LIBRARY - Reference(s)

Directed Activities: Review by Kevin Ahern.

AT Focus: 
Alexander Technique
Article, essay
Article, citation and copright
Article Text: 
Most new books on the Alexander Technique are met with a wide variety of reactions by teachers of the Technique. This may be attributed to differences in training, in amount of time and experience in the work, and/or in the main field(s) of interest of the reader. Gerard Grennell’s Directed Activities, published in May 2002 by Mouritz Press and available from AmSAT Books, may be subject to a wider variety of responses than most. I say this with some degree of confidence because I have done a quick survey of teachers of my acquaintance who have seen the book. This small sampling of 10-12 teachers ranged broadly, from strongly positive to decidedly negative, on nearly every aspect of the book i.e. text, drawings, organization, commentary, etc.

One part of the book which received nearly universal acclaim was the Foreword by Jean Fischer. Mr. Fischer presents a lucid discussion of the potential purposes, pitfalls, and provisions to be kept in mind when utilizing such a book. The lengthy subtitle gives a clear indication of the contents; A Diary Of Practical Procedures For Students And Teachers Of The F.M. Alexander Technique As Taught At the Constructive Teaching Centre (1989-1992). The directed activities (on each page of the diary, a simple activity, e.g. lifting an arm, is described with drawings and a brief text) are those used in the half hour each day on the Carringtons' course called "games". Fischer emphasizes what no book can provide: the absolute need for an individualistic approach in putting the Technique into practice; viz., 1) attention to improving the organization of the primary control in preparation for and in carrying out any activity, 2) the wisdom of breaking down each activity into smaller steps to be built up into a whole over time, 3) the necessity of clear and helpful monitoring and feedback (supplied in the Carringtons' "games" by the skilled hands and commentary of trained teachers.)

It is Fischer’s fourth point that I would like to highlight and comment on.
4) " The fact that there cannot be a uniform set of instructions for everybody means that the whole undertaking is a matter of experimentation". A collection of activities such as this diary, whether we respond positively or negatively to its particulars, can serve to remind us that it is the day-to-day manner of our choice and application of activities (procedures) in studying and teaching the Technique that determines the quality of our practice. (It is "where the rubber meets the road".) Fischer quotes several times from the Introduction to Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual in his detailed discussion of what an experimental approach and attitude entail. Each one of us, utilizing our own abilities and resources, would do well to strive to emulate Alexander as Dewey describes him here, "he has noted the actual changes brought about in individuals in response to the means which he has employed, noting the reactions due to the calling into play of established bad habits, with even greater care than the more obvious beneficial consequences obtained" (italics mine, KJA) 1. If we are truly interested in observing all that actually goes on in our experiments, might we be much less worried about being right or wrong, and much more likely to learn?

1 " I read at regular intervals Dewey’s Introduction to Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual to remind me of the high standard he has set down for all teachers of the technique." Irene Tasker

© Kevin Ahern. Reproduced with permission.

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