Michael Caldwell on Finding The Right Substitute Yoga Teacher

Scheduling the right substitute is more than just finding an available teacher to step in and lead class. It’s determining if the substitute is a good fit for that particular class and for the studio as a whole. We at Yoga One take our students’ trust very seriously and so we have developed a system to optimize our class schedule, and keep things flowing (as smoothly as possible) even in the absence of a beloved teacher.

Here is an excerpt from Mindful Studio Magazine’s interview with Yoga One co-founder Michael Caldwell entitled Tips for Managing SubsYou can read the whole interview here.

Mindful Studio Mag

MSM: How do you manage your teaching subbing schedule? 

MC: Subs come to us via word of mouth, referrals from other teachers, students and the internet — often new teachers to the area. We also get a lot of teachers from our own Yoga One Teacher Training course. In all cases, we like to see potential teachers first as students. Therefore, we ask them to attend a class with Yoga One’s head teacher, Amy Caldwell. If after class both teachers feel that Yoga One is a good fit, we invite the prospective teacher to attend a teachers’ round-robin class. In the round-robin, we create a circle with everyone (so there are no hierarchies, edges or outsiders and we can all see one another). Then each teacher has about 15 minutes to lead the other prospective teachers in a sample “mini-class.”

In this way, we get to see the teacher’s individual styles, the juxtapositions of personalities, philosophies, energies and sequences, plus a teacher’s ability to adapt to what came before and the overall environment. Again, if both parties feel that Yoga One is still a good fit, we provide each other with feedback and then determine which classes would be right for the teacher to sub. Of course, for example, we don’t want an individual only interested in teaching power yoga to sub a restorative class. So we have created a chart listing the classes we offer and those teachers who are suited to particular classes get added as appropriate. When looking for a sub we can look at the chart.

MSM: What qualities do you look for in a sub?

MC: To us a great personality, energy and eagerness to share the joys and benefits of yoga with others are the most important qualities. Next we look for teachers who are knowledgeable, experienced and able to modify their teaching to the students who show up for class. That means a good grasp of optimal alignment principles and a confidence and level of ability and mental flexibility to mix up their sequence on a moment’s notice. And it should go without saying that a sub needs to be reliable, professional and on time. Please teach the class based on the class description, and to those who are in class.

MSM: What tips can you provide for managing subs?

MC: Fortunately, and unfortunately, first impressions are often correct. If someone shows up late to class or to the round-robin, they are likely to show up late when subbing. If they are slow in responding to correspondence and communication during the “interview” process, they are not likely to be any faster or more professional once hired to sub.

Getting the right sub for the right class is a little bit of an art form. It’s good to know both the teacher and the students whom she or he will be leading. It’s a great idea to get feedback from the students and the teacher after class — and not just the first class. It’s helpful to be as clear with exceptions and responsibilities up front. How can you hold people accountable if they don’t know what they are supposed to do? Hire good people and you’ll likely get good results.

 

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