He Said / She Said: Interpreting Con.Ed.
Completely confused, she raised her hand asking which one was right … what this teacher was saying or the completely contradictory thing that another teacher said just yesterday?
It’s confusing, yeah? To go to a conference … sit through a bunch of classes, panels, and workshops and hear varying “truths” taught to you by leading experts in the same field. Who is correct? Which version of truth do you bring back to your practice? Who is wrong? WTF!?
I found myself sitting in a friend’s workshop at the Pilates Method Alliance Conference, and a woman (who I’d seen the day before in another workshop) raised her hand to ask which version of spinal flexion was correct? The way my friend was explaining how to, or the way another teacher had proposed the day before? My friend had not attended that other workshop and the woman with a raised hand did not mention what she’d learned the day before, and so the question was answered within the context of my friend’s presented material. The woman looked completely lost. I sat there thinking how confusing it must be for many attendees (especially new instructors) to go to these conferences and learn a spectrum of TRUTH without congruency.
Here’s the deal as I see it -
At these conferences each presenter gets a small amount of time to present what is undoubtedly their life’s work in short, or at least a portion of it. So, each session is a window into a specific part of their personal method - what that teacher has learned / found interesting / applied / researched / taught / and valued repeatedly. Which is different than what the next teacher has learned / found interesting / applied and so on. Which is very different from absolute universal fact. Each session is an opportunity to hear a different voice. Sometimes those voices support what you (and others) believe as reality and sometimes they rub up against those beliefs, and both are valuable.
Here are some things to consider when attending continuing education experiences so that presentations become less of a hand-to-god gospel moment, and more of an opportunity for you (the attendee) to discern what is valuable to you and your work, and where to go next with your curiosity:
Understand that each presentation is a snippet of that presenter’s practice and narrative. They are showcasing a concept / idea / thought / viewpoint / etc., and NOT the totality of their work as explored individually with each and every body they come into contact. For example, in the scenario above sometimes it’s prudent to keep still and not articulate the whole spine into flexion … and sometimes there’s immense value in practicing continuity of spinal motion in the way other animals most frequently move their spines. Neither is right because neither is wrong. For me having the ability to mindfully do either is the bulls-eye.
Listen for key words. Anytime something is taught as absolute truth and case closed, my bullshit meter goes off. Same when I hear “this” will work for everyone, or no one. Likewise opinions and anecdotal things that someone somewhere said call for scrutiny and further exploration. Tune in on how presenters arrived at the understandings they are presenting as much as what they are presenting. Then ask questions! “For what” is a great one. I’d do this thing (exercise / cue / process) … for what? (#ResearchTime)
When a presentation is evidence based and you hear that _____ WILL absolutely cause harm … get curious. Will it though? According to which case study? From what decade? Ask more questions. Where did you find that research? Is there more on that topic? Look up a book on the subject. Use PubMed as a reference. Use Google Scholar as a reference. Shit, plain ol’ Google that “fact.” Don’t adopt a truth just because someone says something smart sounding. (I sat through a bunch of fancy stuff that I know is outdated research …. like a bunch!)
Use your time at a conference like you would a buffet. Try a little bit of everything so you know what you want more of next time. Trust your gut, friends.
Go home and play with it all! Try all the new things on for size. Do and teach that proverbial spinal flexion all the ways you heard it presented last weekend. Ask questions! Ask yourself how it feels to do it different ways? Which version/s fit well into your method? (What you’ve learned / found interesting / applied / researched / taught / and valued repeatedly.) What do your students have to say about it? What do they feel and notice and find important about it? Start a conversation with other teachers around it. Play with it in all sorts of ways. Investigate. Explore. Again, get curious … it’s literally your job.
Whether IT was something researched, archival, inspirational, or creative let it inform you rather than stunt you. Be the gatekeeper of your own truth while maintaining the humility and curiosity it takes to challenge yourself when you KNOW you are right. Be willing to listen to all the voices while still holding on to your own steering wheel. Get critical about opinions … especially your own. Don’t trust research that proves your point until you’ve read the stuff that disputes it. Then consider it all over again. One last time, please, get curious about YOUR work.
But above all else and when lost, trust Elizabeth Larkam … she’s probably not wrong.
Just sayin’. (Love you, Elizabeth!)
by James Crader