Factory opens for business

By Simon Fitzgibbon | ITM

May 10

Simon Fitzgibbon has started a second teacher training school in Sydney called the Factory of Mechanical Advantage

Discounting teenage stints of washing cars and stacking supermarket shelves, teaching the Alexander Technique is the only job I’ve ever had.

My journey from school leaver to teacher trainee was short and uneventful, but upon entering Kri Ackers’ training course in Sydney in the early ‘90s, the Technique became my life. It soon took me to London (where I studied further with the Carringtons), and on to Madrid, Spain, where I lived for 20 years.

Although teaching English was the easy path to economic stability, I wanted to teach the Technique. The gamble paid off, in spite of the initial language barrier and being in a country where few had heard of the Technique. A full practice later morphed into a teacher training course, which I ran from 2008 to 2015.

My next move was to return to Australia (with my exotic Spanish partner!), and after a year spent settling in, we have now started a new training course in Sydney: The Factory of Mechanical Advantage, or FMA for short.

Why?

The answer that makes me sound noble is that I believe this school will enrich the AT community, both in Sydney and nationwide. To quote Kri from a recent email to AUSTAT members, I “specialise in teaching the unique craft of using the hands to activate the natural lengthening mechanisms within the human body”.

This hands-on skill distinguishes the Technique from all other modalities and is what I aim to impart to my trainees. It is not a gift bestowed upon the few but, as with all subtle endeavours, it requires years of guided instruction and practice to develop.

When I was training, we would often hear it took three years to become an Alexander Teacher and another 10 years to get any good at it.

One is not useless before then but, like any other trade, one is not an expert when they’ve finished their apprenticeship. For this reason, I aim to provide, in addition to a teacher training course, ample post-graduate support and training both for our graduates and other interested teachers.

There is also a selfish reason for wanting a training course: I enjoy training teachers as it gives me the opportunity to continue learning and improving my skills by working at a level of subtlety not possible with private pupils.

As a teacher, my focus is on the basics — chair work, table work, hands on the back of the chair, whispered ‘ah’ — which I consider the most effective way of meeting the real challenge of our work: learning the Technique.

I find that once learnt, applying it to different activities is a relatively simple matter, variations upon a theme. Conversely, attempts to apply the Technique before having a solid practical understanding of it lead to confusion and inconsistent results. The ‘Technique’ easily becomes a series of activity specific ‘tricks’ instead of a global skill that can assist any activity.

Words can never convey the subtlety of experience we are aiming for; thus, a teacher must be able to give the student the experience. Later, from this shared experience, teacher and student can build up a vocabulary, a common language, to discuss the theoretical aspects of the work. This process helps the student understand both what we are trying to achieve and how to get it for themselves.

As a teacher trainer, my focus is essentially the same. Trainees develop their understanding through practical experience (learning the Technique) which then forms the foundation of hands-on work (a specific application). This foundation allows them to, over time, build up the requisite skill and sensitivity in their hands to encourage similar changes in their students.

To achieve this in three years of training, my school is small by design. There is a maximum of six trainees at a time, with 2-3 experienced teachers always present. This way I can ensure that each student receives sufficient daily experience of the Alexander Technique to assimilate the changes necessary to incorporate the Technique into their daily lives and to develop the characteristic Alexander hands.

Our current staff are Simon Fitzgibbon (director), Marietta Simarro, Kri Ackers and Bradley Newman. Between us, we have almost 100 years of full-time Alexander Technique teaching and teacher training experience.

We are open to visits from prospective trainees and trained Alexander Teachers interested in post-graduate work.

We look forward to sharing some work with you!

 

About the Author

Alexander Technique teacher and teacher trainer. Teacher of the Shaw Method of swimming.