Friday, May 19, 2017

At your convenience

So, I changed my schedule. Then I changed it again. I now teach only twice a week(!) and that gives me some time to pursue other things.

To be honest, it's a little weird. I have taught or taken a class on Thursday night for probably the better part of 20 or more years. But now the schedule is Tuesday and Wednesday, and I can't complain. It gives me energy to pursue some other things on Fridays that I would like to do. Not to mention I am no longer a zombie at the end of the week. But it does feel strange. I have yet to figure out what I should do on Thursdays. Maybe I will do something. Maybe I will just give myself permission to be tired. Not sure yet.

Of course, I let some of my absent students know that I would be changing the schedule. Hell, I even gave them two weeks' notice! Not everyone - I mean, people who had been absent for over a year, what responsibility did I have towards them? I changed the website at least. I think I did everything a responsible human is supposed to do. I let everyone know that they were more than welcome to join us at the new space.

And guess what? One person who has been absent for almost two years, showed up on a recent Thursday looking for me. Another guy (absent for about a year) wrote me a polite email more than month after the change, thanking me for teaching him, but noting that it's "not possible" for him to join me at the new location. Well dang.

I am sorry to lose these people. I liked them. They were nice. One even kept up his dues payments (sort of) even though he never showed his face. I appreciated that. And I told him so. But a dojo is not just a space where you pay rent (and pay dues). A dojo is made up of people. And an empty room (even one that's paid for) is just that - an empty room. An empty room that it took a long time for me to get home from.

When I was first training, we had okeiko all over town. For several years we were at this nice space in Chelsea. Then the building was sold, and we all - budoka, dancers, everyone - got kicked out and had to forage for a place to be. For awhile there, we had a phone tree (remember those? This really dates me) to inform everyone every week of where we were having okeiko. Over the Howard Johnson's in Times Square. Some 2nd floor space where our kendo keiko caused the roof tiles to rain down in the bodega below. Even an unfinished basement. Wherever. The important thing was to have okeiko.

While I was getting a complement of 4-5 people at the remote location, I was happy to be there. I didn't mind the longer schlep as long as there were people to teach and practice with (okay, there was that one night when it was 10 degrees out and the train shut down and I had forgotten my wallet and had to walk 20 blocks to the bus, but that was exceptional). But people's work schedules change. So did mine.

So I get an email that having to travel an additional 15-20 minutes on the train to come to okeiko is "not possible." I lived in an outer borough for years. I would come to okeiko and it would take two hours (sometimes more) to get home. It was the '90s, when a woman traveling by herself in the middle of the night put up with physical danger that most young women now thankfully don't have to think about. But I went. Because I valued what I was learning and the people I was learning it from.

Now, I am the first to admit that having over 30 years of experience does not put me on the same level as my original teacher, or the people I train with in Japan. But I am pretty sure it puts me in front of most of the people around HERE. And people I have taught tell me I do a pretty good job. I needed to teach in a place that was easier to get to, so I got one. If this is just an auxiliary practice that you were attending when you felt like it, then yeah, it's not convenient for you. But if it's important, I think the effort will be worth it.

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