Wait, Haven't We Done This Already?

 photo courtesy of youtube

photo courtesy of youtube

Let's have a little chat about class planning.

I'm not sure where along the line the pressure started to set in to have new and different material prepared for each and every class. I mean, I know I felt it almost immediately when I started teaching. Someone would approach me after class, "I always learn something new from you" and that little bit of positive feedback set me down a path to always offer something unique. And I know this story isn't just mine, because I hear it echoed back to me all over the place.

Its been wearing on me for a long time, years maybe, this need to constantly crank out new, exciting, unique classes. So a few months ago I started to make a shift: only two lesson plans a week. But even that felt like too much, one was always more successful than the other or sometimes they were both duds. But I kept rationalizing: "this is your only job, if you're not planning new classes...then what are you doing?" The answer to this ludicrous questions is: a lot of other important fucking things.

The only podcast that I really listen to with any regularity is Yogaland with Andrea Feretti. One episode she had her husband (and international yoga teacher) Jason Crandall on for a Q&A, which they do pretty regularly. The first question of the episode was "how frequently should I be changing my class plans?"

And what Jason said (of which I'm going to paraphrase) was exactly what I needed to hear. It depends on how you look at yoga: if you see your class as a singular experience for your students change your class plans frequently, if you see your class as teaching your students a discipline don't change your class plans often. To me this feels like the difference between entertaining and teaching. 

He also drew the comparison between yoga and other learned skills: if you take violin lessons you don't just play a song once.

What a freeing revelation it was to hear those words.

It got me thinking about other classes I've taken over the years. When Chad and I were doing Muay Thai, we'd do the same drills and go over the same skills. When I used to awkwardly stumble my way through hip hop fitness classes, we'd do the same choreography to the same songs. For those few months in fourth grade when I attempted to learn how to play the flute, we'd do the same exercises over and over and over again. Because repetition is how you learn.

So that was it for me: one focused and inspired lesson plan a week. I knew I'd lose some people. I knew there would be grumblings. I knew that some of you guys would get "bored." But despite this, I also knew it was the right thing to do. The more comfortable I got with this new (to me) approach the more benefits I started to see.

Because I don't have to memorize a multitude of complicated classes a week I am a better, more attentive teacher. I don't have to keep going back to check my notes, so I'm able to be more present with the students I have in front of me.

Over the course of the last few weeks I've made sure to check in with some of my regular students: "how did that feel the second time through?" And about 99.9% of the time I hear that it felt better, that they felt more confident and more empowered. And you know what your brain does with all of that confidence? It applies it to other areas of your life. That feeling of competency seeps into every cell of your being. 

So if you find yourself experiencing deja vu during class, don't think too hard about it--it's intentional.

Melissa Petty