How To Teach Without Talking
On Friday, I traveled with the amazing Irene to an outreach called Kambui School For the Deaf. It’s set back in the country-side of Kenya surrounded by lots of green, and many many dirt roads that both surround and lead to the campus. When you walk through the metal gates and arrive onto the campus, you are met with this beautiful silence. As you walk further down the path, it’s the same silence, and you begin to see students emerge, talking with their hands, sign language, the same facial expressions that any person using words out loud would have.
The class was beautiful. Laughter, it’s the same sound too. And when breaking free from a child is perhaps the sweetest, clearest sound in the world. We practiced on a cold dusty red floor that quickly warmed from our movement. We grounded down with our feet, we reached high with our hands, we flew back, we got sweaty, we crossed over.
I watched Irene work her magic in awe. The way she effortlessly engaged with each student. The way she flew her shoes across the room to join in the fun. The way she made certain that each child in that room knew this: ‘you belong here.’ Here are 5 things I learned from our beautiful teacher Irene teaching 50 deaf students on a sunny, beautiful friday afternoon in Kenya.
1) Smile, alot! -- it’s the universal sign of connection. I noticed whenever a child would get frustrated Irene would point at the corners of her lips and demonstrate that connection. A smile like that is always met with another.
2) Listen, really listen. Listen in a way where there are no words, but there are open hands. And eye contact. So much of what we have to say is not based in words anyway, look around at your students, what are they trying to say to you.
3) Get on the floor! Roll around, get dirty. -- in other words, when teaching kids yoga, become a kid again. Have no fear about ‘looking good’ the kids just want to be with you too.
4) Don't be afraid to challange. -- We often times approach special populations with fragile hands and worried glances. Stop. Everyone wants to feel the limitlessness of their bodies. Show them.
5) When you say you’ll come back, mean it. --These kids know that Irene will come every single friday, on-time, ready to go, ready to give, ready to share her truth.
Truth landed in a peaceful savasana, giggles that were held captive by hands over mouths, ultimately escaping into the space before us. And for a moment I was sad that Irene and I were the only ones who could hear this sound. But I was missing it. To feel is divine. And in the class like this, with 50 deaf students, and a teacher that says not one single word, you get to feel it all.