Training at the Riverside Initiative is a complete preparation for becoming a professional teacher. The cultivation of one’s personal use is paramount in training. In the first year, trainees are guided through simple step-by-step processes that developmentally build confidence and ability in using their hands to teach others. More complex hands-on skills are introduced as the training progresses in the second year; by the third year trainees give lessons under faculty supervision. Supervised lessons and community outreach hours offer an opportunity to benefit from the wisdom of experienced faculty members while encountering some of the practical challenges and problems in teaching.
A variety of crucial subjects for becoming a professional teacher are discussed throughout the training:
- the writings of F.M. Alexander and first-generation teachers
- important additional writings and texts within the field
- articles and texts from the fields of psychology, philosophy, and science
- the study of anatomy and kinesiology from an embodied and experiential perspective
One of the aims of all lectures and discussions is for trainees to become comfortable and confident in intelligibly explaining the Technique to a diverse range of people.
Trainees also benefit from guest teachers and lecturers speaking on specialized topics ranging from the performing arts to marketing and entrepreneurship, to the unique challenges of working with children and the elderly, as well as people who are disabled and those coping with pain.
- Self-Study: the ability to teach depends on an awareness and ability to constructively influence one’s own use, the core of the curriculum focuses on the in-depth study of the use of oneself, coupled with an increasing awareness and ability to cultivate the conditions that positively and constructively influence one’s use. To facilitate optimal self-study, trainees are given intensive daily training in practical methods that help develop an understanding of the fundamental principles of the Alexander Technique. These principles include: Inhibition, Direction, Awareness, Primary Control, Non-doing, Reliable Sensory Appreciation, Non-End-gaining/Means-Whereby, Relationship of Use and Functioning; and Psycho-Physical Unity.
- Cultivating a teacher’s hands-on skill: the ability to convey an integrated kinesthetic experience, is the special skill upon which teaching the Alexander Technique is based. The development of this integral part of teacher training, as well as all the methods listed above occurs in a step-by-step structured process over the course of the three years.
The First Year: Trainees establish a foundation of good use based on an understanding and practice of the basic principles. Attention to themselves and their own process is of main importance in the first year. Hands-on guidance in individual Chair and Table work, and small apprentice style groups facilitates this process. Consistent experience in practical work (see below) cultivates the conditions necessary for constructive influence of their own use. As their confidence in their experiences of improved use and functioning develops they establish a foundation of basic practices from which more advanced skills can develop.
The Second Year: Trainees continue to receive intensive hands-on guidance to facilitate and evaluate their study, and they continue to take part in apprenticeship style groups to develop their teaching skills. In their Hands-On Groups the reliability of a trainee’s sensory appreciation and their sensitivity of touch are emphasized in step-by-step developmental processes. Their ability to move forward depends on a continual building upon the first year’s foundation of self-awareness and the ability to effect a more coherent and organized Primary Control through Inhibition and Direction, i.e., their own improved use and functioning.
The Third Year: Trainees continue to develop more refined teaching skills through intensive hands-on guidance and apprenticeship style groups. The structured developmental process expands to include more “variations of a teacher’s art.” Problem-solving practical issues in the lesson and the development of verbal teaching and presentation skills are emphasized.
Riverside Initiative’s philosophy of training is grounded in a long tradition of in-depth study of personal use as the foundation for hands-on skills, which are the hallmark of good teaching. It is widely recognized that this learning process takes time. The course requires the satisfactory completion of 1600 hours of study over a minimum of three years; 160 of these hours are allocated to approved independent study in which students may pursue individual areas of interest related to the Technique.
To prepare students for professional life, trainees are also instructed in:
- basic skills for running a private practice and/or working in universities, schools, medical settings, rehabilitation centers, etc.
- professional ethics
- marketing and use of media
- the development of interpersonal communication skills
- basic somatic and psychological concepts