For the most part, our students are the best part of what we do. Many student / teacher relationships are friendships as well. However, at least once a week, I receive an Email about how to handle difficult Yoga students. Unfortunately, you could be the kindest and safest teacher within a 100-mile radius, but eventually you will run into a difficult student. One common reaction to being verbally assaulted by a student is to think, “Why me?”
If you question yourself, a difficult person has achieved his or her objective. Much like an assailant in a parking lot, who strikes you and demands your purse or wallet, the objective is to put your mind in a reactive mode. Luckily, this is not a physical assault, but some people will have no problem with turning your studio upside down, which leaves you creating rules and regulations afterward.
What Do I Do?
Much like all of your past training: Clear your mind, take a deep breath and relax. As a Yoga teacher, the time comes when one unique student causes unnecessary suffering in the classroom. Perhaps they come late to class, or question your every move. Some students may want to rush the lesson or answer phone calls in the middle of a Yoga class. Regardless of the situation, approach the student with kindness, compassion, and understanding.
Some students have a predisposition to ask questions and compare what they see, based on their own knowledge of a subject. If they read or watch something that contradicts, or goes in another direction from what you teach, they make snap judgments. Whereas some students want to learn different techniques and have a willingness to change, not everyone has patience or wants to deviate from a familiar path.
Tips for Dealing with Difficult Students
Set policy and do not back down from asking students to respect each other and their space. One student, who harasses another, must go. Harassment, for any reason, is not tolerated by the law, and that includes the inside of our studio doors.
Therefore, one sheet with common sense rules of conduct will suffice. Do not admit a new student without an interview process, learning each student’s state of health, giving your student a copy of your guidelines for conduct, and having him or her read and sign an informed consent form.
About Our Students
Everyone has inner conflicts and personal reasons for acting the way they do. Some people are emotional and may have a new problem at work or at home. As an instructor, you must remember to do your best at replacing your frustration with compassion. People have different ways of dealing with issues, so just keep patience and kindness at the forefront of your mind when talking with your students.
Sometimes, You Have to Let Go.
Learn how to let go of difficult students. Yoga teaches you to focus on the present moment, to block out all other worries and to let go of the past. A sudden disruption, that has passed without a problem, should not be part of tomorrow’s lesson plan. Unfortunately, there are times when teachers must also let go of a troublesome student in favor of those who want to learn. Letting go does not mean ignoring the problem. Take the student aside after class and voice your concern with absolute compassion and kindness.
However, there are a rare few individuals who may not belong in your class at all. When a obnoxious student does not respect the rights of other students, you as a teacher or established guidelines for conduct and safety, you or the studio management has to make a decision. Unfortunately, this type of student will drive all of your students out the door until you only have one left.
But, I Want to Keep my Students
Focus your attention on the students who appreciate what you do. Some students may have no interest in learning what you know; they want to dive into the lesson and head out to their next scheduled appointment. Other students act as sponges, taking in everything you say. Do not alter your teaching style for students who have no desire to learn from you.
If you have thick skin, you can open yourself to criticism, and learn from your negative students. Listen to their concerns, and only adjust your classroom to meet the needs of the entire collective. Feedback helps you to grow as a Yoga teacher and keeps you from developing an ego and self-righteous behavior. On the other hand, you must determine if it is honest feedback or a verbal assault with no substance.
If you are on the sensitive side, do not take everything personally. Please remember that a difficult person has most likely been that way for life. A student, who disrupts your class, has most likely made a lifestyle of disrupting the workplace, classes, restaurants, and traffic. In fact, some people look at conflict as a natural way of life.
© Copyright 2013 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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