Saturday, 1 February 2014

On 13:47 by Victoria Stanham   No comments
Have you ever wondered what learning is? Have you ever wondered what it is that in truth we learn, or we teach for that matter?

It has been my experience, both as teacher and as pupil, that all too often what the teacher meant to teach with his words is not what the pupil apprehended and made part of his experiential knowledge.

Why does this happen?

On one level we could say that we learn by example and not by words or instructions. A teacher who walks her talk is more effective than she who gives mere lip service to an idea. 

However, I have found that it all goes one level beyond just walking your talk. We all know of people who try to live by their expressed values, they put in a lot of effort and strain to walk their talk... and all we see is the effort and strain. These people are sometimes even pushy with their ideas and ideals, trying to shove them down our throats with the same vehemence they are trying to swallow it themselves.

And there lies the problem. When we are pushing ourselves to change superficial behaviour that goes against underlying subconscious core beliefs which pull in the opposite direction, we are in for an uncomfortable time.

On the other hand, when our ideals and values have organically and seamlessly integrated into our constitutional make up, they are "invisible" so to speak, you can't look at them directly; what we see is their effect, much like poise.

We learn a context generated by a teacher's integrated beliefs and principles, or in AT parlance, the teacher's use. We learn a full sensory experience which etches itself in our bodies, minds and souls. 

For example, I remember little of what was taught in my Sociology lessons in high school, but I do remember how much I liked the teacher, how safe I felt in her presence even though she was strict. Perhaps it was her steadiness, fairness and accountability that I remember. With her I learned about respect, although she never talked directly about respect or responsibility; she quite simply lived it. 

The most influential thing during a lesson is not what the teacher says she believes, and not even what the technique or method taught proposes. The most influential aspect of a teaching situation is the teacher's conception or belief of what the human being is capable of, of how it is organized, coordinated and integrated; this is what generates the context they teach from. 

We do learn by example; that is, we absorb the actual lived principles of the teacher; not what she says but what she does/is. I have noticed that around some "powerful" teachers my abilities (or disabilities if they are of the "pernicious" type of teacher) multiply tenfold. It's like whatever they see in me is so TRUE to them that I start believing it too, in spite of myself. A teacher holds steady for us that wider conception of our potential, and it acts like a magnet attracting our limits to boundaries beyond our current self-definition. This is why different teachers help us expand in different directions; it all depends on where they have set their own limits to their conceptions.

We are learning all the time, because we are immersed in contexts all the time. Everything is a learning experience that either reinforces our habitual patterns or opens us up to new possibilities. 

How is an Alexander Technique teacher different from other teachers?

An Alexander Technique teacher has been trained to be able to transmit through the use of touch an experience of their conceptions. The student gets a sensory, bodily experience of this new paradigm, and it alters the definition of the words used to describe it. "Going up", "expanding", "occupying all your space" and many more concepts acquire a whole new level of meaning. And what we experience with our whole beings, we integrate, we KNOW.


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