The first teachers training course was started end of February 1931 by F. M. Alexander at 16, Ashley Place. It was interrupted in 1940 by World War Two, and restarted in 1945. After Alexander’s death in 1955 it was continued by Margaret Goldie, Walter Carrington, Irene Stewart and John Skinner, first at Ashley Place and from April 1956 at Bainbridge Street in London.
The official name ‘The Training Course for Teachers of the F. Matthias Alexander Technique’ was used in a flyer in 1946, but it is also referred to as ‘F. Matthias Alexander Training Course’ in The Use of the Self. However, none of these names are used in the literature; people often just refer to it as ‘Alexander’s training course’, ‘the first training course’, etc. There is no evidence to suggest that the training course was a legal entity separate from Alexander’s practice.
Before the first teacher training course Alexander trained a number of people in his technique (year indicates first known year of assisting Alexander): A. R. Alexander (1898?), Lilian Twycross (1897 or 1898), Amy Alexander (1902 or 1903), Ethel Webb (1912?), Irene Tasker (1917).
The first teacher training course started in Feburary 1931 (see also below). The trainees who joined in the first course were: Marjorie Barstow, Margaret Goldie, Catherine Merrick (the Countess Wielopolska), George Trevelyan, Gurney MacInnes, Jean MacInnes, Lulie Westfeldt, Erika Schumann (Whittaker), Irene Stewart.
The training course continued until 1940 when Alexander went to the US. Here he started a small training course which was continued by A. R. Alexander when F. M. returned to London in 1944.
Upon F. M.’s return to London he restarted the training course and it continued until his death in 1955. After his death four of his assistant teachers continued the training course, first called The Use of the Self Ltd., and in 1960 Walter Carrington took over the training course and continued it as The Constructive Teaching Centre Ltd. Marjory and Wilfred Barlow, who had run a training course briefly 1950-52, started a training course soon after 1955. And in 1956 Patrick Macdonald started a training course at Ashley Place.
Advertisement and Prospectus
As advertisment for Alexander’s training course Dr Rugg-Gunn wrote the article ‘A New Profession’ for Women’s Employment (1931).
An ‘Open Letter to Intending Students of Training Course’ by F. M. Alexander was published as an appendix to The Use of the Self in 1932. It was also published in a 1935 pamphlet ‘A New Technique’.
Some details of the 1946 structure, fees, etc., are given in a four-page flyer.
F. M. Alexander did not describe his training course or his approach to teacher training. There are however several reports from teachers who trained with him.
Lulie Westfeldt’s memoirs of training with F. M. Alexander was published in 1964 as F. Matthias Alexander: The Man and His Work.
Taking Time, six interviews with first generation teachers, contain many descriptions Alexander’s training course.
Walter Carrington’s 1946 diary contains some brief descriptions of working on Alexander’s training course.
Goddard Binkley’s diaries contain a description of his time on Alexander’s training course 1954-56.
George Trevelyan’s 1936-38 diary contains some brief descriptions of visiting Alexander’s training course.
Lulie Westfeldt’s memoirs of training with F. M. Alexander contain criticism of the training course and of Alexander. For example, she writes:
Now, however, just before our ﬁrst long holiday in August 1931, a problem that I had sensed from the beginning came to a head and I found myself utterly discouraged. Although I had come the previous March and had had a lesson every day, I still did not understand Alexander’s initial instructions, nor did I know how to carry on the work by myself. Questions were not only not answered but were looked on as symptoms of bad use, and one was ‘reassured’ by being told that as one’s use grew better one would stop asking those things. This was the attitude one met in F. M., his brother A. R., and his secretary.
Date of the start of the training course
There is conflicting evidence about the exact start of the training course, although it must be either February or March 1931. F. M. Alexander in his preface, dated 24th July 1931, to UoS writes
I am also pleased to be able to state that the first course for the training of teachers of my work was inaugurated in March this year  . . .
Later he writes, ‘We have now had the experience of five months’ work of the Training Course for Teachers . . .’ (UoS, p. 124), but as this is not dated (July?), it is not an exact guide. However, several letters written by grateful pupils in support of the training course published in UoS, are dated March, April, and May 1931, and all refer to the training course has having started.
The teachers of the first training course received their certificates in December 1933 (including Irene Tasker who had not previously received a certificate). However the students did another year of training, except Marjorie Barstow who returned to the US where she assisted A. R. Alexander.
See also Students at the F. Matthias Alexander Teachers Training Course.