Teaching master classes

by: Boris Prilutsky

By Boris Prilutsky

For the last 20 years I’m teaching and practicing medical and sports massage in the United States. Of course, my old country is quite different culturally and that applies to massage therapy education as well. The differences were as follow:

1. The Soviet Union was a big country but it didn’t have so many massage schools.

2. All schools (better or worse) taught the same curriculum from the same textbooks.

3. All textbooks contained material developed through research.

4. From time to time these textbooks were updated, but these updates where approved by scientific committee and only after a few good years of successful clinical utilization and, of course, good clinical outcomes. Also, over there, there was a common awareness that anything “NEW” has to be substantiated, doesn’t necessarily mean better and has to be proven clinically.

5. In order to become an instructor, a student had to be heavily involved in clinical practice and, at the same time, to be involved in teaching and research. In addition a student had to be an instructor assistant for five years; working 12 hours a day, similar to residency work that medical doctors adhere. During this time he/she had to present at least 15 clinically difficult cases to peer review.

As you could see, for better or for worse, I grew up in a pretty restricted and established professional environment. Only lately, thanks to my involvement in social media, I started to understand the differences in my professional mentality. This understanding of differences makes it easier for me to become a more productive instructor. To me, being more productive means that after taking my classes students would be able deliver results to the best of their individual abilities.

What does it mean “master classes?”

Someone rightfully said about Mastery “It’s all in details,” in refinement. The difference between advanced seminars and master classes is that at the time of master classes I am sharing “fine” details from my clinical experiences but in a frame of established protocols.

At a time when I teach an advanced class I am sharing my knowledge and, of course, practical experiences but teaching classical protocols as it was proposed originally and after some time participants come back to me for a master class. At the time of advance classes, we spend a bit more time for theoretical explanations. During the master class most of the time we spend on the hands-on training and I am able to give individual advises. Both ways are acceptable, and apt to deliver results. Lately I decided to offer master classes only, because I have come to a conclusion that participants are ready to accept message in details and I am starting to better deliver “message that is in details.” In any case I don’t see any more need to spend extra money and time to take both advance and master class. By the way, on my instructional videos I present in both manners: advanced class and master class. At life seminar it isn’t possible to deliver both concurrently. Not less importantly, during life master class I am trying as much as possible to perform hands-on techniques on participants in order to let them feel what I am talking about when explaining the “sense of touch” concept.

Because each participant should be given more individual attention master class size should be no greater than 30 people. Only recently, I also realized that because of free and not restricted professional environment, American massage therapy society is divided in two types of professionals.

One group prefers free professional environment of practice and study. This group of people is more prone to memorizing material, having extra appetite to digest as many CE seminars as possible, gives much importance to titles, certificates and certifications and loves huge size classes. In addition to studying, this type of professionals sees CE classes as a great opportunity to socialize, gain connections and expand their professional network. There’s nothing wrong with that.

The second group is the type of people that do not care for big and noisy events, and feel comfortable at seminars where they are getting enough personal attention from an instructor in order to gain deeper understanding of the material and better hands-on skills. I saw very good hands-on performances from practitioners of both groups. As an instructor I can be good and productive when teaching both types of individuals. I will describe one incident as illustration.

I presented a post-event sports massage seminar in Los Angeles. The available room had a capacity for 20 students only. When seminar was advertised we mentioned that seats were limited and registrations will be on the “first come first served” basis. One young lady was waiting for the last-minute and missed her registration; all seats were taken.

She wrote me a very angry e-mail, recommending to grow up as an instructor and to be able to teach 70 people class like other advanced instructors do. Writing back to her I didn’t apologize for a refusal to teach 70 people class, but explained that the class limitation was dictated by the room capacity. I further explained that should I agree to teach 70 people class, students would have gotten less of my attention and my master class wouldn’t be successful; i.e. participants would get less of my individual attention than needed. Thirty people class size is acceptable size for a quality teaching, but not 70.

In February she attended my abdominal/visceral massage workshops. She is talented student and adopted the presented material very well. According to her last e-mail she promoted abdominal/visceral massage and has gotten many referrals from gastroenterologists and gynecologists.

I would have said that my mission was accomplished, if not for after workshop she told me that although all was good, because of small class size, the experience wasn’t exciting enough. I replied: “Young lady, CE seminars are not about excitements only but about preparation. After such workshop you should be able to provide hands-on therapy with results.” She obviously represents the first type of professionals.

I decided to write this commentary in order to let you know that I might not be a perfect choice for everyone. Familiarity with my philosophy and teaching methods might help you to make the right decision in choosing me as an instructor. Entering my classroom with the appropriate mind set will enable you to gather most from training and will help me to conduct master class in great energy environment, which is also necessary for productive class.

Looking forward to see you at my workshops.

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