Once upon a time we were young. Is it hard to remember now? Take a moment to notice a baby or toddler. Can you relate to yourself as being so small, yet so powerful? So busy, yet so carefree. So energetic, so demanding, so brilliant!
You were all of that. We all were.
FM Alexander had a Little School where he taught children wishing to prevent the common problems he was treating in adulthood. That was a century ago. These days the pressures on young people are even greater, the world is moving faster and our attention is being grabbed more often and more quickly. Mental health is a real and serious issue, with many reasons leading to it.
We know that FM Alexander was interested in applying his technique to the field of education. In 1924, with two teachers, he founded a school for children aged 3 to 8, where he taught the principles of his technique.
From the earliest age, the faculties of learning depend on the psycho-physical coordination of the child. The more adequate this coordination is, the easier, fluid and enthusiastic the learning process will be. When natural use is preserved, favorable conditions are present so that the potential of the child can be realized.
Catherine Vernerie remembering her work as a school teacher:
“My experience as a teacher, when I had just trained in the Alexander technique, enabled me to put his principles into practice. I taught in kindergarten and in the early elementary classes, where children learn to read and write. I noticed that the difficulty of learning resulted for some children in a great tension in the neck and shoulders. The long hours in a sitting position, with a school furniture often unsuitable were sources of tension and nervousness. Parental pressure (“aren’t you great now, you are going to learn to read!”) also generates psychological tensions, especially the fear of failure.
But what struck me most during these years of teaching is my own attitude towards the class. I noticed very quickly that if I was myself tensed, tired, and stressed, the children felt it immediately from the beginning of the day. So I worked first on myself, trying to figure out when I was tensing, and how I could apply what I had learned to practice with the Alexander Technique. I realized that the children had me in front of their eyes all day and that if I was tense myself, if my voice was not placed, if I lost control of my reactions to their behavior, tension was just getting into the classroom.
For example, when the noise level increased because too many children spoke at the same time, instead of yelling for silence, I stopped talking, moving, and remained standing or sitting motionless (but not frozen), thinking to give me the right directions. Sometimes I practiced the “Whispered Ah” in front of them, and the calm returned.
I had also noticed that I could help them when they deciphered on the board or on the book, placing their hands on their heads or shoulders, I gave them very short sessions, going from one to the other, and they were very receptive to my touch.
A moment of the day was devoted to listening to music or a story I was reading to them. We were sitting on cushions ashore and making sure that the children were sitting in a dynamic and relaxed position that I worked with them on the principles of the Alexander Technique. I asked them to make themselves “flabby” then to sit up gently by taking a lock of hair over their head to go up and unfold their spine. This experience pleased them very much and some did it even spontaneously when they felt that they were falling towards their tables.”
The Alexander Technique re-enforces the idea that the human being needs freedom and autonomy to build himself, as well as the benevolent support of the adults that surround him and educate him.
The Alexander Technique is indeed a pedagogy and raises questions of a pedagogical nature. Alexander Technique teaches you how you can embody your thinking.