Friendship~Student~Teacher… Chocolate?

Raw Pistachio Chocolate

One of the points to be aware of as a teacher is making friends with your students.
It is a fine line.
Finding the perfect balance between friendship and maintaining the composure of a quality teacher is not always easy.
I think I do quite well although I certainly don’t always get it right.
I am sure there have been many moments where my students have thought one of the following:

“Bitch! How dare she tell me to lift my butt up off the floor in ‘Utpluthi’, she knows I just split-up from my boyfriend…”
“Oh, I know she’s only saying ‘well done’ because we’re mates and I feed her raw chocolate…”
“Why won’t she adjust me? We’re *best* friends?!!!”
“Uhh! She is totally starring at my rubbish example of X,Y,Z pose”
“Ooo, I’ll go to her class, she’ll be nice to me…”

etc, etc…and is it right or wrong to think such thoughts, and many others?
…To be honest, I don’t really care, so long as this ‘stuff’ we are working on together is taking us *both* closer to the truth.
I’m sure, there comes a time when every teacher wonders;
“…should I even talk to the students out side of class at all?”
In my opinion it is ultimately important that the students feel they can approach you, confide in you, respect you and feel respected.
Just like friendship really.
Something I am still pondering on and loving the process of figuring it all out.
Here’s an email I got the other day from one of these very relationships.
I hope you enjoy the dip into my emails & behind the scenes in my life.

***(NB: The chocolate pictured above is from this same very student who is an *awesomely dedicated practitioner* & I *love dearly as a friend* and I think the feelings are mutual. So, what startles me the most is that we are capable of being student~teacher and friend~friend without batting an eye-lid about it.)

*Blessed we are*

…from you and your traditional take on teaching us ashtanga. I like
>>> it. I’m learning so much. If Jill had never enforced the “no second
>>> series ’til drop backs” rule, I wouldn’t be able to drop back. I’d
>>> still be afraid, and upset over letting the fear stop me.
>>> I had a bit of a “moment” with Jill. You see, Karen *always* helped me
>>> with dropbacks. Always. Which made bendy me lazy. (Just to be clear, I
>>> think Karen is a great teacher – and she totally taught me how to get
>>> through the “wtf am I doing here at this hour!” shock of starting
>>> morning practice). And Jill just kept walking past me. Every now and
>>> then she’d remind me that she would help me once I’d done one on my
>>> own. So it took me a while. First I had to get a tiny bit angry that
>>> she wouldn’t help me. Then I had to reason that Jill probably didn’t
>>> want me to fall on my head, and that if she was leaving me to try to
>>> drop back on my own, the worst that was likely to happen was me being
>>> very very inelegant and awkward, rather than me going splat on the
>>> floor. Then I had to actually do it (which is the easy part). And now
>>> with your “five drop backs every day” orders, I’m learning lots, even
>>> though it’s pretty rare that I can actually do 5 dropbacks and stand
>>> ups in a row without thinking. But I can do three, which is amazing,
>>> cuz a few weeks ago, I couldn’t even do one, no matter how much not
>>> thinking I did!
>>> So… my guess is that this method is a bit harder for the teacher and
>>> a bit harder for the student and a lot better for both. If you keep
>>> saying the method works and you want us to believe it, you have to
>>> believe it too!
>>> I *heart* wee yogi. I learn so much in that mysore room. Yogi wee is
>>> but her heart big is. <- this is how Yoda would say it. Yoda is also
>>> wee, so I think he understands these things.
♥ Blessed indeed ♥

2 thoughts on “Friendship~Student~Teacher… Chocolate?

  1. Finlay says:

    It is so important to maintain a healthy dialogue with students. Friendship is a label which can be a bit redundant at times. We then start to label levels of friendship, all of which is an attachment to a reality that does not exists.
    As a teacher, I totally understand the need to remain a bit back rather than being in the thick of it. If a student wants to come talk to me, I will talk, but I won’t do the chasing. I know I am not there to make friends but any that I make on the way, any body who is looking for someone to help in their lives, I will support.

    I have had moments where things have gotten very bad. In one instance a student started hate mailing me, following me home and at one point chased me and my dogs. We had to get the police involved and everything. But I feel that was a bad start on something really wrong with her.

    Some of my students come by for cooking, climbing, acro and just cups of chai sometimes and in that moment they are happy to pull down the labels between friend, student and teacher and just be in that moment enjoying each others company. Even if you just get one, you are doing it right!

  2. Sinead says:

    I find it’s really case-by-case. In some of my “formal” (teacher-student, boss, collaborator) relationships, it works with a personal relationship in there as well. In some cases, you need your teacher/boss/collaborator to *not* be a personal friend . I think the wisdom comes in figuring out which box individual relationships fall into, and in being open to reevaluating that, while still not obsessing over it.

    But my take on it, at the very heart of the matter, is that in our lives, we don’t meet all that many friends that we form a close bond with (for however much time), and meeting someone that you connect with is precious. The same with finding a teacher who you can *really* learn from (for however long). When you get both in the same person, I think the balancing act is worth it, and if both facets of the relationship are genuine, and both people are honest, then the balancing act isn’t that big a deal. Some of my best teachers and mentors have been, and still are, close friends.

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