Reflections On Mentoring: Part 2

An Old School Apprenticeship

I often reflect back on what I call my “old-school apprenticeship” with Kathy. For over a decade I took weekly lessons that lasted anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours. When I could, I went twice a week. There was nothing formal about my apprenticeship; it evolved organically. In fact, we never talked about it. On the days I would go to Kathy’s studio, I would keep the whole morning free from other obligations. It was expected that lessons did not end until she said you were done. I would then simply stay to do little things for her around the studio until I had to head uptown to teach at my own studio in the afternoon.

I ran errands and brought her lunch from the corner diner (split pea soup was generally first choice with bread-butter on the side). I laundered and folded hundreds of studio towels. I watched her teach, held people in place, and checked them for faulty alignment when she asked me too. Occasionally I answered the phone; she would instruct me to tell the person that she was not there and to leave a message—Kathy was always there. My apprenticeship went beyond the studio. Some of my fondest memories are accompanying Kathy to the dance performances of her students, who she affectionately referred to as “her kids”. She never missed a performance and often went twice. Kathy was immensely proud of all her kids. She would watch them move on stage and later explain how far they had come in her studio.

Rethinking Mentorship

The privilege of being under the tutelage of master teachers who pass on their knowledge so that the next generation can carry the torch will always be highly regarded in this industry. That is how Joe taught our teachers and how our teachers in turn taught us and so forth. And the beat goes on—this is our shared legacy after all.

But what if you don’t have easy access to a Pilates Elder or master teacher? Let’s face it, there are only a handful of Elders; not nearly enough to go around. For many of us our location on the globe does not bring us near enough to a master teacher for regular refueling, except for the much-awaited workshop once or twice a year that becomes our lifeline. So how do we fill up our teacher fuel tanks? Where do we get our mojo for teaching a 20 or 30 hour week? What I’ve come to realize over the years is that mentoring has many forms. Let’s consider two ways to keep the spark alive in our teaching by finding inspiration closer to home.

Look around you

Peer-to-peer mentoring can be very empowering and an important step in building a supportive community of professionals where you live. Take lessons from the people teaching alongside you or others who live in your area. Some of my favorite sessions have been taught to me by my teacher friends. I have found it a mutually beneficial experience. Not only is it a great opportunity to have a pair of eyes on you, not to mention those hands-on corrections that our bodies crave, but it can be an excellent way to explore, try out new stuff and share ideas.

Look around you

It is with the curiosity of a learner’s mind that we seek out more knowledge. Our humility, when faced with all that we have yet to learn, transforms us from being just good teachers to becoming great teachers. Kathy Grant is an inspiration to us all because she never stopped learning and remained open to different perspectives and new information her whole life.

By providing guidance and wisdom, mentors direct us along the journey of our lives, and those lessons stay with us. Seventeen years later, I am still evolving as a teacher and unpacking the lessons learned along the way. Not a day goes by that my teaching, in some form or another, is not informed by the incredible knowledge that has been passed along to me by my mentors.

There is always more to learn from each other. More to consider. More to sink your teeth into. Have you thanked your mentor(s) today? If you don’t have one, isn’t it high time you went out and found one? Just saying....

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