Dealing with a rude and argumentative student

Please use this forum to ask any questions you may have about yoga in general or Yin Yoga in particular, or to discuss anything you have discovered that may be of general interest. Note, spam will be removed and the user deleted, and this includes putting website in your posting that are purely commercial.
Post Reply
Poopsie62
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Jan 30, 2015 9:54 am
Location: United States

Dealing with a rude and argumentative student

Post by Poopsie62 »

I've been teaching yin yoga about 3 years now and about 4 months ago began teaching at another studio. I love it there and the class has been doing pretty well. I was astonished when after class today an older student came up to me complaining that I was starting late. 15 minutes today and she said 25 minutes last week. It's just not true. I watch the clock like a hawk. I started about 3 minutes late today and maybe 5 minutes late last week as we had to do some shuffling around to accommodate everyone. I couldn't believe this student's tone. It was really verbal bullying and basically telling me what I need to do. Her biggest complaint was unfounded and her argument was lock the door. We do lock the door once everyone is in but we do try to accommodate people and there is an occasional straggler. I explained to her that I check the clock right before I go into class and I have not only my watch and timer but an extra clock on the floor in front of me and her observation just was not true. She left in a huff. It's my understanding this student is a chronic complainer and she obviously got next to nothing out of the class. I'm just wondering what your suggestions might be on how to handle this person and if anyone else would care to share their experiences that might be similar. I'd really like to suggest to her that perhaps it would be in the best interest of both of us if she would look for another yin teacher. I just don't want this negative energy around.
Bernie
Posts: 1212
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

How can teachers deal with difficult students?

Post by Bernie »

There are probably as many comments possible for this as there are teachers, so I would like to offer one from a very renowned teacher, the Buddha. This is a story from my book (From the Gita to the Grail about how the Buddha dealt with a difficult person:
  • The Buddha walked mindfully around the beautiful park. His morning alms had been eaten, his bowl washed, he was free to just soak in the beauty of this moment. Part of this beauty appeared before him in the form of a very agitated man, who in anger began to verbally attack the Buddha.

    The incensed man was a farmer: it was the time of the harvest, but his son had just run away. Where did the young man go? To the Buddha! He had heard the Buddha give a talk and as a result he up and quit the world: he joined the sangha, shaved his head, donned a worn out old robe, and left his family in the lurch. How could the Buddha allow sons to leave their fathers: how could he encourage them to shirk their duties? Without his son, the father and the rest of the family were suffering greatly. The Buddha should be ashamed for what he was doing: corrupting the youth and changing the way society had always been.

    The Buddha stood calmly still and listened deeply to every word that the farmer threw at him. After many minutes of abuse, when the farmer finally ran out of steam, the Buddha asked, “May I speak?”

    “Of course,” replied the farmer, “I would love to hear what you have to say for yourself!”

    The Buddha began with a riddle: “Imagine a man gave a gift to a friend, but the friend did not accept it: to whom does the gift now belong?”

    The farmer answered quickly, “The gift remains with the giver.”

    “Just so,” said the Buddha, “and this gift of anger that you have brought me, I am sorry, I cannot accept it. It remains yours.”
The moral of this story for you is – don’t accept your student’s anger. There is no need to justify yourself to her. You are the teacher, you are teaching the best you know how. If that doesn’t work for her, that is for her to decide. If you let her anger infect you, you will have to carry that emotion for many hours, and even days.

So, my first suggestion is to remain Teflon to angry comments. This doesn’t mean that valid criticism can’t be accepted, but angry comments are not helpful critiques.

The second approach is from another great teacher, a modern Buddha --- Thich Nhat Hanh. Thay (as he is affectionately known) suggests we look at the situation of the person in front of us, separate from their behavior. He has talks and books on this topic called “Call me by my true names.”

Basically the idea is to imagine what it must be like to be your student. You said she is known as a complainer. Out of compassion, imagine how hard her life must be if all she ever sees is the negative side of things. Imagine how miserable you would be if you were always angry with others, feeling that life was letting you down, that things were not working out the way they should. It would be a hard way to live. With understanding, you can converse with your student without getting caught up in her drama. With such compassionate detachment, what help can you offer her?

It is not about you: what can you do to make her life better? If nothing, then offer nothing, but don’t accept the gift of anger she is trying to give you.

I hope this helps a little.
Cheers
Bernie
Poopsie62
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Jan 30, 2015 9:54 am
Location: United States

Dealing with a rude and argumentative student

Post by Poopsie62 »

Bernie thank you so much for taking the time to offer me this beautiful response because I have been struggling with this. I love the story about the Buddha and the lesson it teaches. Your response has helped to open my eyes and at the same time comfort me. I will be forever grateful.
Breatheyoga
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:08 pm
Location: Edmonton Alberta RYS
Contact:

Dealing With Rude Teachers

Post by Breatheyoga »

Starting and/or ending a class late is disrespectful.
shaylawind
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2015 2:02 am
Location: Vancouver BC

Post by shaylawind »

I also love the story about the Buddha. Thank you Bernie.

Poopsie62 in you message you had mentioned:
"I started about 3 minutes late today and maybe 5 minutes late last week as we had to do some shuffling around to accommodate everyone" and
".... lock the door once everyone is in but we do try to accommodate people and there is an occasional straggler."

I also agree with the comment... "Starting and/or ending a class late is disrespectful." This is with regards to you (I know we have lots to do.. especially if we do it all .. sign-in, locks and guide the practice) AND students who are late and want to still enter the space/room.

Creating a policy on the time the door will be lock (eg. 2-5 min before class start time), and commiting to a start time of the class will enable everyone (teacher included) to be ready/grounded, set up and this will be honoring everyones time.
I have had this problem and once the policy was set, most students where thankful and arrived early to soak up the Savasana :lol:

It remindes me.....Yamas: Asteya - Non-stealing
Steya means "to steal"; asteya is the opposite-to take nothing that does not belong to us
This includes fostering a consciousness of how we ask for others’ time for considerate & inconsiderate behavior demanding another’s attention when not freely given is, in effect, stealing.

I hope this help with your situation as a whole and bye bye Ms."Bully" behavior

Cheers to doing the best we can in each breathe :D
Namaste
Poopsie62
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Jan 30, 2015 9:54 am
Location: United States

Dealing with a rude and argumentative student

Post by Poopsie62 »

I understand the importance of not starting late or running over for that matter. Having said that I live in a state which gets a huge influx of people during the winter season and because of that our class numbers can double quite unexpectedly. Sadly we even have to turn people away at times due to space issues. We have done everything we can as far as allowing scheduling online to providing extra space for those who don't have computers and for those who are new and walk in for the first time. Sometimes no matter what you do when it's in season we can start a few minutes late. As a teacher understanding that ahimsa is the foundation for all yoga I would hope that I convey to my students as well that non harming in thought word and deed overrides any practice. All other yamas and niyamas flow from ahimsa. I would also hope that I have taught them well enough to use any time at the beginning of a class to sit quietly, get centered and/or meditate as they learn to deal with change or changes that occur in class. To me learning this principle is very freeing for all people and if I can teach that lesson it's more important than any asana practice I can provide to them.

I have shared the Buddha story so many times since my original posting and have reflected back on it myself for my own purposes when interacting with people I again can't thank Bernie enough for sharing it. Namaste.
Post Reply