The book has many attractive photos of the author working with children. It's easy to picture him working as he describes in the book, quietly supporting and guiding the children as they go about their activities.
In Chapter 1 he writes persuasively of how the concept of our use of ourselves is ignored in modern society and education, how in schools movement is generally treated as a subject separate from all others while in sports, scores and achievements are seen as the goal, with little thought for the development of healhty ways of moving and living.
Ben-Or goes on to give a clear exposition of the Alexander Technique under five headings: primary control, sensory appreciation, habit, inhibition and direction. Some of these sections are more informative than others. The section on sensory appreciation, where he quotes helpfully from Oliver Sacks on proprioception, is both fuller and more interesting than the one on primary control. In the latter we read: "All parts of the body are positioned and respond with respect to this control mechanism; for example, the head is found forward and above in relation to the neck while the heels are found behind and below." I can only assume something has been lost in translation! At the end of Chapter 1, Ben-Or writes about Alexander's interest in the education of children, paraphrasing and quoting from his books.
In Chapter 2, "Stories of Children", the book really comes to life. The author uses the stories of nine young pupils to illustrate aspects of his work. One story outlines the differences between an Alexander lesson and as a school lesson. Another story shows how striving for "correctness" can make it harder for children to learn and progress and in another he speaks forcefully of the futility of remedial teaching for children based on purely verbal instructions. There's also a moving account of a small boy who could not bear to be touched and the impact of this on his development and his environment.
These stories gave me a sense of really knowing something about the children and the issues they and their families faced. I feel that this chapter, and the later one on working with young people at risk, will speak to readers such as parents and educators who are looking for a way to help a particular child or group of children and wondering if the Alexander Technique might be it.
Chapter 3, "My Teaching Method", is also very important for these readers. Here Ben-Or sets out exactly how Alexander work can complement school teaching. He writes eloquently about what working with the wholeness and uniqueness of each child really means in practice. And he describes his (Alexander) approach to teaching, making clear the emphasis he puts on working on himself. I think he makes a good job of this.
Ben-Or also underlines the importance of working not only with children but also with their families. He wants the family to be informed about the Technique and likes at least one parent to take lessons, to help create a learning environment in the home and support the child outside lessons.
Chapter 4 is about work with preschool children. The author describes two days' work with a class. For me the children did not really emerge from this as individuals, though the chapter is useful as an example of how a teacher can work with this very young age group in a classroom setting. Ben-Or hints tantalisingly at creative ways of working with young children, using stories, music, dolls and games. I would have liked him to say more about these.
Chapter 5 is about the author's experience of work with teenagers in a community for young people struggling with various kinds of problems. The importance of building a good realiable relationship with these pupils emerges strongly from this chapter.
There are a couple of problems with this book. For example, the very first section of it is called "Forward". What the author meant, however, was "Foreword". So right from the start it's clear that the translation may cause some trouble! Actually, having read the whole book, I think that most of the translation is good (and it's not easy to translate a book about the Alexander Technique.) The mistakes are mostly minor and I don't mind making a little effort to read and understand because what the author is saying is interesting.
The other problem is careless editing, which makes the book harder to read. I feel a bit concerned that this might reduce its appeal to the wider public, which would be a pity. But on the whole the author's passion for his work and his respect and care for his pupils and their families still come through loud and clear. This is a book that will encourage Alexander teachers in working with children and it's a valuable introduction to the work for parents, educators and care-givers.
2012 © Judy Vigurs. Reproduced with permission.
This edition © Mouritz 2012-2014. All rights reserved.