Pilates -The Path to a Profession
by Laurette Ryan
I feel that teaching the Pilates method whether contemporary or classical is a worthy and noble profession. I have been in many social settings, where, when asked what I did for work, felt I had to explain a whole lot, rather than just say-Pilates teacher. The reason I imagine is that most people outside of the fitness or mind body modalities (though even sometimes these people as well) will not understand or will supremely underestimate the work I do, every day.
I recently attended the teacher training summit held by the Pilates Method Alliance in Dallas, Texas. This summit was held to address the future path of the Pilates community as it pertained to “certification”. The speakers were very knowledgeable and clearly defined the options the Pilates community are facing. I was happy that the information was presented in a distinctly unbiased fashion. There were many representatives from all over the country and some international training programs present. Everyone was treated equally. Large mega-training companies and small studio based programs were all cordially listened to. I have heard , but not personally experienced that in the past the PMA was difficult to deal with. I am happy to report that I believe this is definitely a past issue and the PMA has worked hard to correct these perceptions. This PMA is focused on it’s members and the future of Pilates for teachers as well as the general public.
One theme I kept noticing was that the focus is truly on the future, working towards positive and beneficial outcomes and is not at all fear-based. In line with this, the new mission statement of the PMA is: “The Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) is the international, not-for-profit, professional association dedicated to the teachings of Joseph H. and Clara Pilates. Our mission is to foster community, integrity and respect for diversity; establish certification and continuing education standards; and promote the Pilates method of exercise.”
Our first speaker was James Henderson PHD, Executive Vice Pres.,CASTLE Worldwide, Inc., he is a Psychometrician for the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. He spoke to us on the definitions of, and pathways of credentialing, in a meaningful way, various professions. He really gave us a lot of information, which for many of us creative types, may have been a bit dry, but absolutely needed, so that we, as Pilates professionals, can really understand just where our profession stands today in 2009 and where it will likely go in the future and how we can help direct that.
Our second speaker, Carole Ostendorf, PhD, PT, spoke from her personal experience as the CEO of a Massage Therapy school and Executive Director of COMTA ( Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation). Ostendorf was an engaging speaker, who relayed to us some real and practical advice about the process of credentialing.
Both speakers were aptly chosen, and as stated previously, gave us their unbiased opinions and information.
After listening, we were given the opportunity to question the speakers. The Pilates Method Alliance as a group, then discussed the issues which face us at this juncture. We are at a place where we as a professional community can organize and police ourselves or the other option may be, we can wait, and let local and state governments in the U.S. provide us with guidelines and parameters. Personally I opt to be evaluated as a professional, by an organization that has a true understanding of what it is, that I actually do. For the most part and overwhelmingly there was a rather strong agreement on the proposals brought forth by the Pilates Method Alliance. The primary point being that, knowing the true meaning and value of the word “certification”. We would agree to take that particular term out of our description of what you would receive after completing Pilates teacher training. Instead, other terms such as, diploma, certificate, assessment-based certificate, *graduate would be used. The word certification would be reserved for the PMA Certification exam only. It appeared,from the informal vote, that we agreed to that and most companies will strive to be in compliance with this by July 1,2010.
By providing and directing student-teachers to a third party unbiased credential, we empower them in dealing with each other, the public and the state. This was a major point at this Summit. Also discussed was a registry of Teacher Training School to be listed with the PMA and the guidelines to be included in this registry, and the Fostering Future Professionals program for student-teachers enrolled in training programs.
I run a small teacher training program, I like it small, because we truly want to mentor our teachers. Everything the PMA offered for consideration would help and enhance what I offer. I feel it would improve the experience for teachers and offers the public a way to truly be discerning their experience of locating a Pilates teacher.
We don’t want to have to explain our profession to the public in order to receive the respect we think it is deserving of. When I teach Mat class it may look like I’m doing the same thing as your step aerobics instructor, but that could not be further from the truth. I say that, not to disrespect the group exercise instructor, because I’ve done that (group ex.) too, but because it’s plainly a fact. When I work with someone on the Cadillac or Reformer , it is not likely the same thing as your gym’s personal trainer is doing with his selection of equipment. ( I’ve been one of those too..) I want to be recognized as a Pilates professional. I want it to be understood as easily as other professions, occupational therapist, chiropractor, even plummer …nobody looks confused when somebody says they are employed in one of these professions… I want that level of understanding, that respect.
Giving potential and current teachers a clear-cut pathway to becoming a professional, through credentialing is an intelligent direction for the community to move in. Teachers have expressed concern that the PMA will become a monopoly-like entity, where you must join, and must take their exam and there will be no other alternatives. Having been involved in health and fitness for almost 30 years, I am not at all convinced of that. Besides Pilates, I have been involved and employed in the fields of Health & Wellness, Massage Therapy, Group Exercise and Personal Training, I know that the PMA may be the first third party credentialing for Pilates , but is likely, not the last.
The reality is the PMA is here and now, they are listening to their membership, the community and others. The foundations for creating a career road map exist. We can be an integral voice in the direction of Pilates as a profession. Pilates is at a critical point, Joseph Pilates is not here to personally mentor, train and guide his teaching progeny. We could let the group exercise , personal training world absorb us into their ranks or let local and state governments tell us what they think the Hundreds should look like, or we can be the masters of our own future. Reminiscing about they way it used to be is a beautiful pastime, but will not serve us in 2010 or beyond. I personally love the old stories, I want to be connected to that past, but I am also excited and hopeful for the future. A future which is full of positive possibilities, as demonstrated by what I hope is the first of many more Teacher Training Summits.