People often ask me what we do in the training to be an Alexander teacher, so this post is my reply. My course runs over three terms a year and four mornings a week for three years – other schools operate slightly differently. Each day follows the same broad timetable but allowing for change if we have visitors or need to work on something in depth.
We start with a short silence and meditation, allowing us to ‘come together’ as a group and prepare quietly for the day. The teachers then give us a short ‘turn’, the name that has evolved for a mini Alexander lesson (from FM Alexander’s custom of putting ‘hands on’ his trainees in turn). This session is the ‘meat’ of our training. Through work from skilled teachers, day after day, we develop good body use and a more reliable sensory awareness of ourselves and how we do things. Over time as our use improves, we become able to transmit this to others through our hands.
Next comes a short activity guided by a teacher. Once a week it’s tai chi, on other mornings we look at a procedure in detail or do a ‘game’. This session offers a way of approaching a set of movements in a more playful and experimental way, observing ourselves without needing to be right.
As trainees we’re learning to provide our future pupils with new experiences, guiding them to move in ways that may feel uncomfortable, at least to start with. We in turn have to develop an open and receptive attitude, where being wrong is a creative opportunity for learning and change. It’s also a chance to practise inhibition – not needing to respond in habitual ways to the new or unexpected, but giving ourselves time to make a conscious decision about how to react.
By now we’re hungry and ready for tea and toast, essential ingredients in the training school routine. Downtime is important – we’re each going through a prolonged, slow and individual process of physical and mental change, and at times this can be hard going. We can’t take it too seriously, so we need to take a break and chat, laugh or be quiet and recover.
Revived, we read aloud and discuss one of FM Alexander’s books, or watch a relevant DVD or internet clip. Once a week a trainee or teacher leads an anatomy or physiology session. Towards the end of the morning we break into smaller groups led by a teacher, and take turns putting ‘hands on’ our fellow pupils. We work calmly, ‘leaving ourselves alone’ – learning to stop, inhibit our habitual reactions, direct our thinking and give consent to what we do in a conscious way. This sensory re-education is surprisingly tiring, and we need to stop before doing too much. So to round off the morning we lie down in semi-supine, ready to return to the other parts of our lives.
The skills we’re acquiring come in small increments. We’re discarding habitual patterns developed over many years, and learning to think and act differently. This can’t be rushed, and happens slowly. It may sound as if we don’t do much, but the cumulative effect is to enable new pathways to open up and deep change to take place.
You might also be interested in a previous post on Spiral Learning