Realizing Moshe's Avowed Dream
Friday, February 16, 2018
by: Lavinia Plonka, GCFP

Section: Professional Develpment





More than once, Moshe Feldenkrais expressed the dream that someday, Feldenkrais® classes would be broadcast all over the world. Of course, at that time, the Internet wasn’t even a concept. We now have the ability to realize that dream, albeit in a novel way, through teaching classes online.
 
There are probably as many ways of offering Feldenkrais online as there are ways to create an ATM® series or a workshop. Each approach really has to resonate with your personal style. There are currently many different formats people are using. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of them.

1. Simulcasting. While teaching a class at your studio, you can live stream for online participants.
Pros: a) You are capturing two audiences simultaneously.
          b) You are in the room with a live class, seeing how they respond 
               and adjusting accordingly.
          c) You can record the lesson for future sales.

 
Cons: a) You need to wear a mike as you teach in order to get good
               quality sound
          b) You need 
assistants:
              Someone to monitor your computer to assure the connection
     Ideally, another assistant on camera so that online participants
     can follow what you are doing and how the class is doing.
          c) You can’t really interact during the class with the online students
              unless your monitor informs you. This also causes an
              interruption in your live class.
          d) You need to organize registration, schedule, and payment.

2. Pre-recorded lessons
Pros: a) You can record at your leisure.
          b) You have quality control – if you make a mistake you can re-record.
          c) There is no need to schedule the class, people just download
              your classes anytime.
          d) You don’t have to worry about internet issues.
 
Cons: a) It’s not live, so you don’t have the relationship with students
               that a real-time event would have.


3. Live Scheduled classes with online participants
Pros: a) You have a regularly scheduled class
          b) You are looking at everyone (although they are quite small on
              the screen) so you can adjust your lesson according to what is
              taking place.
           c) You develop an online community
           d) You can record the session for future sales
 
Cons:  a) You have to spend time educating students on how to set up their room and connections.
            b) You have to be available to answer technical questions.
            c) You need to organize registration and payment.
            d) You have to prepare lessons that work for the registrants.
 
While each person needs to find what works for them, I will spend the rest of this article sharing my experience working with #3 – a live online class. For sure, this format is not for everyone, and I’m pretty sure that there are more clever ways to set this up, but this is how it has been working for me.
 
I started exploring this several years ago when online platforms were just beginning. It was a nightmare. People couldn’t log on, I couldn’t see them, no one could hear me. I was about to give up when Zoom appeared. I know that there are now several platforms that people can use, but for now, I’m a Zoom devotee.
 
About Zoom:

1. Your students can log on for free. If you keep your lessons short, you can also use Zoom for free. However, you will find that the Zoom professional account pays for itself over and over, not just in online classes, but online meetings and private sessions.

2. Once you have an account, you simply go to the Meetings section and set up your classes as Meetings. You send your registered students a link to the class. Day of the class, you log on and they join you.

But first - Your class

Timing
Choose a time that works for you. I chose 11 AM ET because it reaches people on both East and West Coast. It’s a bit challenging for the Europeans and totally impossible for the Asian/Pacific nations (although folks have tried.) You need to think about who your audience is and choose your time accordingly. I offer the class four weeks on, two weeks off (more or less).
 
Promotion
While it is true that if you build it they will come, you need to build it. I’ve been teaching online for almost three years, have a 4000 person mailing list, and I have a whole page on my website dedicated to online classes. In addition, I send out email newsletters and then reminders to people who have registered in the past. I still only get about a 12-16 people each segment. If you want this to be the road to big bucks, then you have to make an equal amount of investment of time, advertising, etc. A dozen people make me very happy because I’m still learning how to pay attention to that many postage sized people rolling around on my screen. I want to be able to actually be present in case someone is stuck, using the wrong leg, or going off on a somatic tangent that doesn’t serve their learning. Besides, the bottom half of me is in sweats and fuzzy slippers!
 
There are probably easier ways to make money, but it is so rewarding to have someone living without access to a teacher in their town thank me for this work, or for a practitioner to tell me this is the only time they can get down on the floor. It’s not just about the money.
 
Registration
I have a built-in shopping module on my website, Woo Commerce, which integrates Paypal and Stripe, a credit card service. You can start simply, by just using Paypal. Sometimes people have difficulty using their credit cards with Paypal, so you may sometimes have to walk people through it. Once I receive a notice that someone has registered, I send them a welcome email with Zoom instructions. I’m told there’s a way to automate all this, and if I increase my class size, I just might do that.
 
Preparing for the Class
A day before, I send all registrants a Zoom link. I taught classes for two years before I learned that you can set up your class as repeating and that the link is the same each week!
 
The email also asks those who will miss class to let me know, a reminder that I will be
on 10 minutes early for any issues, and my phone # in case there are problems. I make sure I have my lesson – either notes, or my plan ready. That extra 10 minutes is crucial for you as well. Sometimes the video won’t go on and you have to reboot. Or you’ll find that the link is corrupt and you have to re-send invites. Logging on 10 minutes early saves a lot of anxiety as class time nears. A glass of water is also good because you never know when your throat will go dry. When new people log on, we spend time organizing the mat and the camera so I can see as much as possible. Some people’s situation creates limited viewing possibility – so we do our best. One time I was teaching a lesson and noticed that one of my students was crammed into a tight spot. “Are you in a closet?” I asked. “My bathroom!” she replied. It turned out her husband was having a meeting in the living room. I was glad I hadn’t planned a rolling lesson for that day.
 
Teaching the Class
For best sound quality, I use my iPhone earbuds. I record each lesson, as well as having someone else record a backup, and have an editor clean the recording – removing mistakes, repetitions, corrections to individuals and my throat clearings – for a somewhat professional recording. I send everyone who has registered for the class a copy. That reduces the anxiety of missing class, creates goodwill and spreads the work. It also eliminates their need to fiddle with trying to record the lesson in real time, and they can just relax. Then I also have a copy to use – to share with students, to sell online if I think it’s general enough, or to save for my own learning. Yes, I pay the editor, but it’s worth it.  During the class, I always have my phone nearby, ready to log into Zoom in case the internet fails while teaching. It’s only happened a couple of times, but it does happen! I tell students that if there is ever a question or a lack of clarity, simply raise your hand. I then unmute them so they can ask their question. Sometimes, people need a bit of visual help. Zoom has a function called Spotlight where I can click on one person so the others can watch. I only use this if we are doing some kind of complicated rolling and a large portion of the class is totally befuddled, but it’s a great help.
 
After the class
I stop the recording, unmute everyone, and the group has time to comment, ask questions and connect. As a result, an online community of friends has developed – an unexpected boon.
 
My Takeaways
While there is no substitute for being in the room with your students, there is something so sweet about teaching a class and watching people’s pets try to decide what to do about their masters lying on the floor. Watching tiny squares of people rolling around has honed my observation skills. You’re actually able to see “the whole picture” of someone’s movement in a different way than when you’re looking at life-size beings. At the same time, it’s quite challenging to extrapolate what’s happening on someone’s “other side” since you only see what the camera presents. As students have gotten to know each other, albeit virtually, we have also learned from each other. The conversations at the end of class, never longer than 10 minutes, have offered insights, new ways of looking at a lesson, and many suggestions for expanding how I look at a lesson. I hope that as people become more comfortable with this technology, we become able to share this powerful work with people all over the world. In the last year, I’ve taught my online class from NYC, FL, and Spain. As long as I have a wifi connection, I can keep the schedule with my students. You can’t beat that!
 
Anyone can join Lavinia’s classes: www.feldenkraisonline.com


For over twenty years, Lavinia has relished her mission of changing the world, "one Feldenkrais lesson at a time." Like the Queen of Hearts, she tries to believe in six impossible things every morning before breakfast. From there it will certainly become possible. 
www.laviniaplonka.com
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