New

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The scent of a brand-new book, the anticipation of new colleagues and new students, the considering of new ideas, the adoption of new routines. A soon-to-begin academic year is all about newness.  In preparation, I’ve been reading Cathy Madden’s, Teaching the Alexander Technique: Active Pathways to Integrative Practice, and found this question:

How can I teach in such a way that the Alexander Technique process sustains and restores cooperation with our natural design in service of what we do?’

I am fond of saying, ‘When I’ve learned everything there is to learn, it will be time to do something else.’ So far, the exploration of the Alexander Technique has kept my curiosity piqued and my interest keen. That’s about 35 years worth, ever since I slipped on my apartment building’s ice-covered steps, landing on a concrete edge, right on the lumbar spine. Always running a few minutes late in the morning, I was dashing out the door to get myself to Duxberry Arts Alternative School. Colleague and Dance teacher, Loren Bucek, suggested I try Alexander Technique lessons to assist with my recovery. Little did I know a life-long study had just begun.

I’m still asking questions, and appreciate Madden’s question for herself as she teaches. It’s a fine method of formulating a lesson, a workshop, a class. F.M. Alexander launched his vocal problems analysis with the posing of question after question. Asking, observing, choosing, assessing. It’s this spirit of inquiry that fuels the learning of the Technique, and if you have a curiosity about his process, I can recommend his small tome, The Use of the Self. First published in 1932, it was reissued in 2001 by Orion Books, Ltd. The first chapter is titled, ‘Evolution of a Technique,’ and although reading Mr. Alexander can be slow-going, it’s worth your investment of time. And OSU students, there is a copy in the stacks of the Music/Dance Library. I set eyes on it this very day, and it awaits you! Please note, do not wear white into the stacks, as you will emerge dust-covered and dirty.  I did. Just a heads-up—-

Wishing for all students and teachers a year of questions asked and answers found—-

Staying Put

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Learning about something, staying with what engages our attention, staying beyond the naming of it, is like the layering of sediment.’

Susan Hand Shetterly, Settled in the Wild: Notes From the Edge of Town

An Alexander Technique class to plan, syllabus to outline, course requirements to determine. With a 14 week semester and two classes each week, I’m hopeful the students and I will have plenty of time for ‘staying beyond the naming of it,’ adding multiple layers to the sediment of our Alexander Technique study and practice.

Shetterly uses ‘staying’ twice in one sentence, so it must be important. I can’t imagine it’s an oversight. In editing my food memoir, I’m keen to locate words or phrases used more than once. Just yesterday, I caught ‘have always figured‘ in two essays. Not ok!

Why twice?  Certainly, for emphasis. It’s good advice. When singers were discouraged, or struggling with a new skill, I encouraged them to get through the challenging phase by ‘staying with‘ their daily practice routines and the weekly lesson.

And so this Alexander Technique teacher and her students will stay put. We will show up at the studio door two days a week, learn AT principles, practice AT procedures, ‘staying with what engages our attention,’ a primary practice in the Land of AT.

Here’s to the approaching academic year—-

 

 

John Dewey and F.M. Alexander

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John Dewey (1859-1952) was required reading in my pedagogy courses at Bowling Green State University in the mid-1970’s.  I wonder if he is still read by undergrads. What I remember 40 years later is the three word summary of his ideas,  ‘Learning through doing.’

As a proponent of social change and educational reform, Dewey’s philosophy, called experimentalism or instrumentalism, was inspired by reading William James, an American philosopher of pragmatism.  Dewey’s other influences included Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955).  Dewey studied with F.M. for several years and wrote the introductions to two of F.M.’s books, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual (1923) and The Universal Constant in Living (1941).

Dewey claimed that humankind behaved out of habit, but that change was inevitable and required creative thinking and responding to the present, not the past or the future. Thought was the ‘means where-by’ the individual connected with the world.  Dewey touted education as the key to discarding habit and embracing active thinking, engagement, and creativity.

In these precepts, he echoes Mr. Alexander, or Mr. Alexander echoes him, I’m not sure.  They were co-existing in a particular milieu; a time of scientific discovery; an era of big ideas and those who devoted their lives to them.  Both Dewey and Alexander believed in the power of education, and worked with youth; Dewey as the founder of alternative schools, and Alexander, who established a school for youth in the United States and also taught young students in his London studio.

Could we, the international Alexander Technique teaching community, renew this commitment to youth and to insuring that the principles of the Technique are an everyday part of life in a classroom? I’m pondering this possibility, and welcome your thoughts/ideas on the subject—-