Thursday, April 04, 2013

Day 9 – WorkStep Four: How Is Your Service Being Delivered?

When ideas stick too strongly, you can’t see around them. That’s the value of the turnaround plan. Alexander’s “head goes forward and up” is an example of a turnaround plan. What’s it turned around from? His head going back and down of course.

The idea that has been stuck in my head recently is “BodyChance does group teaching.” Who’s going to teach the groups I wondered? Many Alexander Technique teachers wonder about that:  I understand it. Back in the early 80’s when I first started teaching, Duncan Woodcock and I started YAAO (Yet Another Alexander Organization) to explore teaching in groups at Don Burton’s radical ATA school in Old Street, London. (Clare Hughes joined us later)

I had no idea what I was doing.

I was still caught up in the concept that I had to give 15 minute chair “turns” or I wasn’t teaching Alexander Technique. But what do others participants do during “turn” time? So Duncan and I devised many games: one of them was designed to help students experience how meaningless, repetitive tasks affected their co-ordination. We explained this, then showed them a pile of rocks - their task was to keep moving the rocks from one end of a verandah to another, back and forth for 15 minutes. Bizarre eh?

Well, that’s not half of it. There were many other tasks, and no-one wanted to start with this particular one. So the rocks just sat there. It was our first class in a series. Duncan and I set about giving two people their 15 minute chair lessons, while the other participants did the many different tasks we had set them. Except no-one was doing the rocks…

Then suddenly a woman hurried in late. She was breathless, but we were in the middle of our chair turns. So I turned to her (remember, this is her first Alexander Technique experience) and said:

“Do you see those rocks out there?”

Puzzled, she looked outside: “Yes…”

“OK, I want you to move all the rocks to the other side of the verandah.”

She looked quite startled: “What do I do after that?”

“You move them back again” I replied, and went back to my lesson.

The bewildered face of this poor, confused girl holding a rock as she walked will forever be etched into my memory: she dutifully started moving rocks on a verandah, back and forth, wondering what hell she had got herself into?!

That’s how I started to study group teaching.

So my idea has been fixed lately on “In Los Angeles, BodyChance does group teaching” and I was getting stuck. Who can teach groups? So I turned it around: “In Los Angeles, BodyChance does private lessons.” And a light went on. Yes! Of course! In Tokyo we did that for years. There’s everything right about doing that in Los Angeles in the beginning.

Try it out. Take a concept that is keeping you stuck, and turn it around. Let your brain open to another possibility. As Marj once said:

“It’s a gamble you can’t lose. Because the worst that can happen, is that you end up with what you already had.”

TOMORROW: WorkStep 4 – Service and Product, Remembering the Difference

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