• Nawal

Teaching before you are ready

When I started to teach, I don’t think I was actually “ready” to teach……..in fact, I KNOW I wasn’t…and though I realized this at the start, I continued, but also made elevating my skills a top priority and as a life long learner, still do.

I have been a teacher of yoga and dance for now Over 10 years. Completed HOURS and HOURS of professional trainings ,self study, reflection, and hours of teaching! Over the years have been asked by many friends and students: how did you start teaching….

Well for YOGA that was in my last blog… for belly dance that’s a whole other story to be told…but I started teaching both yoga and belly dance around the same time because it was asked of me.

Teaching one of my signature workshops "Evil Queen Realness" in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Like I had mentioned in my “How I got in to Yoga Blog” my primary intention had been to learn yoga for my self healing. Belly dance was something personal and that I started in my own time during my maternity leave when we had moved back from Vancouver, BC and I didn’t really know many people here anymore. There weren’t an abundance of options for yoga or dance classes in rural New Brunswick, at the time….. even the ZUMBA craze hadn’t hit us yet .

SO, by this time I had been teaching yoga at the Human Performance center in my community, and had Earned my 200hour Yoga Teacher Certificate. After building rapport with

the gym members (who were primarily women 55+) they learned I was also a burgeoning belly dancer , and wanted to learn anything I could tell them about belly dance…AWSESOME!

My belly dance class was such a hit that women in the community began to ask if I would be able to offer some classes in the evening as the gym classes were in the day time. So, I rented a community center put up an add and on the first night 20 women showed up for class!!! I was excited and terrified!! Teaching dance was very different than Yoga- in yoga people came to class with the understanding that they were to listen and relax, breathe and be quite….. in the bellydance class women were cackling at the concept of hip wiggling, or glute squeezing….. I did not feel I had respect of command of the group….. My teaching methodology for yoga class didn’t exactly transfer over….I need help! I thought, There must be a training for Bellydance teachers, like how I did one for YOGA…… This led me to Bal Anat, Suhaila and the Salimpour School in Berkeley California…. I HUGE part of my personal and dance life & history.

Suhaila's Assistant for Suhaila Level 3 Week Long 2017

As far as traveling outside NB to get training it was all expensive, so I decided to go all in and go to California and get schooled by the big dogs. Salimpour School and at that time Fat Chance Bellydance Studio, for American Tribal Style.

At the time of the community center, I had been taking belly dance class with

a 65 year old woman here in town. It became apparent I wasn’t being challenged at all and after an 8 week session she had asked me to demonstrate all the movements to the class….. She acted supportive at first when I expressed interest in becoming a professional belly dancer, how does somebody do that? The answer was she didn’t know, and became offended when I questioned the use of the term semi-professional for her troupe. I had been invited to join but it was embarrassing, it was me, tall, dark, ARAB LOOKING with a group of “mature” New Brunswick ladies, with short white hair, and who could no longer do turns safely. It just wasn’t what I was going for.

I was trying to be respectful and support the local teacher of the area, and when I began to teach, she had recently stopped teaching, with my work in Salimpour School training, I was able to bring a level of training that had never been here yet. Shortly after my teaching began to be “Salimpour style” and “tribal style” she stopped supporting my classes. There were some other instances of friction with my first teacher belly dance teacher EVEN THOUGH she HAD given me her blessing. She still wasn't ok.

As I ‘became’ a teacher of belly dance I began to feel enormous pressure, to be able to teach this art for right, because to make things more complicated, I was now REPRESENTING my Arabic culture. Dang. That’s not what I wanted out of this. But when you teach ‘belly dance” you ARE representing a culture and ya better study up! ….. (That’s its own blog)

Photo from 2015 When I changed my Studio Branding to Maritime Tribal

Long story short : Only you can moderate that. I began teaching because my community NEEDED these offerings at the time…and asked them of me and they are unregulated industries. For Yoga I ASKED MY TEACHERS what they thought about an offer for me to teach Yoga in my community before I was certified, as long as I didn't accept money for it before I became certified I had their blessing a series of events that led to me teaching and stay teaching here 10 years later.

For belly dance as noted above, I did my due diligence, worked with the teacher of the area, paid her respect and eventually got a teaching blessing but it still didn't avoid some hard feelings, unfortunately. With Salimpour School or FCBD I made sure I was CLEAR on what was ok and what was not. I have paid for licensing to teach Salimpour Choreography for example because it's Suhaila's intellectual property. When you teach a lineage or 'format' there is clear concise wording that they would like you to use. Yoga is a bit more ambiguous. I recommend registering in an association or Yoga Alliance. Many professional bodies require that you maintain a certain number of " continued education' hours, and I 1000% agree that teachers absolutely need to maintain their own learning and strive for the best training they can seek out.

A few questions you can ask yourself if you aren't sure if you are ready to teach are:

1) Would I want my teachers to know about this?And have they given their blessing?

2) Do I clearly and safely understand the mechanics of the body involved?

3) Does my class make sense? (Should have been a practice teach)

4) Is my training current?- Cueing and wording changes overtime! make sure you stay fresh!

Since my humble beginnings I have taught thousands of hours of YOGA and DANCE all over the world! I have honed not only my teaching skills but my human skills too. To me teaching is to make information digestible, and relatable and to REALLY KNOW your content. Stay learning and stay inspired! If you sincerely believe in your content and get EXCITED to share thats a wonderful place to start! I continue to take classes in music, dance, art and movement, it gives me tools towards my own teaching. I think a really important facet of teaching anything is that you humble yourself enough to always be a student of anything and everything that could have relevance to your craft and stay up to date and current with what you offer your students.

I know many stories of fellow teachers 'falling' in to teaching before they are ready, part of teaching is trusting yourself to figure it out. but also if you take on the responsibility of being a teacher you also must do the due diligence of continuing education. Sometimes you are the person with the most experience in the room. ;)

It reminds me once when my brother announced " sweet, I'm the best Guitar player in the room"..... the other 2 people in the room weren't guitarists...lol

How we present our unregulated industries is how they will be perceived. We want to take the utmost care and responsibility especially when representing cultural practice of any kind to ensure that they be treated with respect as they are carried forward in to the future.

Here's one of my Short and Sweet Tutorials for Mountain pose.... I have both yoga and bellydance essentials videos geared for you to get a short practice for my $10/monthly patrons:

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I have off the floor recorded classes and workshops in: Technique, Cymbals, Character Work, Yoga, Sword Work and Whirling. Options for every budget. I also do private and semi private lessons for all of the above subjects and more! xoxoxox

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