Recently, Cindy Albert, a wonderful CETL staff member whom many of you already know, brought an article to my attention that had been published to the Chronicle Vitae. In this article, Aimee Morrison, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo, wrote about her comparative experiences between being a yoga instructor and being a university professor. This article, entitled “Let It Breathe” made several good points about teaching to the fullest with a ‘less is more’ attitude.
Morrison writes about her experiences as a yoga instructor and her reminders to her students to take time to breathe when they are struggling with a particular pose or are falling out of sync with their stances. She states, “At the front of the university classroom, by contrast, I am the one who sometimes needs to be reminded to breathe.”
Morrison reflects on her stance as a teacher, the ways in which she was used to preparing classes by over-assigning projects, papers, or reading assignments. She used to feel that the more she assigned, the less likely she would run out of material to discuss. She filled empty lecture pauses with more handouts, PowerPoint slides, or explanations than were necessary, and watched as her students began to check out during class, much too consumed with the overwhelming amount of work load they had been assigned to think about much else.
“It didn’t work,” she stated in reflection. “I was exhausted and tense, and my students were baffled and overwhelmed. […] No one had room to breathe.” Morrison realized that she needed to be willing to take time in her university courses to become a more present teacher. One who was involved in the learning process of her classes with her students, utilizing a more mindful way of teaching rather than keeping everyone busy.
It’s been an interesting transition for Morrison, but the positive results from these changes can’t be overlooked. “Sometimes we follow a tangent, or we might spend 20 minutes working through one important paragraph in one important article. Class time finally became student-centered time, and students responded by being more interested and more active.”
It's beneficial to consider Morrison's technique, whether you are a yoga-lover or not, for your own classes. Think about the ways that you've been implementing workloads, whether your lectures are student-based, and what you can do to more actively involve real participation and thoughtful engagement from your students--not just a scrabbling for answers or spouting off statements read from the hundred pages of reading they'd been assigned. Simply focus on the centered main ideas you'd like your students to gain from their involvement in your class, and remember to breathe.
Tip Provided By: Jessica Moser