Last week I wrote about relaxation; and why it is such a can of worms I avoid the word like the plague.
I got back this from one of my students:(*)
I can see why you want to avoid words that have ‘baggage’ but in doing so don’t you risk leaving it all in place and even have people associate a new term with the same understandings?
What a great question for a teacher! If you see a can of worms, should you lift the lid(**)?
My answer: “Usually I don’t have to”.
In any Alexander lesson, there is a kind of simultaneous translation going on in the mind of the student. They take what you say, link it up to what they already know, and rewrite it in terms they are slightly more comfortable with. Even before you’ve finished what you are saying(***).
If the student has translated ‘stopping’ into ‘relaxing’, they will say so. They will rephrase a point, ask a question, or answer a question and The Dreadful Word will pop up. That’s my cue to explain that “I avoid the word relaxation, because…”(****). Put another way, the student will open the can themselves.
The teacher’s job is to create the kind of environment where the student is happy to ask, comment, and say what they are thinking. And then to listen carefully.
And on the occasions where the student doesn’t open the can themselves? Well, if they have created unhelpful associations it will show up further down the line. It may take longer, but somewhere in what they say, how they move, how they respond to hands-on or how fast they progress it will become obvious that they are caught on a snag. At that point a bit of closer questioning will uncover the association, and then we’re moving again.
(*) with many thanks to Sonia for making me think really hard about this.
(**) for my US readers with raised eyebrows, in the UK a can is a receptacle for food or drink. Not a toilet.
(***)”It invariably follows that by the time the teacher has concluded his statement, the pupil will have formed his own conception (often diametrically the reverse of his teacher’s) of the facts disclosed, and unless he is a very unusual person, he will already have come to a decision in accordance with his preconceived ideas”, FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual, p.295 IRDEAT edition.
(****) See ‘Avoiding Relaxation’ for my reasons; plus an excellent extra worm from Adrian in the comments.
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