Practitioners Q&A 1, Part 1
For the very first instalment of this new blog activity, I’m starting with questions from Dalit, from Israel.
Hello Dalit, and thank you for your questions!
Because your questions are very important to many practitioners, I’ll answer them separately. There is much to say and it would also very interesting to have a conversation with you.
Now for my disclaimer: I know that these answers are incomplete. It would take much more text to discuss these topics in as much depth as they deserve. I hope to inspire all of us to reflect, question and create, over and over. I also know that those of you reading this will have much to contribute and I encourage you to post your contributions in the comments section of the blog so we can all learn.
Hi John, How would you define a good ATM? Is it good if it feels good enough – makes teacher and students experience a good feeling, or does it have to follow a certain structure based on biomechanics etc? I’ve been teaching on and off for 15 years, and in the past 2-3 years I make up my own ATM’s and it’s based on what feels right to me, movements I enjoy doing myself. Luckily people enjoy the lessons and I get positive feedback, but I always feel that my lessons are not methodical or professional enough. I’m curious the principles a good ATM should include. Not to mention FI… Thanx, Dalit
In order to answer you as clearly as I can, I’m dividing your question into two parts. I will post the second part in the next newsletter.
The first part:
How would you define a good ATM? Is it good if it feels good enough – makes teacher and students experience a good feeling, or does it have to follow a certain structure based on biomechanics etc?”
These questions are central to our work and ones that we need to ask ourselves again and again.
How would I define a good ATM? Let me first say that there are different ways of defining a good ATM but I believe there are some aspects that can be considered universal to all ATM’s.
In order for a lesson to be an Awareness Through Movement lesson, it does need to follow some form of logical development and structure. One of the exciting things about Dr. Feldenkrais’ lessons is that they can be analysed in different ways. How you interpret an ATM lesson will also depend on your background, interest, training and experience. Being that my background is the study and performance of music, I often think of an ATM lesson like a composition, which allows room for some improvisation or variation (if needed for clarifying something that may not be clear to one or more students).
I’ve learned tremendously from colleagues who come from physical therapy, child development, dance and martial arts backgrounds about other ways of understanding a lesson. Some lessons can be clearly viewed as child development, some more from a martial arts perspective so what helps me is to try to find as many ways as I can to “understand” a lesson. Can a lesson be both martial and developmental? To be sure, I will never fully “understand” any lesson and that’s one of the things that keeps me inspired and interested. More than once, I’ve gone back to a lesson that I’ve previously taught and found some completely new aspect and wondered how I could’ve missed it the time before!
Another hallmark for the FM is the possibility for self-discovery and problem solving. In order for us to teach well, we need to “create the conditions for learning.” I know this may sound like a cliché, but to my mind it’s the most important aspect of our work. As teachers, we need to learn to guide people to make their own discoveries and find their own solutions. It can be tempting to give instructions on how to do a movement that may be confusing or unclear. However, our best teaching is done when we can facilitate our students in finding their own ways. Of course, there may be some instances when we just need to say, “Do this and not that.” These instances should be as rare as possible.
Is it good if it feels good enough – makes teacher and students experience a good feeling, or does it have to follow a certain structure based on biomechanics etc?
The short answer is, “Yes” to both, there needs to be some form of structure AND both teacher and students should have some form of satisfaction. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, I’ve found that my students feel good when the lesson has a solid structure. I’ve made up some lessons that didn’t go over so well and have found that I wasn’t careful enough with the structure and progression. The structure can be based on biomechanics, theme and variation, movement and auxiliary movement etc., but there needs to be some form of learning process.
The best lessons are the ones when students leave feeling better about themselves and have learned something about how they move, sense, feel and think. Of course this may not happen all the time for everybody. In fact, it can take place over a course of lessons as well. While feeling good is important and can aid the learning process, it can also be helpful for students, and us as teachers to struggle through some not knowing and/or challenge. If presented in a safe environment, overcoming and learning from a challenge can be very rewarding. In fact, creating a sense of safety is paramount in our classes. How we choose our lessons will also depend on what kind of experience we want to offer. Do you want to have people who come for relaxation and wellness, or those who want to be challenged and solve puzzles? Of course these are opposite ends of a continuum and it’s helpful to be able to teach to different kinds of students as well.
In the next post, I’ll go into the second part of your question.
Until then, I’m looking forward to reading the comments from our colleagues.
Did you know that I have decided to offer a free Question and Answer resource—to give you an opportunity to ask questions related to your Feldenkrais practice and get answers that will help you learn and grow into a more competent and successful practitioner?
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