WHY I WON'T TELL YOU WHAT TO DO

As an ITM Alexander Teacher you build up a tolerance for the fact that they way we teach may not appeal at first to all of our students.

I recently taught a delightful and large group for three months. We had a lovely time and everyone who showed up week after week had amazing results by the end of the course. I get teary just thinking about all the shining faces and triumphant reports on our last day together.

One of the participants was very articulate about her mixed feelings about those results.

She told me that when she had a lesson, she felt, in her words “how I have always wished I could feel”. She was glowing. Her classmates all commented on how much younger she looked and how much happier she seemed. Her appearance was confident, calm, poised and she felt great.

The problem?

Nothing that led to those changes matched anything she labelledas”learning”. She told me she needed a list of things to do, and that she would do them. She begged me for clear instructions. On the last day of class she requested a list of “learning objectives” so that she could find out if she had learned anything.

Despite the fact that she had changed so much, in ways she loved and could acknowledge, she could not accept that she had learned anything.

This is understandable.

The way we approach learning and education in the ITM Alexander Technique really does not match what most of us have come to label “learning”. And while not all of us are as articulate as this particular student, I think anyone who has studied this work has had a similar experience at some point.

You see, in the ITM we don’t believe that we are of much use to you as teachers if we just “tell you what to do”. For more reasons than I could go into here in a blog, or even a book.

We believe that if you are getting results you don’t like, in any activity, the place to look for a solution is in your ideas, your beliefs and the processes you are using.

And that is not a direct, one to one transaction. You can’t tell someone what to believe, what to think or even how to think. Nor can you dictate the processes that will work best for each person’s unique set of talents and unique life situation.

But you can design a learning process, design an experience through which someone can examine their own ideas, their own beliefs and put themselves in a position to make changes on a causal level.

You can offer them the information and tools they need. You can help them practice the skills they need to design their own process. And that is what we call “lessons” in the ITM. Actually, that is what we are doing from the moment our students walk through the door.

Because “learning” only has a little bit to do with acquiring information. But I think my student had limited her definition of learning as I think many of us have. I think we have a tendency to limit our definition of learning to what happened in school, to acquiring information or learning a specific skill that we can evaluate in a measurable way with a checklist or exam.

I believe we are “learning machines” and that almost everything that brings us great satisfaction, almost everything we admire in other people is a result of learning processes.

I love sharing a whole new attitude, perspective and appreciation for the learning process with my students.

Because if you can “learn how to learn”, the world is your oyster! So this is what I work towards in my classes and why I will never just tell you what to do.

So I wonder, are there ways you have limited your definition of “learning” in your life? What are the most important truths, skills and ideas you have ever learned?