To pivot

In the world of technology start-ups to pivot refers to the process of shifting your business strategy when things are not working out the way you’d hoped, either because your initial plans don’t pan out or because that which had been a success isn’t any longer. 

Earlier this year, shelter in place orders and governmental lockdowns required fellow Feldenkrais® teachers and trainers to pivot. Like so many others whose professional lives had been conducted in-person, we found ourselves asking ourselves: 

How do I offer my services in a suddenly changed world? 

The coronavirus pandemic disrupted — just between us, that’s another one of those fashionable terms I’m getting tired of — our work by imposing constraints few of us had contemplated and far fewer would ever choose. Needless to say, the conditions weren’t up for consideration. The question was, “How do we bring our work online?

Some of us have been exploring the possibilities for years already. It wasn’t easy. No one had done it before, so there was no roadmap to follow, and the idea, to be kind, received a less than encouraging response. More often than not, folks were somewhere between puzzled and annoyed. Both students and fellow teachers told me that they just didn’t see how our “high touch” approach could work in this high tech way. 

I have to confess. These reactions confused me. 

You see, I started giving my mom Awareness Through Movement® lessons over the phone decades ago. Mom was a Feldyfan from the get-go. She liked doing ATM® classes and knew she needed them but didn’t want to trudge across town to attend them. So our over-the-phone line lesson, back in the day when telephones had cords attached to the walls, was a way for me to pay her back for helping out with my training tuition. When I started teaching online, some ten or so years ago, I was struck by how much more is possible when we have a two-way video connection. 

The nay-sayers made me curious, so I’d reply, “Really?” 

My interest piqued, I’d follow up a moment later by asking, “What do you mean?

You know what? 

It didn’t take long. Almost every time, it came down to the same thing. Everyone asked, in one way or another: 

How does hands-on work happen on the web?

Now there are two ways to understand this question. 

First:

How does a hands-on lesson happen when you can’t touch someone?

And, second:

How do you teach someone to give a hands-on lesson online?

While both questions are crucial, I’m going to tackle the first question, the one about how individual learning can happen online, another time. Promise!

For the moment, let’s take on the professional training angle. Can someone learn to give a hands-on Functional Integration® lesson over the web? 

Speaking from my recent experience leading remote Feldenkrais teacher training segments in Australia, France, and the US and teaching in online postgraduate programs, I say the answer is, “YES, absolutely.”

To be clear, I am talking about teaching someone who has already learned the basics to become a better Functional Integrator. Starting from scratch with someone who doesn’t know the essentials — how to make skeletal contact, to track kinesthetically, substitute effort, etc. — is not the aim. On the other hand, someone who has already benefited from personal guidance in the fundamental tactics and techniques of Moshe’s method can make progress through online learning

To be sure, this requires reconsidering how we understand the skills — the pedagogical reasoning, hands-on sensitivity, perceptual acuity, and self-use — the teacher needs and reinventing how we develop them. While distance learning certainly changes the limitations under which we operate, who better to understand how to benefit from constraints than Feldenkrais teachers? (-;

Curious about how this works in action? 

Here’s a chance to find out how Feldenkrais training pivots in today’s online world . . .

We had hoped to offer the upcoming ARTIFICIAL FLOOR master class — an advanced course for Feldenkrais teachers and trainees scheduled at the beautiful Vienna Feldenkrais Institut — as a mixed-format course. The idea was to beam me in, from Mind in Motion’s international headquarters in Santa Cruz, CA, to the folks participating at the institute and, thanks to the miracle of Zoom, to everyone participating from afar. That meant participants could attend in Vienna or could take part from home. 

The FI® lesson the participants would be learning was perfect because it doesn’t require direct contact. Using a board or book to work through the student’s feet, the teacher maintains distance while simultaneously creating a deep sense of connection, which happens to be perfect for these strange, socially-distanced times. This lesson evokes a newfound feeling for standing and an easy, efficient, enjoyable way of walking by tapping into the foot’s neurophysical influence on the entire body.

However, it wasn’t meant to be. 

If you’ve been following the news, you know what I mean. The dreaded second wave of the pandemic has arrived, spawning a recent spate of shutdowns around the world, including in Austria. When we heard that meeting in person would no longer be an option, the Institute’s faculty and I got together to figure out an ALL ONLINE format for the course.

We have pivoted to offering THE ARTIFICIAL FLOOR in two phases; the first phase meeting, as planned, next Thursday (Thanksgiving in the US) through the following Monday :

THE ARTIFICIAL FLOOR
Phase One - Learning the Score

  • Thursday to Sunday, 26 November to 29 November 2020
    3:00 to 7:00 PM in Europe
    9:00 AM to 1:00 PM on the east coast of the US
    6:00 to 10:00 AM on the west coast of the US

  • Monday, 30 November 2020
    3:00 to 6:00 PM in Europe
    9:00 AM to noon EST
    6:00 to 9:00 AM PST

The second phase will meet at the beginning of next year after the participants have had a chance to review the recordings and to apply what they’ve learned.

THE ARTIFICIAL FLOOR
Phase Two - Reviewing and Refining

  • Saturday, 9 January 2021
    3:00 to 7:00 PM in Europe
    9:00 AM to 1:00 PM EST
    6:00 to 10:00 AM PST

  • Sunday, 10 January 2021
    3:00 to 6:00 PM in Europe
    9:00 AM to noon EST
    6:00 to 9:00 AM PST

 

Both phases are included in the course tuition, as is access to the recordings of both phases, including the audio files of the specially designed ATM® lessons and the videos of the hands-on demonstrations, deconstructions, debriefs, and discussions. 

Please note that this is a course about working hands-on. Participants need to have someone to practice with each day of the course at 4:30 PM  in Europe (10:30 AM EST and 7:30 AM PST) during both the first and second phases. To participate, you will also need a Feldenkrais table and stool, a board, pads for the student’s head, and a couple of rollers, a padded one for behind the knees and firmer, smaller one for behind the ankles. (While this lesson can be given on the floor, it is so much easier for the teacher — and, therefore, better for the student — when the student is lying supine on a table.)

There is still room in this course. 

You’ll find more information about the course at the Institute’s website. If you have questions or if you would like to enroll, you can email the Institute by clicking here or call them at +43 699 1133 1043.

If it doesn’t work out for you to participate in THE ARTIFICIAL FLOOR next week, fear not. I will be teaching the course live at the end of April 2022 in Munich.


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Responses

  1. Dear Larry, thank you for these explanations. I'm sorry I won't be able to take part. I live allone and don't see anyone, no one ever comes to my appartment during the lockdown.
    I had wondered if it would possibly make sense just to watch -
    Besides, I have been sick lately, - no virus, the test result expresses - and am extremely tired and don't know if I would make but parts of your interesting online course. I will see how I feel until very close to next Thursday and talk with Sascha about this - . So, maybe I won't even see you teach on the screen, this time.
    I hope you are feeling better gradually, and wish you all the best.
    With much love, Sibyl.

    1. Dearest Sybil -
      Thank you for taking the time to respond to my blog. I hope you are feeling better.
      I am feeling better, but only gradually. That's a report, not a complaint.
      I apologize for taking so long to reply. Figuring out how to teach this course under ever-changing conditions took all I had, as did teaching. I've recuperated and now I'm catching up.
      In the meantime, we've made available the recordings of a five-day training segment about the artificial floor. They're available on a pay-what-you-choose basis until the end of this year. My sincere aim is to make the recordings available, for you and others to be able to learn from the material and use; for it to spark conversation, foster reflections, and support the ongoing development of our community of our learners. Click here for more info.
      Love & gratitude,
      Larry

  2. Hi Larry-
    I always enjoy following the stream of your consciousness in your blogs. I have been thinking about this opportunity to learn with you. How much time is expected from the student on each of the days? Would it matter if the student sleeps through much of the lesson? Thank you for the additional information. Sherry

    1. Hello Sherry -
      Thank you. It's always good to know someone is reading my posts, let alone enjoying them. (-'
      Good question -- about sleeping during a lesson and whether it matters -- and one that doesn't have an easy one-size-fits-all answer other than that all too well known, but unhelpful, incomplete sentence: "It depends."
      Instead of saying that I'll relay three short stories:
      1) Over the years, I've certainly met students who sleep during ATM classes. My response varied according to the situation. For some folks, the rest seems welcome, and, perhaps, the most beneficial use of the time. I usually find a gentle way to let them know that there are less expensive ways of taking a nap.
      2)When they were both in Tel Aviv, the founder of our method would get a Functional Integration lesson from Gaby Yaron every Tuesday. According to Gaby, he fell asleep every time.
      3) During the second year of the Amherst training, I often fell asleep after lunch. I felt guilty and feared Moshe would notice and disapprove.
      So, one day after class, I gathered my courage, walked to the front of the class in that huge gym and I asked directly if he was upset by my napping.
      He responded by saying, "No." Then he continued, looking me directly in the eye, unblinking, say each word slowly, "You're unconscious is still in the room. Listening."

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