This amazing time we live in has created incredible opportunities for connecting with other movers and teachers all over the world. I’ve “met” people online who I may never see in person. I have learned a wealth of information, engaging in both certified courses and the outpouring of generous, free, accessible content available across the social media platforms throughout my movement community.
That’s the good.
But there is a shadow to that world, as well. There are many divisions within our communities based on, among other things:
- different forms of practice within the modalities
- us-and-them attitudes within and between the communities
- styles of teaching (of both clients and teachers) and learning (again, of both clients and teachers)
- an awareness that for many of us, this is our livelihood, which can lead to fear of failure
Community is great, unless the sheer size and scope of it is one of the things driving your fears! Community supports you, unless the number of amazing teachers out there makes you feel small or that there isn’t enough space for you. Community is terrific, but if you stay only in the places where everyone agrees with you, your silo may be stifling your adventurous self!
That might be the bad.
There are those who believe that we should integrate our movement into our daily lives and others who just want to go to a class and move on (no pun intended).
There are those who want to teach in small, intimate spaces and others who prefer to teach big classes and spread the word widely.
There have been passionate, contentious discussions about Club Pilates vs independent studio owners in the Pilates world. There are intense conversations about how to or whether to evolve yoga from its ancient beginnings into a modern day approach.
There are those who believe that their thing is better than all the other things.
Some of these discussions can get pretty heated as people fiercely defend their strongly held positions, and on occasion there are hurtful, dismissive, disrespectful exchanges.
That can be ugly! How much of that heat comes from those who are afraid?
I often hear from the teachers I work with that they are worried about their future. They are concerned that they won’t be able to make it in the movement world, and that what they are doing isn’t enough. They also express concern about the amount of time they spend on social media, keeping up with the responsibility to stay in front of their clients. And sometimes they are dismayed by the vitriol they see in some online spaces.
And so all that begs the question…
When I get onto Facebook, I love some of the conversations and I avoid others. I believe that we can learn from one another and that respect for one’s colleagues is critical in this practice.
We can learn from each other, we can discuss and disagree without demonising or ridiculing those who choose a different path. To do that, I believe we need to lessen our fear of “the other”. We can abandon our fear of being wrong or being less than someone else. Let’s release our fear that someone else is going to get all the attention, the clients, the teaching gigs or the money. And I believe we do that by engaging in our community! But maybe with a little care and attention to how we’re doing it…
How do you balance your time between the online community and your real-people face time?
For many of us in our busy lives, the bulk of our time is spent online. There is some INCREDIBLE value in the online world! There is also the potential to get pulled into conflict (anyone else have to be careful not to fall down that negative energy rabbit hole??), to judge ourselves harshly (hello, Instagram, I’m looking at you!) and to reject new ideas because they are presented in tiny, social media snippets.
Be judicious in how you spend that time! Find sources of information that support you in feeling good about yourself AND that encourage open-minded, challenging, educational sharing of work. Give yourself permission to TURN IT OFF when it gets overwhelming!
Find some actual people you like to hang out with. I know we are all super-texters these days, but when you can’t get together in person try an actual phone call! I have stellar people in my network that I can bounce ideas off of, double check when I’m in doubt or just squeak with excitement when I find something new or have a terrific session with a client.
I was recently a guest on The Thinking Pilates Podcast with Chantill Lopez for a movement teacher community debrief. We talked about a lot of things and shared a lot of laughs and giggles. Also there was some swearing. That was me. Of course. : ))
One of the things we talked about was how do you make your mark and build a following when there are SO MANY OTHER TEACHERS??? How do you maintain your confidence when you see other people teaching amazing things? How do you hold true to your values and your convictions when you have 4 people in your class and you see studios that fill classes with 50 students?
When we share our questions and our concerns we realise we aren’t alone. There is real comfort in knowing that lots of other teachers struggle with the same issues. I’ve been teaching for years and I have a dedicated following of clients. And sometimes I have 3 people in a class. I look at other teachers with full to the brim classes and I question myself! And then the next class or the next week or the next month is so full we have to turn people away.
Cycles are an unavoidable element of teaching. Clients get busy, they try other things, the weather sucks… there are lots of reasons for the ebb and flow of students. Some of them are practical and manageable, sometimes it’s just the whim of the universe. Be patient. Reach out to your community and you will hear it from others. Take a breath, relax and trust yourself.
Focus on teaching from your authentic self, believe in what you teach and why you teach it. Engage with your community from a place of trust and respect, setting aside fear and resentment. It’s hard to build a healthy practice if you are busy trying to push other teachers away or limit their success, even in your imagination!
Does that guarantee you a full roster and a million followers on facebook? Umm… no. It doesn’t. Sorry…
What it does do, though, is return you to peace of mind and enthusiasm for what you teach. Spend some time being honest with yourself.
Scary? Sure, sometimes. Worthwhile? Always!
Here are some questions to ask:
What does abundance mean to me?
What do I need to be fulfilled?
How can I relax into confidence that I am enough?
How comfortable am I with charging my fees?
Do my “wants” and my “needs” line up?
Fear and abundance are kind of the opposite sides of the same coin, aren’t they? When we let our fears overtake us, it’s hard to believe in abundance! And being part of a huge community of teachers can both feed that fear and be a source of easing it!
Parker J. Palmer says that teaching happens at the intersection of the personal and the public. tWe stand at the front of the class and share our knowledge and understanding of our subject. We make ourselves vulnerable to judgement and that is a risk, isn’t it? Sometimes the judgement is positive. Your students applaud at the end of class and come up with questions and smiles. Sometimes you look out and it’s silence…crickets… and nobody seems to be interested in what you’re saying. Ouch. That is scary! And if you are presenting your content online, it can be even scarier because the audience is so much larger. And it includes not only your clients, but your peers!
Who knows those feeling and can commiserate or celebrate with you? Your community! Only your fellow teachers can really get it, that rush of excitement when it all clicks or the dismay when you feel that you missed the mark.
What if you are having a crisis of confidence actually driven by what you see in the greater community?
There are a lot of incredible teachers out there in the world, and we can see what everyone is up to all the time. How many followers they have, how many comments, that fantastic video showing an exercise you thought you created yourself… Reach out to your personal circle for support. That’s your community too! You are not alone and even the most successful people have their own insecurities and moments of darkness. Check in with your clients, your students, your friends and other teachers. Ask for some feedback and you are likely to find that your clients adore you, your colleagues respect you and your friends will feed your spirit.
Fear is not a bad thing.
Acknowledging it can drive us to learn more, to be better teachers and expand the boundaries of our knowledge and understanding. Those are really good things! It’s when fear makes us pull into ourselves and be rigid in our views that it’s a problem. When we are resistant to the “other”, whether that’s a difficult client or a colleague or a different idea, then fear has become an issue.
What is a brain silo?
When we believe that what we know is the ONLY thing or the RIGHT thing, and that everything else is lacking, or suspect, we put ourselves in a brain silo. It’s hard to grow and develop, it’s impossible to learn from and respect our colleagues, when we barricade ourselves behind our rightness.
One of the things I love about the movement community these days is the ever-increasing belief that we can combine multiple modalities and betray none. I LOVE Trina Altman’s term; she refers to herself as a “multi-disciplinary movement educator”. Fantastic! Even those who identify as teaching one particular thing are experimenting with additional skills and nuances that increase their effectiveness at co-creating and collaborating with clients.
I believe this is where podcasts come into their own (I am late to the podcast world, so I realise everyone out there knows more than me!), where there is time to explore our conversations in depth and detail. I love finding the people who are actively encouraging us to get out of the silos and learn and share our knowledge with each other!
Chantill Lopez, James Crader and Deborah Kolwey co-host The Thinking Pilates Podcast. They are delving deep into the how’s and why’s of teaching in a way that honours and respects both individual teacher journeys and the community at large. I love the Circle of Trust (episode 37), a round table of teachers talking, sharing and showing why we learn so much when we are together!
In the teacher debrief episode, we talked about how the Pilates world is evolving, about how primal movement (really not the same thing as a choreographed Pilates class!) is a critical complement to exercise. We got away from the silo of one “best” modality and shared our convictions about movement as a whole being the key to living and teaching a healthy practice.
Jared Cohen and Alexandra Ellis of Behind the Podium: Unveiling the Coach list the experience and specialties of their guests in the episode descriptions. Each one has a plethora of skills and abilities that they share with their clients, and I love that. It is the absolute anti-silo!
I have to admit it’s a bit off topic, but my current favourite of their episodes is actually not about community but about languaging for accuracy and clarity… because I am a word nerd!
Alexis and Jared say this: “…the key to learning and growth is continuing to ask better questions! … get answers to your current questions, spark new questions, and continue to refine your coaching and leading skills. The best coaches cannot do it alone.”.
I think that is the key. We cannot do it alone.
This is the WHY of community: we learn best by asking better questions of a large group of thinkers, movers and teachers. We get support and inspiration from our peers. By cross-pollinating our modalities and our thought processes, we stay out of the silos that codify our approaches beyond the ability to be curious and flexible. We best serve our clients and students when we can shine a light along whatever path is best for them!
When we look at the huge movement for movement, we can have faith in our own abilities. Remember that you bring something unique to your teaching that is different from everyone else! That is how there is space for everyone. When you teach from your heart, bringing your own style and passion to your classes and sessions, that is compelling. The clients will follow! Whenever you feel fearful or anxious, acknowledge it and use that energy to drive you forward instead of pulling into yourself. You’ve got this!
What do you love about your community? What about it fosters your fears and how do you resolve them? What are YOUR favourite podcasts, blogs and resources to expand your boundaries, refine your understanding and make yourself the best teacher you can be?