Today my jujitsu training came in handy. I was forced to defend myself from a wild three year old. With a huge smile on his face, he looked me in the eye and ran straight at me, full speed. Instinctively, I dipped my shoulder down and let him plow all 35 lbs of his little Kanacky self into me as I tossed him right onto his back. Gently, and peacefully of course, as I’m in the midst of teaching a kids yoga forward fold – with bubble bee breath.
The good news is, I’m in a French school and that sort of ‘handling’ does not seem to be a problem. I didn’t need to sign a waiver or have a background check to get right down there (literally on the floor) with the 29 snot nosed kids. In fact, I was invited to Ivy’s class to teach for some sort of special parent day (details are fuzzy as much of the invitation was in french). Naturally, as I am actually terrified of anything new, every part of me wanted to say no. In my head echoed this quote: “Do one thing that scares you everyday.” It’s easy for me to live by this as it turns out, it doesn’t take much to scare me.
Besides, Maitrese Manuela gave me no chance to say no and told me I could teach anything – 15 minute ‘workshops’ repeated 6 times as all the kids would rotate from one ‘workshop’ to the next. Another mom likes to bake, so she made mini cupcakes with the kids. One is a science teacher, so she explored making/melting ice. In another group they made origami and explored Japanese culture and then there would be my group. Pretty cool for the kids. And as it turns out, very rare and out of the box for the French system. I found out later that Ivy’s teacher is the only one that does this and introduced it to her school.
Really the only thing that came to mind was yoga. But I was hoping I could come up with something else. Of all kinds of yoga, this is by far, the only one I really dislike. I mean, you have to be loud, silly, animated, super creative and covered in kids. Not exactly a top skill for a quiet introvert that likes stillness. But this mini lesson feels like a microcosm of the macrocosm of my experience of moving to New Caledonia. Every part of this has me stepping out of my comfort zone. “Do one thing that scares you everyday.” There it is again. There must be a lesson here.
So, without too much thought, I followed my first instinct and suggested I teach kids yoga. The teacher was THRILLED. In her 7 years of doing this, no one has ever done kids yoga. I suddenly had a new best friend. No kidding. She began complimenting my boots and talking about her personal life. We exchanged email so we could discuss the details of the workshop and the next day she was blowing kisses to Ivy when she left. On the way out of school, Ivy said: “She is just getting nicer and nicer to me.” Apparently having a yoga teacher mom has perks.
So Sunday night I printed out a few kids yoga postures, crafted them up a bit and spent some time making a mental tool bag of things I could pull out.
On Monday morning, I joined Ivy’s ‘petite section’ of 29 turquoise polo shirt wearing kids. They range in age from 2yrs 9 months to 4 years. If you have young children or are aware of the phases of child development, you know this is quite a wide age range. From pacifier sucking, barely talking, sobbing 2 year olds to 4 year olds that could begin learning o read, there is a wide range of abilities.
In my mental prep work, I was using Ivy as my average, forgetting about the littler ones. Needless to say, I overestimated their attention span and ability. Of the 29 kids, only about 1/2 were teachable. They engaged in the activity, participated and responded to direction and interaction. Great. Easy. Kids Yoga is perfect and they loved it. 1/4 of the kids were comatose. Staring off into space, un-responsive and impossible to engage despite physically lifting their arms and legs, they just look at you like you are speaking a foreign language (oh right, I am). And the final 1/4 of the kids are wildly unruly or a slobbery, snotty, sobbing mess.
So here were are, 6-8 at a time, crammed in a very small space (that resembled a corral) we hoped like a frogs, roared like lions, hummed like bumble bees and balanced like trees. I had an audience in the round of parents and cameras. For a moment, I wanted to fake a stomach ache and ask Ivy to stand in for me. But, doing one thing that scares me everyday for much of my life has prepared me well. Despite my inside experience, I can now fly by the seat of my pants, make something out of nothing and do it well. Thank god for that.
So while I tossed kids over my shoulder and channeled my best inner Pat-Quynn-silly-faces, I could hear Maitrese Manuela in the background saying the “yoga is AWE-SUM! With my tool belt of everything I’ve ever done to distract, engage and entertain, I survived and at least 1/2 the kids really thrived.
With depleted adrenals and sweaty armpits, I walked home as slowly as I could. The longer I walked the longer I got to be kid-free. I have no idea how teachers of small children maintain their enthusiasm. I have a new appreciation for the teacher and for Ivy. Ivy is brave. And Maitresse Manuela is brilliant. (And that little Kanaky kid needs to sign up for jujitsu with Jonah).
(Post post update)
Just when I thought I would never have to do that again, Maitrese Manuela told me she would like me to teach again. She liked my ‘gentle’ style and the yoga was “awe-sum.” She needs to arrange a few things with the directress before it happens. Now, I just need to decide if the scarier thing of saying “NO,” is in order.