-bringing ideas to life







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




  The Charity for the F Matthias Alexander Technique: Company limited by guarantee and registered in England and Wales No. 3153329, Registered Charity, No.1053863