by Caitlin, from The Bridge Forum International

In September we looked at what one needs in terms of computers and computer skills and how to decide where to make your 'home' on-line. Now we will look at the following:

  • Net etiquette and net networking
  • How to decide what to teach on-line
  • How to get students: the art of ethical public relations
  • How to determine what to charge your students
You are becoming a teacher on-line; you are a model for others. This is a key delight and yes, at times, an onus you carry. You never leave a table because your opponents are doing well or type in some gratuitous comment to partner. This does not mean you have to play the game with anyone against everyone. This means you must remain above reproach as, ideally, everyone should be with this game we love.

You check out the territory and note who else on the site you have chosen is teaching; who is doing volunteer work; whether the volunteer organization FIFTH CHAIR (www.fifthchair.org) is active on the site. (If not, maybe you can be key in helping this wonderful non-profit group set up a program.) You note who the directors are; those keen to participate in learning situations. Now what? Here we come to the key issue of how to get students and it is time to pay your dues for two reasons: you want to apprentice with respected teachers, and you want to give back to where you teach, thus you choose to do volunteer work because it feels right.

My own experience may bring the above to life. I joined OKbridge and saw a sign for volunteers needed for FIFTH CHAIR. As an ACBL certified teacher, with no aspirations whatsoever of teaching on-line, I was happy to volunteer. It gave and continues to give me a sense of contributing to the game I love and it makes me feel good. The art of giving, it is often said, makes the so-called 'giver' feel as good, if not better, than the so-called 'taker'. I was assigned a woman to mentor, Louise, and, she has given me more inspiration than I could hope to ever 're-pay'. From working with Louise, I started to work with the organization on team games and commenting at games. Teaching, as the expression goes, literally 'fell into my lap' as people I was working with asked for private lessons.

Does what happen to me always happen? No. I was fortunate, but had it not happened and had I set out to teach, I definitely would have apprenticed with one of the many, respected teachers to be found. Importantly, this does not mean you would steal their clients. You apprentice to do anything but that; you apprentice to get on-line experience. Yes you have the right -- after discussing this with your mentor-- to get e-mail addresses; however, you never take such addresses without explicit permission. To send an e-mail to someone who does not give explicit permission is akin to spamming and so I advise you to start each and every e-mail concerning solicitation of teaching with something like: "We respect your privacy! This email should only be received by those who have given explicit permission. In the rare instance that you have received this without such permission, we profusely apologize, ask that you email. . . and simply put "remove" in subject."

Importantly, you are familiar with the systems most popular on the site(s) you have chosen, whether ACOL on BP LIVE!, SAYC or Two Over One most predominantly played on many other sites. You have the trust of enough that you are now teaching privately. What you will charge will depend on what format your teaching takes and that in itself leaves you with options depending on how many students you have and what your forte is in terms of how and what you teach best. Typically, for private one-on-one two hour sessions, the online going rate is $50.00 U.S.; supervised play groups where you work with up to four students at a time typically reap $100.00 U.S. per month from each student; and, courses, often 8-10 weeks, are also most often $100.00 U.S. These are guidelines, however and you will charge what the norm is on the site you are dealing with and dependent on your experience. As well, a professional bridge player, with Spingolds to his/her credit, is obviously going to charge more than the norm.

Thus we come to the variety of formats teaching can take: private (or pair) one-on-one lessons; courses with specific topics; a two-three hour forum where you present on a specific topic for that short time period only; supervised play groups which may or may not have topics but are geared to hands-on learning via bidding, declaring and defending rather than a specific learning format; and a series of lessons with topics where people come and pay as they play or pay as they can.

With each of the above, you record the hands, a function that some sites have, such as OKBridge, and within a few days of the learning forum, whether a one-on-one or group situation, you send out notes commenting on the bidding which actually occurred and the optimum bidding. This is prime time to draw from your notes which you have written prior to offering yourself as a teacher. Thus, if pre-emption came up during the course of the play, it is an opportune time to send out your notes on this topic. Should you be teaching a course, it is often ideal to send a quiz regarding the material covered within a few days of the last class. Next month we will look more closely at the range of courses you might consider offering and even how to set up a full-fledged bridge school such as BRIDGE FORUM INTERNATIONAL
> http://www.bridge-forum.com

October 1999

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