London Forum on "Communication"
AT Teacher Jill Payne reports on
this well-attended meeting held in November 2007, with guest
speakers Glynn MacDonald and Carol Lee.
A good time was had by all at
the first public London meeting of the Friends of the
Alexander Technique. We met in the cosy library of the
Friendsí Meeting House, just off St. Martinís Lane. The
theme of "Communication" was very promising, particularly as
we had a mixture of experienced teachers, students and
pupils who had come along.
Professional writer and teacher
Carol Lee opened the proceedings. She began with a graphic
illustration of the change in her use from the open,
balanced movement encouraged by the large electric
typewriters of her early career, to painfully hunching over
a modern, restricting PC ("I can feel my shoulders turning
in just thinking about itÖ"). After many years writing
professionally without problems Carol found that within two
years of getting a PC her use had deteriorated to the point
where she needed regular osteopathic treatment. Her back
problems led her to train as a teacher.
Glynn MacDonald developed the
theme of communication, explaining that the Friends has been
set up to encourage communication between all groups
involved in the Technique including teachers, students and
pupils too. The group divided into three to discuss
different elements of communication: the visual, aural and
kinaesthetic. When we regrouped to compare notes over tea
and biscuits some varied and stimulating comments had been
made by teachers and pupils alike.
These included the proís and
conís of teachers talking a lot, or a little, in lessons,
and the quality of a teacherís voice, along with the quality
of their listening. Pupils need feedback to stop their
minds wandering off, but when teachers donít explain too
much then it gives us space to be with the experience. There
are things in the Technique which can never be put into
words in any case, and some of the changes we experience are
too subtle for most people to see, let alone explain.
So, what to do -to talk or not
to talk? One teacher mentioned the time she and a less
talkative colleague had exchanged pupils for a while. The
pupils had remarked on the difference but had also enjoyed
the change. It all goes to show that there are many
different, yet effective, ways to approach the Technique.
We discussed our earliest
impressions of the Technique and the reasons why we had
first come for lessons. Our newer pupils were particularly
helpful in this regard, as some of us were a long way from
our first lesson! Here are some examples of words and
phrases that came up:
"In my first lesson I was wholly
acceptable to my teacher as I was, when I wasnít acceptable
to myself. There was no judgement of me."
"I could see she had poise.
Thatís so attractive. Itís rare to see."
"When Iím under stress I get
down emotionally, then I go down physically. I was
attracted by this because I can see it goes up."
We talked about using hands, not
only for communicating Direction to a pupil, but also as a
means for listening, and about the importance of being in a
listening state when we teach. "What are we communicating
with touch?" we asked ourselves -and one answer, "a quiet
state," was agreeable to all.
The Friends of the Alexander
Technique has started as it means to go on, sharing and
learning in a relaxed and egalitarian atmosphere. The
evening left us all wanting more, and at the end of the
meeting we pooled our ideas about the content of the next
one. You can expect further illuminating discussion,
hands-on work and contributions from teachers of many yearsí
standing. My particular favourite part was the often
striking insights from those relatively new to the
Technique, and I look forward to more of those with relish.
The next meeting is in early 2008 and you would find a warm
welcome if you decided to come along.
© Jill Payne November 2007