I remember reading a story in Tai Chi magazine years ago titled â€œThe Death of a Classâ€. It was written by my friend Steve Doob. Steve taught tai chi in Grants Pass, OR at the community college there for years and years. Then one semester, the funding changed and the powers that be, cancelled his class. The college quit offering tai chi.
Steve found himself needing to offer the class on his own. He had to find a space, print posters, advertise and find students. He also found this was really hard, as he had gotten use to the college providing everything necessary to support his teaching.
In the early years of my teaching, I had both experiences of Community Centres providing the structure and students, as well as setting out on my own as an independent teacher, in search of students and places to hold class.
Both had benefits, both had draw backs.
Community colleges and centres offer a flat pay scale to the teacher no matter how many students do or donâ€™t show up and they handle the details. As an independent teacher, you get paid per student, but have expenses and need to spend a lot of time marketing to keep a class going.
When the Roughriders started to train, I had the best of both worlds. The marketing I had to do was focused on a small, and very dedicated group of students, who set the times and dates of class, while I provided the place, instruction, and asked for a fee. We worked together to provide an environment for some serious training.
This was the same when I was fortunate enough to teach seminars on the road as well.
Iâ€™m not sure when it was I quit having a â€œmailing listâ€ or quit promoting lessons. But I did. I found I was happy with all I had and found it was not necessary to market much. The dedicated group called the Roughriders was more than enough for me and together we worked the Yang Curriculum for years.
Of course some students would drop out and others would join in, but I never went looking for newbies. On the contrary, there were times I turned away students. Training needed a commitment and I was not offering a six week beginners course. I know I was spoiled, I had the best students in the world, and I loved it!
After taking dozens of students through the entire Yang curriculum, I took a sabbatical and wrote Todayâ€™s Step with Allyson. That sabbatical lasted longer than I thought it would. Slowly I returned to teaching and coaching, mostly, because the gang wanted to get together and play. It was great.
The students organized almost everything. They picked the dates, topics, and came together two or three times a year. All we had to do was show up and lessons unfolded.
I never marketed these gathering in the usual sense of the word. I did put out announcements and reminders. Word spread and as always some folks would drop out and others would join in. The weekends were always super fun.
Last winter, dates were set for the summer camp. There was some back and forth about holidays and this date was better than that date. And, in Roughrider fashion, we went with the dates that worked for the majority.
Last week, I sent out a reminder, as we are about three weeks away from the scheduled camp. I wanted to see what I could do to help folks with accommodations, etc.
Email after email – I received with regrets. I was told by one, and then another, and then another, and another, â€œI have to pass.â€
Here is a huge change. I cancelled Push Hands camp on Bowen Island this summer.
While there is a lot of interest, and â€œwish I could be there,” there isnâ€™t enough â€œI will be there.â€
I donâ€™t think of this as the death of a class in the same way Steve Doob did when his class was cancelled â€” Tai Chi will be around and around and around â€” still, this just feels odd.