel like doing, until you clarify the boundaries. i was in over my head. and it was such a rush to be challenged every minute of the hour to be authentic, to give clear, inspired cues, and to stay connected to the 60 students on mats in the high school gymnasium. i stuck it out, i developed meaningful lesson plans, and in the fall of my second year teaching yoga at decatur high school i taught a class called “when something horrible happens.” i taught this class the week after something horrible happened to a student at the school at the hands of other students at the school. the administration had instructed teachers to not engage in any conversation about the incident. if talk of it erupted they were to put the fire out; direct kids to the counseling office. but i wasn’t a teacher. i was a volunteer. and a truth teller. without naming the subject or the persons involved i taught from my heart to theirs. i taught a yoga class without glorious poses. i taught them essential, long held poses. quietly. and in the pauses, i reminded them of some stuff. like we are all connected to one another. that what we think matters. that what we see, say or don’t say matters. that we, each one of us, is responsible when something horrible happens. it was scary. these were not my kids. i was breaking the gag order. and on that day i knew i was a real teacher. that class set the bar.
–Chelsea O’Halloran, Director of Grounded For Good
I have been practicing yoga for about 20 and teaching for almost 12 years. About 2 years ago,I was teaching to a group of 3 year olds one of our Pre-Grounded Basic Poses “feet parallel”. Most of them couldn’t even pronounce the word “parallel” I wasn’t going to give up; I was going to teach them how. After few months of explaining and showing, finally I grabbed the first red marker I saw and drew a straight line from her second toe all the way to the middle of her ankle . When lines are straight, the feet are parallel. She looked and looked at her feet and screamed ” I got it I really really got it!”. then I knew with determination and creativity I was able to teach to a barely 3 year old “feet parallel” perfectly. Still gives me the chills.
–Sedef Dion, Co-Creator of Pre-Grounded
Are you a real teacher? If you just smiled in recognition, please write your story in the comment below.
Or, Do you know a real teacher? Please comment as well.
May we get better at moving into Real. May we love our teachers into Real. May we help each other get there with patience, compassion, and love.
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