Yoga Teacher Fired – Texting Student

YogaThere is a relatively small situation all over the news lately that I find endlessly interesting and worthy of discussion. A yoga teacher in San Francisco was fired from her position at the Facebook campus two weeks after giving a dirty look to a student who was texting in class. This is interesting to me for several reasons.

I take yoga classes, I’m big technology guy, I’m a teacher, and I’m a heavy user of social media. My good friend’s wife is the Social Media director at Siemans and I’m interested to see what she thinks about this case. I think it brings up several incredibly interesting points.

To start with I noticed the heavy preponderance of comments sided with the yoga teacher in question. They ran the gamut from suggesting lawsuits to vilifying the texter and I’d say it was about 50 – 1 against the firing. I’m going the other way on this one and I’ll tell you why.

As a teacher of adults I fully understand that the paying students are in my class on their time. They could be doing a lot of things but chose to pay money to take instruction from me. I think this is a fundamentally different situation from a primary school teacher whose students are children. Generally when a phone rings during class, my reaction is to tell the student that it’s not a problem. If they have to take care of business step outside and I’ll catch them up on the material when they return.

When I see students texting or checking their email during class I simply ignore it. These are adults with real jobs and in modern society jobs are not 9 – 5 anymore. It’s likely that my students are going to get important emails, texts, and phone calls during my class. These important work related items must be dealt with and are, in the big scheme of things, far more important than my class.

What’s not at issue here is that it was a ringing phone. Ringing phones can be a distraction at any sort of public gathering because they intrude on the other people. In this case the yoga student was answering a text. In yoga class a ringing phone is an issue because it takes focus away from the pose at hand. A text, on the other hand, is a quiet activity that is largely not distracting. I would equate it to a student who during a strenuous pose decides to move to a rest position. It’s not what everyone else in class is doing but it’s not disruptive in any way.

I also have an issue with the teacher giving the student a disapproving look. Again, we are adults here. I think the best way to handle a disruptive situation, which I don’t think this rose to a level of being, is to tell the student you understand work is important and to please take care of it outside.

In this particular instance it was to a group of Facebook employees! To be surprised and annoyed that they might be texting during class seems not particularly thoughtful to me.

Of course, it’s possible that the yoga teacher in question was not a good teacher for other reasons but that’s not really the question in this case. Maybe she was a great teacher. I just don’t think publicly chastising an adult student in a class is generally a good plan. There are certainly times when disruptive behavior must be dealt with but I’m of the opinion that this case did not come anywhere near that line.

Should she have been fired? Not if this was a one time incident, in my opinion. I think a quick session in which it was explained to the instructor that her Facebook students get important texts and will be dealing with them is part of the class. Communication!

What do you think? Was the yoga teacher perfectly reasonable? Was she unreasonable? Tell me in the comments!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire