I haven’t been to yoga for almost a year, and Saturday morning, I went to an early practice. The studio was crowded, and people arriving just before the start time were looking discouraged. But those of us already in the room said, “Here…” and scooted our mats to make more room, and everyone fit. We were close quarters, but we all fit.
Stef, the teacher, just creates that kind of atmosphere. If you are there before the start time and you look apprehensive because of the sea of mats filling the floor, she smiles and welcomes you and says, “No problem. There is plenty of room.” Then she gently and quietly asks particular people if they could move a little to make space.”
Clearly, many of the Saturday folks were regulars, because we absorbed everyone in without making anyone stand awkwardly, looking lost. Stef was so pleased and made sure we all knew it.
This kind of community reminded me of my best school visit experiences. When you go into a classroom, you can tell which teachers have created a safe harbor for their kids. Which classes are filled with students who know that the group will absorb them, make room for them and their differences, their awkward angles or rough edges. I have to modify lots of asanas due to wrist issues. Nobody cares. Nobody stares. Stef makes it clear, out loud, that we each do what is right for us.
I know in classrooms that it can’t always be about “what works for you.” That sometimes every student has to be able to do a particular skill, and you have to work toward that. But because I’m lucky enough to work with students in a magical outside-the-immediate-curriculum-concerns kind of area, I can be more like Stef. And, though it’s always a goal for me to make students feel safe with taking creative risks and to encourage taking those risks as a way to grow as a writer, I feel even more determined to reinforce that. I am going to be even more vocal about trying to create a writing community, even if it’s only for 30 minutes, where we take risks and support each other and try things and fail and try other things.
I have a two-day school visit going on right now, and I’m making this one of my primary goals for the workshops: to encourage kids to stretch, come up with wild words, and use and share them as we work on poetry. And for the group to be able to accept, listen, laugh (not in a mean way but in a wow-what-our-minds-come-up-with-if-we-let-them-play way), support, and learn from each other.
Wish me luck, and head over to Two Writing Teachers for links to more Slice of Life posts!