Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The One Thing Successful Teachers Do That Unsuccessful Teachers Don’t Do: 3rd Letter to BodyChance Students

This is the third in a series of letters I am sending to my BodyChance students on ProCourse in Japan: Alexander Technique Teacher Education. My letters are a wake up call to anyone seriously wanting to bring about some positive social influences in our sorry civilization…

Letters To BodyChance Students
SUBJECT: The One Thing Successful Teachers Do That Unsuccessful Teachers Don’t Do.

Dear Seito-san,

In my last letter, I broke the sad news that most of the world does not care about your precious Alexander Technique. They are not interested, full-stop. You can rant and rave against this, feel desperate people don’t get it, pray things will improve; or you can do something about it. Which is it going to be?

You know I am in the let’s-do-something–about-it camp, right?

Well, what you have to do goes against a powerful biological instinct. What you have to do is a conscious, deliberate act against habituated instinct. It’s a very “Alexander” thing to do, yet very few Alexander Technique teachers actually do it. However, the ones that do this are wildly successful – in fact, some of the busiest Alexander Technique teachers on the plant today are following the very advice I am about to give you.

Are you listening? Are you ready to REALLY get this? Here’s a small quiz that offers a clue: What do these four concepts have in common?

Eyesight, running, golfing & swimming.

What they have in common are four Alexander Technique teachers. These teachers DO NOT teach the Alexander Technique. They teach: how to use your eyes, how to run, how to play better golf and how to enjoy swimming again.

And guess what?

There is a market for all those things! Of course, as students are soon surprised to know, Alexander's discoveries are at the foundation of their lessons. That’s called the “switch” and it’s a critical marketing concept for Alexander Technique teachers - one most of them ignore to their peril, but I will cover that in a later letter…

So you are probably thinking that when you qualify you will be teaching other people Alexander Technique? Good luck with that. Not too many people have made a success of it. The odds are stacked against you.

However, how about you start thinking that when you qualify you are going to teach people how to… What?

Think about it, and look out for my next letter.


BodyChance Education Director

PS. The careful reader may notice I have not elucidated the biological instinct that prevents most Alexander Technique from doing the thing that would most benefit their career – hey, I am not spoon feeding you! If a reader can guess it and make a comment below, I will write about it. 


  1. Quite right, Jeremy! No spoon-feeding! Only, yes, (for me) that leaves me feeling all the feelings around 'being wrong', 'feeling wrong', 'getting it wrong', 'failing', 'looking stupid'......etc etc etc. Yet it leaves me wanting to dare to be still and listen, rather than bashing on in the old way, and out of that stillness allowing something completely other than how I have always reacted to emerge - and the first paragraph's three ways to react to how people perceive the AT are horribly familiar to me over the 30 years of teaching! (Less so now, but not far enough down in the memory for my liking!) And, as ever, that AT moment of stopping, non-doing, staying in a place of nothing that is so unsettling to the human being... I am so grateful to you for these letters and posts.... I am not sure if I am anywhere close to what you were meaning, but I've again learned something new nonetheless and look forward to the next step.

  2. Hi Annie - thanks for the feedback. I regret my comments illicit those kind of reactions (getting it wrong) but delighted to read you chose to act differently. The reluctance to niche down comes, I beleive, from a basic instinct against scarcity. We do not like to decrease our options - it feels scary - but instead increase our options - it feels safer. However, in the business of marketing, increasing options - by way of trying to appeal to multiple markets - is expensive, time consuming and out of the reach for most small bussiness owners. We are small business owners.

  3. Following up from Facebook comment:

    I read your comment and I've heard talk about fear of scarcity. That may play a roll in my hesitation to specialize, but I've acknowledged that fear for awhile and don't really feel it much now. I think it's more of that I find the variety of my student base nourishing and I like that AT addresses something fundamental that can be applied to many things.
    I follow a few marketing-related blogs and I see a lot of advice to not fear scarcity and to dig deep in one small niche.
    I see the benefit of that and that it works for a lot of people (such as the AT "specialists" in the ares that you mentioned).
    I've also encountered advice that warns against fearing scarcity, but also warns against specializing yourself out of your passion. For example, if you have more that one interest/skill, it might be ok to present yourself as doing all of those things and that the most important factor in how you present yourself is authenticity.
    I find this topic interesting. I think that AT is unique in it's fundamental/basic applications to everything, but marketing it as "for everything" can be like marketing it as nothing.
    I've gradually been working on defining my "ideal" student (the kind of person who I will most effective help and enjoy working with) and have realized that the category might not be quite as tidy as "runner" or "swimmer", but I can certainly specify who that "ideal student" is and adjust my marketing as such.

  4. Jeremy, that's great - thank you; no, I hadn't thought of that one! Especially down here in Cornwall. The main events here? Surfing. Not going to get me on a surf board to discover the finer detail of surfing! ;-o Even though many students have, of course, gained benefit in their surfing indirectly. But seriously, I will ponder that one as it contains many useful, as yet unseen, ideas because yes, specialising in human beings being human is far too wide an area!

  5. Hey Lindsay - do remember who the niche is that I am writing for, I mean, I've REALLY niched down: AT trainees! For them, they have no traction. I would agree with the marketerers you mention after you gain traction. (And authenticity is always true - I don't see that an an alternative.) Start laser focused, then expand. First step for the beginning teacher (whether trainee or AT teacher reengineering their practise) is to get a bunch of raving fans, the 1% factor, and grow from that. Hard to do that if you go too wide, if you can't find your people, if they don't feel empathy with you.

  6. I think that's great - narrow things down and find your biggest fans and then expand from there. When I was a brand new teacher, I really had no idea who 's great that you are encouraging your trainees to think about this early. Do you find that some of them figure it out as they teach and end up abandoning their original idea for a new focus or do they generally stick with it.
    I enjoyed reading Annie's post. I've actually recently developed an obsession with applying AT to surfing even though I've never been on a board in my life!

  7. Jeremy, just wondered - I know you have your training course students. But if you were building a 'private practice' just now, who would be your 1%, your niche market? Just wondered, and how you would go about finding them? And/or, it being your trainees, how would you describe the thing about them that you like working with so much? Is it their attitude/thinking, their needs, their skills....?
    Lindsay - good on you! Tell us more! Do you have lots of surfing students? :-)

  8. Annie, I actually don't have any surfing students and have never surfed. I've become fascinated by it by watching videos and reading about it and would love to learn!


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