Thursday, January 17, 2013

W03.04 Do I Teach At Home Or In A Professional Studio?

Dristoll Thenwei (pronounced Tenway) is passionate. Her website is full of the most amazing claims about what the Khan Method will do for your life: it will fix your problems, improve your skills and revolutionize your life in ways you can not even imagine. It’s all a little surprising - who’s Khan? If the Khan Method is everything Dristoll claims it is, how come I never heard of it?

So I go check out the Lessons section and discover Dristroll teaches at what looks like a home address - I am not sure because there is no photo of her studio. But it is in the suburbs, 10 minutes walk from a station that I had not heard of before…

Would you go to her lesson?

In one sense, the consumer thinks more holistically about the Alexander Technique than you do. They judge Alexander Technique by their overall impression of you: your website, your studio, the kind of clothes you are wearing, how you speak, your studio atmosphere if they even get that far, which most won’t. It usually has very little to do with what you, the teacher, think is important.

When you are inviting people to your studio - it is an incredibly intimate thing. All kinds of fears and worries are passing through a person’s mind. For some people to even consider walking into the home studio of a stranger is a daring and courageous act. It is your job to make this decision easy. Here’s how you do that.

From the start, you want them to feel at home. This is another compelling reason for the niche approach. At the moment, BodyChance is considering opening a studio in the ballet niche. As we plan, we know the studio needs bars, big mirrors - all the signs that telegraph an atmosphere that assures them they are in the right place. How well is your studio doing that?

Of course there are obvious things like being clean and tidy - let’s assume that. But beyond that - what kind of pictures do your show? Have you got a spacious, easy-going space that suggests the kind of work you will be doing? How is it lighting? Neon? Indirect? Is it bright or dark? All these factors matter, which I think most of you know.

In thinking whether to teach at a home studio (or even slightly separated from your home) rather than a more conventional “business” studio in a shopping centre - just think how you would feel doing the same thing? Imagine you are exploring the Khan method with Dristoll Thenwei, a person you never heard of before. If Dristoll held her first lesson in your current or proposed studio, would you feel comfortable going there? Would your mother?

Safety & Comfort
This is an extension of atmosphere, but safety comes from many aspects. A recent visitor to BodyChance, a University Professor who had thoughtfully read much about the work, was watching a class through the glass wall in our studio. She turned to her good friend beside her, who also happened to be BodyChance staff, and confided: “I wouldn’t go to that class - it’s not me.” Her decision to learn with us was not based on anything that most Alexander Technique assume people are thinking about! She has nothing but praise for Alexander’s ideas, she simply wasn’t comfortable learning with a bunch of young people. Are people comfortable learning from you?

Walter Carrington was a master of making you feel that you were the only person in all the world that he cared about right then. The way he created a sense of safety and caring was extraordinary. It was not the luck of his personality - it was part of his teaching principle. In Walter’s writings you will often find him referencing Alexander’s concept of “unduly excited fear reflexes” People do not learn well in constant fear: how well have you considered factors like this in the experience of your new students?

It is the simple things that calm or agitate a person. One visitor told us “I didn’t want to sit on the floor.” We have a shoes off policy (acceptable in Japan) coupled a gas-heated wooden floor. However, this person was not ready for such informalities. The reason a person may not come for your lesson can be as simple as “I had to take my shoes off.” or “The studio was too cold.” It’s the simple things that count.

When BodyChance moved from our studio in Meijiro to Meguro, we lost a full-time student on our Teacher Education course. I was amazed, but for this person the idea of adding an extra hour of travel every day defeated his ambition to know more about the work. We have never seen him again. Some of you made much greater sacrifices to become teachers, but don’t expect that your students share that passion. They don’t.

I know for some teachers this is next to incomprehensible, but it is a fact. Of course cracking the convenience issue is only possible when you know who wish your students to be. It can be that your location is the thing that dictates your niche - there are no rules here.

So location includes all these elements - there is no secret recipe that I know, but one way to research it is to examine the very successful service industry players in the fitness, human potentiality and health industries and look at what they are doing…

You may be better off in the beginning hitching a ride with them. It all depends on who you want to attract…

TOMORROW: Jennifer Mackerras put through the hoops of my 12 Step Plan For Financial Success As A Teacher Of Alexander Technique.
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