COMPANION

F. M. Alexander’s teacher training course

The first teachers training course was started end of Feburary 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,[1] but it is also referred to as ‘F. Matthias Alexander Training Course’ in The Use of the Self.[2] 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.

Apprenticeship training

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?[3]), Lilian Twycross (1897[4] or 1898[5]), Amy Alexander (1902 or 1903[6]), Ethel Webb (1912?[7]), Irene Tasker (1917[8]).

History

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.

Hours

The training course ran five days a week. However, the number of hours and the time of day varied somewhat over the years, especially following Alexander’s stroke in December 1947. Erika Whittaker, who was on the first training course, reported it was 10am to 12 noon.[9] Marjory Barlow reported it was two hours a day, sometimes 10am – 12 noon, sometimes 2pm – 4pm.[10]  Walter Carrington said in one interview: ‘When the class was small I think F.M. did an hour. But I think the class was usually two hours.’[11] Peggy Williams said (on Walter Carrington’s training course immediately after Alexander’s death in 1955): ‘We used to do at the beginning the same times that Alexander did, which was 11:30 to 13:00, and 14:00 till 15:00.’[12]

Advertisement and Prospectus

As advertisment for Alexander’s training course Dr Rugg-Gunn wrote the article ‘A New Profession’ for Women’s Employment (1931).[13]

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.[14] It was also published in a 1935 pamphlet ‘A New Technique’.[15]

Some details of the 1946 structure, fees, etc., are given in a four-page flyer.[16]

Descriptions

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.

  • Irene Tasker’s notebook contains some notes on the earliest days of the first training course.[17]
  • Lulie Westfeldt’s memoirs of training with F. M. Alexander was published in 1964 as F. Matthias Alexander: The Man and His Work.[18]
  • Taking Time, six interviews with first generation teachers, contain many descriptions Alexander’s training course.[19]
  • Two extensive interviews with Marjory Barlow include some descriptions of Alexander’s training course.[20] [21]
  • Two extensive interviews with Walter Carrington include some descriptions of Alexander’s training course.[22] [23]
  • Walter Carrington’s 1946 diary contains some brief descriptions of working on Alexander’s training course.[24]
  • Goddard Binkley’s diaries contain a description of his time on Alexander’s training course 1954–56.[25]
  • George Trevelyan’s 1936-38 diary contains some brief descriptions of visiting Alexander’s training course.[26]

Criticism

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.[27]

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 [1931] . . .[28]

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.[29]

Lulie Westfeldt writes February in her 1964 memoirs.[30] Erika Whittaker said it was March 1931,[31] Marjory Barlow said it was September 1931.[32]

However, according to evidence in the form of a letter by Alexander and Irene Tasker’s notebook, the training course started Monday 2 March 1931.[33]

Certificates

The teachers of the first training course received their certificates in December 1933 (including Irene Tasker who had not previously received a certificate[34]). However the students did another year of training, except Marjorie Barstow who returned to the US where she assisted A. R. Alexander.[35]

See also Students at F. Matthias Alexander Teachers Training Course.

References

[1] A Time to Remember by Walter H. M. Carrington (The Sheildrake Press, 1996), printed endpapers.
[2] The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932), p.
[3] Frederick Matthias Alexander – A Family History by Jackie Evans (Phillimore & Co., 2001), p. 113.
[4] Frederick Matthias Alexander – A Family History by Jackie Evans (Phillimore & Co., 2001), p. 129.
[5] Up From Down Under by Rosslyn McLeod (Mouritz, 2017), p. 97.
[6] Frederick Matthias Alexander – A Family History by Jackie Evans (Phillimore & Co., 2001), p. 128.
[7] Frederick Matthias Alexander – A Family History by Jackie Evans (Phillimore & Co., 2001), p. 154.
[8] ‘Connecting Links’ (1967) by Irene Tasker (The Sheildrake Press, 1978), p. 13.
[9] Taking Time edited by Chariclia Gounaris, Crissman Taylor, Carmen Tarnowski, (Mouritz, 2021), p. 165.
[10] Taking Time edited by Chariclia Gounaris, Crissman Taylor, Carmen Tarnowski, (Mouritz, 2021), p. 83.
[11] Taking Time edited by Chariclia Gounaris, Crissman Taylor, Carmen Tarnowski, (Mouritz, 2021), p. 36.
[12] Taking Time edited by Chariclia Gounaris, Crissman Taylor, Carmen Tarnowski, (Mouritz, 2021), p. 5.
[13] ‘A New Profession’ by Dr Rugg-Gunn in A Means To An End – Articles and Letters on the Alexander Technique 1909–1955 edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2015), pp. 301-03.
[14] The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (Methuen, 1932).
[15] ‘A new technique’, unknown (c. 1935).
[16] ‘A New Profession – General particulars of the training course for teachers of the F. Matthias Alexander Technique’ (1946), reproduced as a facsimile in A Time to Remember by Walter H. M. Carrington (The Sheildrake Press, 1996), endpapers.
[17] Irene Tasker – Her Life and Work with the Alexander Technique by Regina Stratil (Mouritz, 2020), pp. 221–35.
[18] F. Matthias Alexander: The Man and His Work by Lulie Westfeldt (Mouritz, 1998 [1964]).
[19] Taking Time edited by Chariclia Gounaris, Crissman Taylor,Carmen Tarnowski, Novis, 2001).
[20] Alexander Technique: The Ground Rules by Marjory Barlow, Seán Carey (HITE, 2011).
[21] An Examined Life by Marjory Barlow, Trevor Allen Davies (Mornum Time Press, 2002).
[22] Personally Speaking by Walter Carrington, Seán Carey, (Mouritz, 2001).
[23] Explaining the Alexander Technique by Walter Carrington, Seán Carey, (Mouritz, 2004).
[24] A Time to Remember by Walter H. M. Carrington (The Sheildrake Press, 1996).
[25] The Expanding Self by Goddard Binkley (STATBooks, 1993).
[26] ‘The Diary of Sir George Trevelyan’ in The Philosopher's Stone edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 1998), p. 65-101.
[27] F. Matthias Alexander: The Man and His Work by Lulie Westfeldt (Mouritz, 1998 [1964]), p. 48.
[28] The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (E. P. Dutton, 1932), p. viii.
[29] The Use of the Self by F. Matthias Alexander (E. P. Dutton, 1932), pp. 128-131.
[30] F. Matthias Alexander: The Man and His Work by Lulie Westfeldt, (Mouritz, 1998), p. 32.
[31] ‘Alexander's way’ by Erika Whittaker, Alexander Journal No. 13, 1993, p.
[32] (An Examined Life, p. 68)
[33] Irene Tasker – Her Life and Work with the Alexander Technique by Regina Stratil (Mouritz, 2020), note 800, p. 432.
[34] Irene Tasker’s certificate is signed and dated December 1933. Courtesy of the Tasker family.
[35] A copy of Irene Stewart's certificate is signed and dated December 1933.
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