How to Find a Teaching Space for ATM Classes
Thursday, February 18, 2016
by: MaryBeth D. Smith, MM, GCFP

Section: Professional Develpment





Think for a moment about your experiences in Awareness Through Movement® classes. You might remember the setting for the class as much as you remember the content. Adverse conditions, like traffic, parking, or temperature might have negatively affected your opinion. Positive conditions, like a beautiful view, spotless restrooms, and comfy mats, might have weighed favorably. As an ATM® teacher, you will have occasion to find a space for a new class, or relocate an ongoing class. Here are some tips for finding the best location for you and your students.

HOW TO FIND A LOCATION
Where will you teach? In my experience, it is almost always better to start with your personal connections, even if it is through a friend-of-a-friend. Look to your current relationships and to your local area. Your church, synagogue, library, community center, art gallery, gym, yoga, Pilates, or dance studio are potentially good venues. Have a conversation with the spaces’ facilities manager or scheduler to find out their process for class approval and scheduling.  Your friends are your next line of approach. Ask them: “Where do YOU go for _______?” Ask for an introduction to their contact and you are on your way.

Your last resort is simply to walk in someplace, as a “cold call;” sometimes those interactions turn out well. That little yoga studio down the street could be great! Follow your instincts, go in, and find out.

HOW TO EVALUATE A SPACE
No space is perfect. Keep your options open by looking for a “good enough” space. Functionality, aesthetics, and intangible qualities can form a magical or disastrous recipe. When you look at prospective spaces, put yourself in your future student's shoes – or on their mats. What do you imagine the future experience of a student will be in this room? Is the space conducive to a good learning experience? Here's a starter checklist of considerations. You might be able to get some of this information over the phone, but definitely have a look in person before you make any commitments.
  • Size: big enough. What is the square footage of the usable floor space? Take a tape measure with you. A good “rule of thumb” is 30 sq. ft. per student. In other words, if you plan on 10 students, you need a room that has a minimum of 300 sq. ft. of usable floor space.*
  • The floor: clean. Carpeted or not, the most important thing about the floor is that it must be clean, and it must LOOK CLEAN. Seriously. Other conditions may also make a floor undesirable, such as a rough texture, unevenness, or worn places where a barefoot student might get a splinter.  If in doubt, lie down on the floor and find out for yourself. Have a look at the ceiling while you're down there. Your students will spend a good bit of time looking at it. It doesn't have to be beautiful, but obvious signs of staining, water damage, or mystery gunk are a turn-off for your students.
  • Light: let there be. What is the source? Is the room bright enough to be safe and allow you to see what is going on, but soft enough to put people at ease? Is the lighting adjustable to more gradations than just “ON” and “OFF?” Can any challenges be resolved in an inexpensive and functional way?
  • Climate control and ventilation: too hot, too cold, or just right? Where are the thermostats? Are fans or space heaters available? Weird  smell? Breezy, or still and stuffy? Make sure that the space is comfortable – or figure out how you and the venue can make it so.
  • Sound and acoustics: what? Is the room quiet? Can your voice be heard throughout the room while speaking in a moderate tone of voice and not yelling? If not, see if a sound system is available. What else is scheduled in the facility during your class? For example, if “Introduction to Snare Drumming” meets in the room next door at the same time, that might not be such a great setting.  
  • Amenities: yes, please. Does the venue provide mats and/or blankets? Chairs for seated lessons? Are restrooms available, accessible, and clean? Lamps, fans, space heaters, and a sound system are other niceties that will support your teaching and make the room more comfortable for your students. 

If the venue does not provide mats, you have two options: make sure your students know to bring their own mats OR purchase mats yourself for use by your classes. Do the best you can with what you have.
  • Financial arrangements: Look for ease in the money department. How much you charge for the class will depend upon many variables.
    • What is the going rate for yoga, dance, or Pilates classes near you? Does the studio have a standard price for all of their classes?
    • What are your costs?
      • Rent: set amount each month, revenue split based on percentage of the gross, or other arrangement? Negotiate.
      • Hidden costs: build them in. Consider your transportation, child care, set up and preparation time, and any other expenses you incur to teach the class.
    • What do you need to earn to make the class worth your time? Don't take on an obligation where you will lose money.
    • Who handles the money? Do students pay you directly, and then you pay the venue, or do the students pay the venue, and then the venue pays you? Things can work just fine either way. Make sure that you and the venue have a clear understanding about payments, when you will be paid (weekly, monthly, end-of-semester?), and required reporting.
  • Other factors: these are the intangible elements that you might not realize are important until you see the space and meet the people involved. What's the overall “vibe?” Do you like, trust, and feel comfortable with the owner? Does the owner return phone calls and emails, make it easy for you to schedule your class, and treat you well? Is the studio on the other side of town, and your class scheduled at the height of rush hour? Also consider parking availability, and access to public transportation. What about the aesthetics? If a room without windows makes you feel claustrophobic, or if the color of the room crushes your soul, you won't be happy teaching there.  Finally, notice if you have a predominant feeling, good or bad, about the place. While you may not want to base your decision solely on something intangible or emotional, take your feelings into account.

HOW TO DISCOVER YOUR PRIORITIES
That is a lot to think about! Happily, teaching ATM classes only requires you to find a venue that is “good enough.” Every venue has its quirks. Decide whether those quirks are charming or deal-breakers for you. Some people have an inner knowing feeling about these things, an ability to go with their gut or trust a hunch about a place. Other people are more comfortable with a spreadsheet. If you are looking at several venues, they really will all blend together if you don't keep some notes. Prioritize the criteria that matter most to you, and then find a place that is functional for your needs, and for your students.  Print out the worksheet provided here, or make your own.

GO GET 'EM
When you have found a venue and made all the arrangements, you've created a space for learning. Promoting your class and getting bodies on the floor – stay tuned!


VENUE INFORMATION WORKSHEET
(download worksheet)

 
Name of Venue
Address
Contact person
Their phone
Their email
Preferred means of contact:
Location:
Size:
Floor Quality:
Ceiling Quality:
Light:
Climate Control:
Sound/Acoustics:
Amenities: what is provided, what is needed?
Rent/Terms:
Schedule availability:
People factors:
Intangibles:
Other Notes:
Initial contact date:
Folow up date/Next steps:
 
 
MaryBeth Smith, GCFP, MM, improves human performance, helping people to navigate the world of intention, action, and achievement. She holds degrees in music from the University of Illinois and the University of Texas, San Antonio. She is the Director of the Feldenkrais® Center of Houston, and is a nationally recognized authority on the improvement of human potential and performance. http://houstonfeldenkrais.com/
ATM image ©2007, Rosalie O'Connor.
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Comments (2)
Fariya
3/21/2016 6:23:24 PM
Thank you MaryBeth! These are all great tips. I wish I had this spreadsheet when I started teaching!


Gillian Franks
2/20/2016 8:55:15 AM
Thanks so much for this useful tool. I'm putting it into an spreadsheet so I can put in past and future ones for comparison


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