by Sirja Bessero
A few years ago my then teacher trainer told me how her side job as an oil therapist nourished the teacher in her. As I was fully engaged in my teaching career, bursting with energy and excitement and tirelessly trying out new techniques in my classroom, I paid next to no attention to what she was talking about. I didn’t feel the least concerned.
However, the fact that her confession I half-heartedly listened to stuck with me is a perfect example of how random bits and pieces come together to form a whole in the end. Many years on and I could be the one telling her story. But let me start at the beginning.
As this year 2015 was ushered in to the sounds and lights of fireworks, my face was smiling but I was lost and tired inside. During the 15 years of teaching my enthusiasm had never let me down, quite the contrary. My excitement and seemingly endless energy had helped me find a dream job with amazing students, got me the chance to give a talk at a teachers’ conference, found me a long awaited post as a part-time teacher trainer, and put me in touch with lots of inspiring teachers from all over the world. In short, I was successful and enjoying it to the fullest.
Yet despite the achievements, my energy and enthusiasm began waning. For no apparent reason, more and more often the spark failed to show up. I still managed to give good lessons and my relationship with the students was as good as ever, but deep down I knew I was running on last remnants of energy. I had never done anything but teaching. I was reaching my forties. I began to panic. Suddenly I felt that if I ever wanted to change, it had to be now. Now I still had got time and stamina to launch myself into a whole new adventure.
And so I did. After years of weekly yoga practice, I signed myself up for a four-year yoga teacher training course. My once-a-week practice had already proven beneficial enough for me to want to share the good stuff with other people. From the first day of yoga training I knew I had chosen the right path. I was confident that the door I had now pushed open would lead me into exciting adventures. But little did I know that what I thought would be a change in direction would also lead me gently back to teaching English, energized and strengthened anew.
As you all know, teaching can be an extremely straining job. Standing in the limelight, being continuously exposed in front of lots of people, acting and reacting under the scrutinising pairs of eyes, motivating yourself and myriads of others, keeping it alive yet not losing one’s calm… The list could go on forever. In order to ‘survive’ and flourish in such a demanding job, it is vital that teachers are aware of the need to protect and nourish themselves. If you want to last in this profession, you have to find your fountain of energy and inspiration.
Once I took up regular yoga practice, the changes were quick to show. Besides the physical wellbeing, I marvelled at the transformation my mental state underwent. What’s more, the changes happened in my professional life as well. Since the start of daily yoga practice, I have grown into a much calmer and more grounded teacher. Instead of rushing into conclusions, I now take my time before acting or giving my answer. I have become a better listener. Instead of trying to make myself understood, I make the effort to understand my students. I am also gentler, kinder with myself. I know I make mistakes. I will certainly keep making mistakes as long as I undertake anything. But mistakes are such valuable learning opportunities. I let my students see when I make a mistake, so that they feel comfortable enough to make theirs, too.
I remember wondering why my previous teacher trainer did not give up teaching altogether and instead launch herself entirely into her new passion, oil therapy. I thought it would be rather straining to combine the two. However, at this time in my life I would rather say it is vital to combine the two. I will continue teaching, I will continue enjoying teaching because I’ve found the fountain that nourishes me. I can grow as a teacher because I’ve discovered the soil that gives me strength. I will be able to accompany and help my students because I know how to help myself.
I hope you will find your fountain of energy and inspiration too, so that you can keep thriving in your teaching profession!
Happy New Year!