On Saturday, 16 people turned up at St Peter’s Church, Macclesfield to explore the simple, yet complex movement of walking. We all know how to walk. What we don’t always know is how WE walk and how we might walk with more ease, more enjoyment. And that is what we explored together.
And it was immense fun – a really good workshop. And people learned a great deal. And we metaphorically covered a great deal of ground though we physically didn’t walk any great distances.
And looking back on any workshop or group session I COULD pat myself on the back, as the person running the workshop and say ‘well-done, I ran a good workshop’. Or, alternatively, ‘that didn’t work, I must not be a very good teacher’. And in these days of an education system that measures teachers on how well their students do, that is certainly a tendency. But that view, it seems to me, puts TOO much emphasis on the role of the teacher and not enough on the role of everyone else in the room.
It’s not that the teacher has NO role or responsibility. Of course they do. It was my job, yesterday, to ensure that the physical and emotional environment was as safe as possible – that people knew they weren’t going to be judged or criticized. I try to make sure the physical environment is as beautiful as possible too – that tells participants I value them. As does the fruit and treacle flap jack at break time. And it’s my job to be as skillful a teacher as I can be, to keep studying and learning myself and to teach as clearly as I know how. I am responsible for the pace of the workshop, the content of the workshop.
On this particular afternoon I was also lucky enough to have two other Alexander technique teachers to help me, the lovely Janey Goodearl and the wonderful Su Harrison.
But – and it is an important but – the other people in the room play an absolutely essential role in the success of any workshop. Their openness to learning, their generosity to one another, their courage in being willing to change and look at new ways of doing things are things the teacher or workshop leader can encourage but not actually give. Only the participants can do that.
So, as I look back on Saturday’s workshop and reflect on it, I have to pay tribute to the open-hearted, warm, friendly and open-minded participants for the learning that took place. To Janey and to Su, for their invaluable help and to all the lovely people who came together to form a community of learning the Alexander technique together.
If we learn, we change. And at the end of four hours, people had changed. They said,
‘I feel safe and more stable and more appreciative of the ground’
‘I learned how strong my lower body is’
‘when I went for a walk I thought more about the process of walking instead of being in my head’
‘I felt more grounded, more connected with the ground’
‘I felt a lot more stable, I looked up, I enjoyed going for a walk!’
‘I’m taking away a sense of freedom and stability’
‘I’m taking away the need to slow down’
‘I’m going to be a bit gentler with myself about change’
‘I learned that holding yourself rigid is a silly waste of effort’
Well done, those students of the Alexander work. And thank you for a good afternoon’s learning.