School teachers in America have one of the most difficult, important, and under appreciated jobs. The hours that many of them work far exceeds the 40/week norm. Their work plays a significant role in the development of future generations. They spend their days dealing with a huge and complex bureaucracy that frequently prevents them from doing their job well. Because of their high stress jobs typically combined with a caring disposition, they are a great target market for yoga teachers.
In order to make these yoga classes fly, you need to have at least a few committed and enthusiastic participants. One way to find an entry is to find out if you have some school teachers among your current regular students. If so, they might be very enthusiastic about helping you set up a class at their school. If none of your current students are teachers or if you are just starting out, then reach out to your wider network of contacts and see if you can find a few leads.
You can also contact the principals of nearby schools and the PTOs. Offer to come by and make a short presentation on the benefits of yoga and a free sample class. When you create the presentation, consider your audience. Will this be for the principal? The PTO? The teachers themselves? Tailor your discussion based on the most pressing concerns that you believe yoga can help with. In fact, you can start out by asking THEM what they they yoga can do for them. You might be surprised to watch them talk themselves right into hiring you for classes.
Two factors are likely to influence the success of a class geared towards school teachers: cost and convenience. Due to their modest salaries, most teachers do not have significant disposable income. Therefore, keeping overhead low is essential in being able to offer an affordable rate for these classes. In addition to the modest salaries, school teachers often work long hours and feel pressed for time. Both of these considerations can be addressed by holding classes at the school where they teach, either in the library, gym, or another suitable location. In order to be able to hold your classes at the school, it is essential for the principal to be supportive of the class. Reaching out to him/her with statistics on how yoga helps productivity, mental health, absenteeism, etc may go a long way in turning a skeptic into a supporter.
Ok, so now they really want to hire you and you know where you want to hold your classes- but what is the best way to figure out what to charge and keep it all organized? I recommend charging by the month in a way that allows them to commit one month at a time and only pay for the classes they know they can attend. The formula might seem a little complicated at first, but it has worked really well for my students to feel that they are getting tremendous value without paying for classes they cannot attend.
Determine a set fee that you want to make per class. Ask people to check their calendars and commit to which classes they can come to that month. Multiply your rate by the number of weeks that month (for example 4 x 50 = $200). This is the total you will collect for the month. Then add together how many people will be in each class (for example: 8 the first week, 10 the second week, 7 the third week, and 10 the fourth week = 35). Then divide your monthly fee by the number of people in each class: 200/35 = $5.71 per person, per class. Each person pays for the number of classes they committed to: $22.84 if they attend all four classes. There are no refunds or make up classes, but you can see that this model allows for a VERY inexpensive class while offering guaranteed income to the teacher. If you live in a large city & have a long commute, obviously you should adjust your rate accordingly. It would be ideal to get one of the teachers to do the math and collect the money. If nobody steps up to volunteer, you can offer that person free classes in exchange.
Another option would be to charge a set amount per person per class – say $5. But then you are at the mercy of them to actually show up and pay. The set amount does not work as well with the monthly payment because teachers often are required to go to meetings etc and they won’t like paying for classes they know they cannot attend. If you (or the teachers) can convince the PTO to subsidize these classes – for example to a small set rate for you to show up, then the teachers that come pay on top of that, it could be the best of both worlds. You have a guaranteed income so you know if will be worth your while to show up, but you can also increase the amount you make if the classes become popular.
What and how to teach
Your students will arrive to class frazzled & exhausted. Your number one directive, especially when you first start teaching them, is to make them feel good. I always begin my classes with a reclined relaxation & pranayama. It is such a relief to them to get off their feet that knowing that the first thing they will do is relax makes them look forward to it all day. From the relaxation, I ease them into gentle movement, and then build into some more challenging poses towards the middle of the class.
Since they already know each other, build on that familiarity by creating a lighthearted environment where joking and laughing are welcome. This will help put any that might be nervous about yoga at ease and will deepen their connection with you and the other students. One way to do this is to introduce some simple partner exercises. Partner poses lighten up the mood and invite interaction.
I have found teachers to be a very mixed level group that includes very both physically fit and overweight students. I take a mixed level approach by offering the easier version of a pose first, then offering a more challenging variation as an option. Always err on the side of making the less fit students feel comfortable over giving the more fit ones a challenge. The ones who are fit know how to stay that way and the ones who aren’t need yoga the most. Most of the teachers will be happy to look at yoga as an enjoyable time to relax with their friends that relieves stress and gives them strategies for coping with their challenging career.
I do incorporate themes into these classes, but I keep them very universal as many of your teachers will be a little more conservative than the average yoga student. As you get to know your particular group of students you will evolve your teaching based on their interests and capabilities. Teachers tend to be very sweet hearted people and they will be extremely grateful for the gifts of yoga. The classes you teach to school teachers may wind up being some of the most rewarding classes you will ever teach.
If you teach school teachers, please join the conversation in the comments below. I would love to hear how you got the job, how it’s organized, and your top strategies for helping them get the most benefit out of their time on the mat.