Thursday, April 04, 2013

Day 10 – WorkStep Four: Service and Product, Remembering the Difference

Service is the lesson itself, Product is the cost, place, time, length, theme and teacher(s) who will deliver that service. Both BodyChance’s service and product are unlike anything seen in Alexander’s lifetime. Product changes are my work – through my many mentors – but the change in our service is mainly as a result of Marjorie Barstow’s innovative teaching practices. Marj is the shinning light of a teacher that seeded most of what BodyChance offers in Japan.

So, as I think about the Service Products of BCLA, I thought it would be worthwhile to ask the question: how was Marj’s work a departure from Alexander’s way of teaching? I came up with a list of seven things. This is my list, based on my experience. Nothing right here – just my opinion…

• Marj reinvented Alexander’s language. Marj was the first teacher I met who had substituted Alexander’s entire vocabulary with a consciously developed selection of her own words. Her exhaustive update was so vast, that many English teachers would travel to Nebraska and be shocked because they never heard the word “inhibition.” One teacher exclaimed to Marj: “But you don’t teach inhibition!” Marj’s rejoinder: “That’s the only thing I teach!”

• Marj harnessed the students motivation as a guiding factor in her teaching process. She once told me in her living room in Lincoln, Nebraska,: “You have to begin where your pupil is thinking.” So she introduced the simple request at the start of every lesson: “What would you like to do today?” And the so-called “activity” model of teaching was born.

• Marj eliminated the two step approach that I was trained in by my English teachers: 1. Stop/Inhibit; then 2. Direct. Marj asked the simple question: “Why take two steps? If my head is going forward and up, haven’t I already inhibited it going back and down?”

• Marj innovated group lessons – she demolished the idea that an Alexander Technique lesson had to be one teacher and one student, no more. By the extraordinary results of her workshops, she showed that this was just another prejudicial or fixed idea that was limiting the evolution of Alexander's discoveries.

• Marj used her hands in an entirely different way. She innovated the “touch and talk” style of teaching. Normally, Marj wanted to deliver just the amount of cognitive and sensory information that you could absorb in that lesson. She would tell us: “My words are talking to your thinking, my hands are talking to your sensory mechanism.”

• Marj flipped around the whole teaching pedagogy that Alexander delivered during his lifetime. Put simply: Alexander would use his hands, so through that experience people would come to know the thinking process; Marj would use her ideas, so people would come to use their thinking process to deliver an experience. So simple, but profoundly different.

• Finally, Marj made us laugh. She entertained us. She insisted that learning could be fun, it never had to be boring, and, as she often said with a twinkle in her eye: “You always move better with a smile.”

Thank you Marj.

TOMORROW: WorkStep Five – Questions My Mentor Asked Me...

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