Lessons in the Art of Group Teaching: Two Workshops for Alexander Technique Teachers with Meade Andrews

meadeby Brooke Lieb Meade Andrews will be offering a two-weekend program on the Art of Group Teaching. Teachers and Third Year Trainees can register for one or both weekends. Click here for more information.

BL: Tell us a bit about your background and how you first encountered the Alexander Technique:

MA: From the age of 8, I was a devoted student of ballet, hoping to train professionally and become a ballerina. In my first year of college, I began to study modern dance. I sustained a knee injury, which never healed properly, and eventually resulted in an injury to my other knee. I tried modalities such as Rolfing and massage, but did not find healing for my knees. In the early 70's, I attended a theatre conference and watched Ilana Rubenfeld teach an AT class. She is a great teacher, and I saw people moving with ease and whole-body connectedness, and I decided to the study the work. In 1974, I moved to Washington, DC, where there were no AT teachers. However, a group of women were importing an AT teacher from NYC: Rachel Zahn, another pioneer teacher from ACAT. And that's where I began.

BL: Tell us about your training to become an Alexander Teacher?

MA: After I had studied AT for 8 years in DC, with teachers Charlotte Coe, Carol Boggs, and Susan Cohen, I began to study with Marjorie Barstow, who taught in DC twice a year for two weeks. I went to the summer intensives in Lincoln Nebraska where Marj taught for many years. There I met Bruce and Martha Fertman, and when they created a training school, I took their course. When I finished the course, I left my tenured position in the theatre and dance program at American University to become a full-time teacher of the AT. I have been fortunate to have a long and varied career as an AT teacher, traveling throughout the US and abroad: Japan, Spain, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, and England.

BL: How did you develop The Art of Group Teaching?

MA: I first developed my work in the Art of Group Teaching at the Studio Theatre in Washington, DC, in 1989. I was first hired to teach a weekend workshop in the AT for actors. When we sat in a circle, I told them that I was there to introduce them to the AT. In a flash, every single one of them "sat up straight". In that moment, I knew that I would have to develop various group explorations as a means of presenting the work in a meaningful way within a group setting. I knew that I could not work with one person in front of the group, unless we all shared group experiences designed to focus attention and awareness on creating an understanding of the "receptive field", a condition of kinesthetic and cognitive alertness that enlivens and enhances an understanding of the AT principles. Only then, when I could create shared learning experiences and create a learning ensemble, would the students be able to focus their attention knowledgeably while I worked with one student in their presence. We all needed to be on the same page for true learning within a group setting to be accomplished.

BL: What do you enjoy most about offering Post Graduate workshops?

MA: My favorite aspect of teaching Post-Graduate offerings is the opportunity meet teachers from various backgrounds of life study, and AT training. Having studied in group settings and performed in group theatre and dance work for most of my life, I love working with groups of AT teachers and trainees. Meeting and sharing experiences and explorations together, and offering my approach to group teaching, has enriched my professional and personal life immeasurably.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Brooke1web.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists. www.brookelieb.com[/author_info] [/author]

ACAT’s Teacher Certification Program: Teaching Group Classes

Hands on shoulders - Sara_smallerby Brooke Lieb As part of our training course, our teachers-in-training design a multi-session group class syllabus, and present one of the classes to their class mates. I am always impressed by how creative and articulate our teachers-in-training are at teaching the concepts and principles of the work through guided explorations, partner activities and demonstration. One aspect of group class teaching is finding ways to practically apply Alexander principles to the task of daily living. Our teachers-in-training are always interested in the new teaching strategies to help a student make use of what they are learning in lessons and classes in real life.

This past week in the training class (March 2015) I had the students work together in small groups to come up with ways to practically apply Alexander means-whereby to a simple activity. I suggested that they consider how to include the primary directions to organize the head/neck/back relationship while also addressing the specifics of the activity. We don’t need to teach the activity per se, we need to teach how to do it with better use by applying Alexander’s method.

The activities they chose were: crossing one leg over the other while seated (many of us realized after we were guided to direct ourselves and reorganize before we crossed a leg, we didn’t want to cross our legs anymore because we were so poised just sitting!); looking at email on our cell phones; and taking a drink from a cup.

One of the take-aways from the experience is that this approach to working with activities allows the whole group to participate simultaneously. Since it’s not possible to have hands on more than one student at a time, this is a useful method to keep the whole group engaged. Repetition of the activity and the verbal guidance allows the class participants to become familiar with the instructions to give themselves when they are on their own.

This was how Judith Leibowitz used to teach in her classes at Juilliard and on the Teacher Training Course at ACAT. She included many of the activities she taught as “The Leibowitz Procedures” in her book “The Alexander Technique” co-written with Bill Connington. Judy would take us all through the activity together, while she put hands on one student, and she would go from student to student as we all used the mirror to take ourselves through the activity.

Note: ACAT Teaching Members can log on the the member area here at www.acatnyc.org and view video of the ACAT Faculty reviewing some of Judy’s procedures on the “Members” page.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Brooke1web.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists. www.brookelieb.com[/author_info] [/author]

Over 40 Years of Experience: Barbara Kent, Senior Teacher at ACAT

barbarakentby Judy Stern

Barbara has taught me many skills on many levels—too many to list in this article. The "hands on" skill that stands out today, was learning to maintain the energetic space between my hands, my arms and my student while maintaining full contact. This allows students to sense the space for them to change (to move up and out). The energetic space makes it easy for students to discover and address habits without feeling imposed upon, or pressured to change. This is one of many skills that Barbara teaches our trainees today, just as I learned it when I trained at ACAT in 1987. Of course, now I also teach our trainees about the energetic space. It's an incredibly valuable and necessary skill that helps maximize teaching and learning.

Barbara has also taught me many psychodynamic skills. In addition to being an Alexander Technique teacher, Barbara is a trained Rubenfeld Synergist. This means she has particular interpersonal skills that enhance a students' ability to learn and the teachers’ ability to impart information. For example, let's say a student has a very slight limp that was due to a recent injury. Barbara wouldn't say, "Do you know you're limping?" Rather than pointing out the limp directly, which might make the student self-conscious (i.e.: startled), she would use an indirect approach. She would encourage lengthening of the torso on the opposite side of the limp, and eventually, the limp may decrease, even disappear, if it is due to habit.

50 Years of ACAT!

Barbara has brought so much to the ACAT community. She is THE Senior teacher/trainer in NYC and perhaps on the East Coast. To be called a senior teacher, one must have 20 years of teaching the Alexander Technique. Barbara has over forty years of experience! She carries the ACAT legacy passed on to her from Judy Leibowitz and Debby Caplan (both took lessons from F. M. Alexander) and Frank Ottiwell, as well as her mentors, Walter and Dilys Carrington and Elisabeth Walker, who were trained to be teachers by F. M. Alexander. It is an amazing experience to work with her, because she embodies all that she learned those teachers.

Barbara's many roles at ACAT since she trained in 1971 speak to what a remarkable asset she is to the ACAT Training Course and to the Alexander community at large. She has headed the ACAT training twice, first when Judy Liebowitz, our first and founding director, stepped down from the position in 1982. Then a second time, in 1996, when called upon by the faculty to lead once again.

I highly recommend the Alexander Technique Lesson at Home, a digital download in which Barbara narrates a compilation of the procedures Judy Leibowitz taught that are very helpful for practicing the Technique on your own. You also get an interview with Barbara, in which she talks about Judy (Leibowitz') influence at ACAT and on her own teaching. You can get the Lesson at Home by making a donation to ACAT.

Barbara is a treasure in our community, having touched so many of us with her gifts.

ACAT’s 50th Anniversary – Matching Challenge Grant

ACAT has received a matching grant of up to $10,000. Donate in honor of Barbara Kent and Jessica Wolf, and have your donation matched dollar-for-dollar. Whatever you give, your donation will be doubled. To thank you for your donation, we will send you a link to download an MP3 of ACAT's Alexander Technique Lesson at Home, based on Judith Leibowitz’s teaching and narrated by Barbara Kent. Go to acat50.org to donate and find out more. All donations to ACAT are tax deductible.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Judy-Stern-headshot.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]JUDY STERN is a senior faculty member at the American Center for the Alexander Technique (ACAT). She has been teaching the Alexander Technique for almost 30 years. She has a post-graduate certificate in Physical Therapy and a Master of Arts in Health Education from the University of Florida/Gainesville. She was a member of the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania School of Physical Therapy early in her career, and worked for 19 years as a traditional physical therapist. Judy has a special interest in the neurophysiology of the Technique. She has a private practice at her studio in Rye, NY, and specializes in working with people in pain. Connect with Judy at her website. www.judithcstern.com [/author_info] [/author]

 

Lessons on Marketing the Alexander Technique, Or What I Learned From Bloomberg TV

post-itBy Karen G. Krueger About a year ago, I unexpectedly was handed an opportunity to introduce the Alexander Technique to an audience that has no idea what it is, but needs it desperately: lawyers.

Spencer Mazyck invited me to be a guest on his Bloomberg Law series "Stealth Lawyer," a web-based video show featuring interviews with ex-lawyers about their new careers (sadly, no longer in production after a reorganization of Bloomberg Law). With some trepidation, I accepted. You can view the resulting interview on my website.

The response to the interview was immediate and positive, including a steady stream of new students. I would like to share with my fellow teachers some things I learned in the process:

Marketing is an Indirect Procedure

The seeds for this interview were planted long before they sprouted. Many years ago, a young lawyer named David Lat spent a short time working at the law firm where I was a partner. David went on to found an immensely successful and popular blog about lawyers and the practice of law, called "Above the Law."

Six or seven years ago, when I was beginning the process of leaving the practice of law to become an Alexander Technique teacher, another former colleague suggested I contact David, as he might be interested in writing about me on his blog. We exchanged a few e-mails, but nothing came of it.

Suddenly, a little over a year ago I got an e-mail from Spencer, saying that David had suggested me as a guest for his show. Two weeks after that e-mail arrived, the interview was making its way around the internet.

Several of my new students told me a similar story of long germination and sudden action: they had heard of the Alexander Technique in the past, but never took the step of having a lesson until seeing the interview prompted them to contact me.

The Power of the Internet

In my experience, the percentage of people responding to any introduction to our work by actually scheduling a lesson is low, so the multiplier effect of the internet's huge reach is significant. In this case, within 48 hours after the interview was posted on Bloomberg's website and circulated via "Above the Law," I had scheduled six first lessons.

And it turns out we don't need to provide "wow" moments of hands-on experience to get people interested. We should not discount the value of simply talking about the work. The important thing is to get them to come for that first lesson, to have the full hands-on experience.

Speak to Your Audience

In explaining the technique to the intended audience of lawyers, I touched on primary control, awareness, inhibition, direction, use-related pain, habitual reaction to stimuli, and good vs. bad use of the self - but I didn't use those words! I also emphasized aspects of the work that appeal to lawyers -- in particular, that it involves learning skills and using conscious thinking to solve problems.

I think this contributed to the positive response to the interview: I avoided jargon, instead speaking my audience's native language.

Be Authentic

Each person who contacted me mentioned something different in the interview that had spoken to his or her situation, needs and goals. Obviously, I hadn't actually tailored my message to their individual interests, as I would in a face-to-face conversation. Rather, I spoke from the heart about my own experience.

People recognize and respond to authenticity. We don't need to explain all the principles of the technique; we don't need to correct every possible misunderstanding about what it is; we just need to explain the value it has in our own lives and those of our students.

Each of us is a unique individual with a story about how we came to the Alexander Technique and why we decided to immerse ourselves in it. Tell that story to whomever you can, and people will find their connection to it.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Kreuger.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]KAREN G. KREUGER became a teacher of the Alexander Technique after 25 years of practicing law at two major New York law firms, receiving her teaching certificate from the American Center for the Alexander Technique in December 2010. Her students include lawyers, business executives, IT professionals and others interested in living with greater ease and skill. Find her at her website: http://kgk-llc.com. [/author_info] [/author]

Engaging Curiosity and Dialogue: How to Introduce the Alexander Technique

by Morgan Rysdon On Monday, January 13th 2014, a panel convened at ACAT to discuss an issue of great concern to so many teachers of the Alexander Technique who struggle with talking about this rich and complex work. "Engaging Curiosity and Dialogue: How to Introduce the Alexander Technique" was moderated by Karen Krueger and included myself, Bill Connington, Rebecca Tuffey, and Jessica Wolf on the panel. The audience ranged from more senior teachers to trainees, all with a desire to explore this never-ending topic of how do we—as teachers of the Alexander Technique—introduce this unique work to others

Sage Advice From Seasoned Teachers

The diversity of the teachers sitting on the panel clearly illustrated the range in which we can approach this topic. Jessica Wolf, for example, strongly believes that as teachers we have a responsibility to raise the bar on how we present ourselves and the Technique to the world. Highlighting that teaching the Alexander Technique is a profession—just like any other kind of profession—and therefore, we should always be treating it as such when we talk about it with others.

While Rebecca Tuffey made it a point to emphasize the importance of knowing who you are talking to. Encouraging teachers to start asking those who are in front of them questions about themselves to help better direct their conversation. Stressing that it is easier to talk to someone about what the Technique is if we know who they are and where they are coming from.

My dear friend and colleague, Bill Connington, made by far the most interesting comment (for me) of the evening—he does not "sell" the Technique, but rather he informs people about it. This simple approach of educating people about what he does lends itself to the idea that talking to people about "What is the Alexander Technique?" does not always have to be as hard as we think it is. If we start thinking we have to 'sell the work' we run the risk of getting too complicated. Keep it simple! This is Bill's common theme—and one that seems to be working well for him and his practice—his new book is coming out later this year!

Practice Saying "Yes"

When it came to my own participation on the panel, my 2 points were:

1. Practice, practice, practice:

I think the more often we practice talking about this work, the more comfortable we become sharing it with others—no matter what scenario we find ourselves in.

2. Get into the habit of a "Yes" practice:

I say 'yes' to whatever someone brings to me. For example, "Is the Alexander Technique like Tai Chi?" I might be asked. "Why yes," I'd respond, "in the sense that it is a process that is always growing and further develops over time. And once you think you have mastered one aspect, new things always present themselves for you to continue learning." This practice of 'Yes' allows my dialogue with others to continue—and helps people draw similarities to those things they are already familiar with to the Alexander Technique.

What Is Your Way?

None of the teachers had a set way of explaining this work—and the varying responses were a helpful reminder that there is no one 'right' answer, just different answers. As a teacher or a teacher in training, what are some of the ways that you have found work well for introducing the Alexander Technique to new people? Do you have any sure fire ways to spark interest? Or perhaps you've had an experience that helped teach you what NOT to do when talking about this work to newcomers? We would love to hear from you!

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/morgan-rysdon.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Morgan Rysdon enjoys introducing the Alexander Technique to new audiences. She holds a BA in Acting and received her teaching certification from ACAT in NYC. She has an active private practice in Hoboken, NJ, and Manhattan, where she coordinates and teaches introductory classes, group classes, and private lessons. She also assists with a weekly Parkinson's class at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and is active in improving work environments for company's who value their employee's health. To support her professional community, she serves as Chair of ACAT's Board and sits on AmSAT's Membership Committee.She can be found at atcenterstudio.com[/author_info] [/author]

"So Tell Me, What is the Alexander Technique?": A Presentation Skills workshop for Alexander Teachers

Starting on Wednesday, February 12th, and running for the next 4 Wednesdays, Brooke Lieb will be leading a workshop open to all Alexander Technique teachers, members and non-members of ACAT. Q: What prompted you to design the class “So Tell Me, What is the Alexander Technique?: A Presentation Skills workshop for Alexander Teachers”?

A: I used to lead presentation and leadership skills workshops for TAI Partners in the early 90s, where we helped consultants, corporate trainers, teachers and performing artists find their authentic style of presenting to large and small groups. My background as an actor and Alexander Teacher allowed me to streamline the process for these participants, and give them real time experience presenting to a group so they truly embodied the tools and ideas on skillful presenting. The only way to get better at it is to do it, not read a book or listen to a lecture about how to present well.

Working with clients over the years, I realized I also understand workshop and presentation design. Again, my background in theater, training Alexander Teachers, and corporate training exposed me to a wide range of design elements, from presentation/storytelling, to interactive dialogue, to experiential group and partner activities. These skills are teachable, and learnable, and the best way to refine them is to have a place to practice them.

This workshop will give participants a chance to learn design and practice presentation. Everyone will walk away with ready to use components for introductory talks, content for your online introductory video, workshop design, and pitches to corporations. I expect more of us will have the chance to participate in conferences and TedX type events, and it's an important aspect of attracting clients and educating the  marketplace about the Alexander Technique.

Alexander Teachers can offer high level media training to our clients, so this course is also a chance to see how to incorporate the Alexander Technique when coaching your client in preparation for a talk, seminar or pitch she or he may be presenting. This might be a part of a client's job, even if she or he doesn't realize it. People rank the fear of public speaking higher than death, and we have a vital resource to help people not only survive but stand out in their communications.

"The lesson you gave me was super helpful. It was the calmest I've ever been during a presentation, and several people remarked on my delivery!" Jessica Santascoy, ACAT '14, on presenting at an Astronomy Conference.

For more information on course content and how to register, click here.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.acatnyc.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Brooke1web.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]N. BROOKE LIEB, Director of Teacher Certification since 2008, received her certification from ACAT in 1989, joined the faculty in 1992. Brooke has presented to 100s of people at numerous conferences, has taught at C. W. Post College, St. Rose College, Kutztown University, Pace University, The Actors Institute, The National Theatre Conservatory at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dennison University, and Wagner College; and has made presentations for the Hospital for Special Surgery, the Scoliosis Foundation, and the Arthritis Foundation; Mercy College and Touro College, Departments of Physical Therapy; and Northern Westchester Hospital. Brooke maintains a teaching practice in NYC, specializing in working with people dealing with pain, back injuries and scoliosis; and performing artists. www.brookelieb.com[/author_info] [/author]