Sensory education and going wrong
If we go back now to the early part of Chapter III of CCCI, Imperfect Sensory Appreciation, there are two paragraphs in the middle of the second page of the chapter (page 99) which I believe contain the essence of AT teaching. These two paragraphs could give any teacher a compass to navigate most teaching situations. So what do they say?
“To this end the mode of procedure is as follows. The teacher, having made his diagnosis of the cause or causes of the imperfections or defects which the pupil has developed in the incorrect use of himself, uses expert manipulation to give to the pupil the new sensory experiences required for the satisfactory use of the mechanisms concerned, the while giving him the correct guiding orders or directions which are the counterpart of the new sensory experiences which he is endeavouring to develop by means of his manipulation.
“This procedure constitutes the means whereby the teacher makes it possible for the pupil to prevent (inhibition) the misdirected activities which are causing his psycho-physical imperfections. In this work the inhibitory process must take first place, and remains the primary factor in each and every new experience which is to be gained and become established during the cultivation and development of reliable sensory appreciation upon which a satisfactory standard of coordination depends.”
When you first read the above you might wonder why I am highlighting these paragraphs. As so often with FM the writing style seems both abstract and severe. But this is another example of the need to take to heart Walter Carrington’s advice not to try to follow FM’s lesson prescriptions literally. Take the sentence about “diagnosis” at the beginning of lessons. Does this mean you should proceed like a medical doctor considering symptoms and then presenting the diagnosis to the student, perhaps in the form of a list of their most egregious forms of misuse? Now some new students like to be told what’s wrong with them and feel the teacher isn’t being properly professional if issues are not pointed out to them, but others find this dispiriting, so the teacher needs to get some idea of the student’s expectations in this regard. But more important is the teacher getting some overall sense of the new student’s state of use – as Walter Carrington used to say, on a matrix of are they pulling down or going up, and are they fixed or free. Not very sophisticated, but good enough. And along with this, some idea from conversation of how the student views their problems and what kind of instruction and information might communicate best to them. This is part of why I like to have casual conversation as well as teaching during a lesson: it’s all part of establishing a rapport and getting a sense of how the person might respond to different kinds of verbal messages.
Then FM firmly states you, the teacher, are going to use your hands skilfully to encourage experiences of better use in your student so that they can begin to sense the difference between, broadly speaking, pulling down and going up, while teaching them to use their brain to send appropriate messages – the guiding orders or directions – which will gradually, in time, help them bring about improved use for themselves.
A key element in this, as the second paragraph points out, is going to be persuading the student not to rush into action with all their old habits. As is so often said, you can’t learn something new by always doing something old! But an AT teacher is free to be flexible in how and when you express this. For example I have myself mostly found it more successful to focus at first on using my hands and words to coax some freeing up in the student, enough for them to feel a difference, so that then I can give them a good reason to pause, slow down, stop and think to give some priority to maintaining this new possibility we call going up rather than rushing into action. In this way I do believe I am fulfilling FM’s mandate in these two key paragraphs, but without following each step too literally.
For a practical example of this you can see me giving an introductory turn to a new person at around the 65 minutes and 40 seconds mark in the Primary Control video here, and perhaps listen to the podcast about giving a first lesson further down the same page here.