Tuesday, January 22, 2013

W04.02 Four Questions That Could Revolutionize Your Teaching Style…


My life mission is to take Marjorie’s Barstow’s genius, and translate that into profit and success in the business sphere. Marj was the first real niche-teaching innovator: gone were the chairs and tables; in their place were people singing, washing dishes, playing music, doing job interviews, speaking publicly, dancing, juggling: i.e. being in their niche activity. By her sheer brilliance and a half century of practise Marj got to the point of such magnetism that she could mix niches and still have them begging. Marj didn’t need a business plan, and she was already a multi-millionaire, but what about us?

Making money out of your niche requires a lot of flexibility on your part. The flexibility will kick in most strongly as you start to design your service product. To do that, you need to ask some pretty deep questions, and be willing to change. Really change. Are you ready for that?

Here are four questions to ask your Self that will get the process rolling…

1. Is there a difference between Alexander's discoveries and Alexander’s teaching procedures?

2. Which way do you work: experience-generating-thinking or thinking-generating-experience?

3. Can you leverage your student's niche to drive development of your service product?

4. What kind of balance do you want between touching and talking?

I do not think any one teaching approach is universally better than another – although I obviously have my personal bias – but I think how your work is situated in the world is determined through your approach. Does your way of working give an impression of a therapist, with highly effective manipulative skills, working on the side of rehabilitation? Or does your way of working give an impression of a teacher, working within niche-based movements, exploring human consciousness?

Alexander's discoveries and Alexander’s teaching procedures
Join me in this thought experiment: imagine Alexander as a young man, around 1893. At that time, he was finishing up his research, but had not given his first lesson. He had already made his discoveries - because he had his voice back - but there was no hands-on work, chairwork, tablework, whispered “ah” or hands-on-back-of-chair. Forget activity work - that was 70 years off.

So Alexander’s discoveries existed before any means of teaching them was invented. That is a wonderful thing to consider long and deeply. Take it to bed with you tonight. And while I am being provocative: here’s another radical thought... Maybe Alexander was not the best person to figure out how to teach his discovery…?

It would be absurd to assert that the only way to learn the Alexander Technique is by using the methods that Alexander developed to teach others. After all, Alexander was not taught that way, and he was the best of the lot.

To liberate us from the shackles of form, it helps to distinguish between the discoveries and the means or methods developed to communicate them. In fact, without some kind of form, the discoveries are empty of substance – which is why it is so easy to confuse the two. One does not exist without the other.

In 2002, Richard M. ‘Buzz’ Gummere, Jr., a graduate of Alexander's training class, wrote a wonderfully memorable email to the Alextech email list. In that message, Gummere said that he and Marjorie Barstow had discussed it and both agreed that one reason Alexander developed ‘hands-on-back-of-chair’ was because Alexander knew his work was - in Buzz’s words - “unfathomable empty.” Alexander needed to create some 'form' so students could apply and practise his discoveries. Steven Shaw did the same for swimming.

So it will be for your niche, if you ever get to creating your own service product. You create it to bring ‘form’ to teaching your niche about Alexander's discoveries. It can be a series of 'teaching procedures' to follow as a “means whereby” to discover all aspects of the Use of the Self. Steven Shaw has done a wonderful job doing just that with his Shaw Method. I know Steven, and whatever he may appear to be doing, his core is Alexander’s discoveries. Steven had the good sense to master his niche by creating form, because emptiness doesn’t sell.

In our school in Japan, we rarely explore chairwork and tablework as it is taught in the Alexander community today. For most of the time, our only table is folded up and stored away. Our students sometimes complain that it is hard for them to know what to teach when they have no forms like tablework or chairwork available in their teaching practices. I understand it.

Here’s an experiment for you. Decide that your next new student - who has no idea what you do anyway and will be completely unaware of your 'experiment' - will not explore chair and table work with you in their first lesson. Instead, ask them what activity they want to explore. Even getting them to answer that question may defeat you before you are out of the gate! You need to become passionately interested in what they are interested in. I wrote several blogs about this: I recommend you read this one again. The two before it are also worth a re-read.

Do you accept that Alexander's discoveries, and the way to teach them, differ? The former is universal and constant, the latter ever-changing. If don’t agree with that, you are wasting your time reading my blog. I can’t help you. If you do agree with that: put your creativity and understanding to the test, and teach a whole lesson without doing any standing/sitting or tablework. Experiment with that, and you are on the way to being able to develop new teaching procedures…

Which is just another name for the Service Product you develop for your niche!

TOMORROW: If I don't do tablework or chairwork, what do I do?
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