I am a member of an online forum for the exploration of Alexander Technique and voice, recently established on Facebook by my colleague Peter Jacobson. One of the members, C.R., a theater major at Kent State University, posted this question on the page:
This goes to any Alexander person. So I carry a lot of weight on my back (college student.. blegh) my back is starting to hurt a little bit.. wasn't sure if there's any back stretches to get the kinks out?
I was invigorated by this question. I immediately felt a strong desire to reach out to this person and help him with whatever means I had available. (I guess this reaction shows why teaching is such a perfect fit for me!) Of course, C.R. lives in Pennsylvania and I'm here in NYC, so I can't just put my hands on him to help him sort out his back troubles in the traditional Alexander way.
This issue has been on my mind a lot lately: how can we teachers reach out to the widely dispersed population of people who are in need of our help? We are fortunate to live in an age in which it is easy to connect our minds with other minds across vast distances in virtually no time. And this mind-to-mind connection is all that teaching requires. Sure, physical proximity is a requirement for using certain teaching protocols like guiding a student with the contact of my hands. But we have so many other options!
Buoyed by my recent successes in teaching via Skype, I've decided to inaugurate another long-distance modality: the blog lesson. (Skype teaching deserves its own blog post. I've been delighted to discover that it's not just a second-rate substitute for "real" in-person teaching. There are aspects to a Skype lesson, not available when I'm in the room with my student, that intensify observation and focus for both me and my students. I'll write more about this sometime.)
What is a blog lesson? I don't know yet—this is going to be my first one! Let's see what develops. Feel free to toss in your ideas in a comment below.
We'll be starting with a question, specifically, the one that was posed by C.R., who was hoping that an Alexander person could recommend some stretches to alleviate the back pain he thinks is brought on by the weight of his backpack. I'm going to teach C.R. by sharing some ideas—alternative ways of thinking about his situation—and then suggesting some ways for him to explore these ideas further on his own. Not really on his own, though, because he'll be guided by what I write and will have the opportunity to continue the conversation by leaving comments.
A great benefit to this method is that EVERYONE who reads this can take the lesson along with C.R.! We have here the potential for a world-wide exploration and discussion about a topic that affects all of us: how to keep our backs healthy.
I will assign written homework for C.R. and anyone else who wishes to learn along with us. (Don't worry—it'll be easy and fun!) We'll communicate via the comment section to the lesson post, which will become a pooled knowledge base.
This post seems long enough, so I'm going to save the actual blog lesson #1 for my next post. Who wants to join in with C.R. and me? We'll be exploring new territory in the realm of teaching!