Adventures in Montpellier

Dear Sue and Judith, thedevelopingself@gmail.com
I'm finally writing to you to let you know where I am standing now with teaching children.
Having followed your course has been a great help and has given me great confidence with the
children and the adults I had to talk to.
This year I'm teaching three different groups of children.
1. Kindergarden group of 8 to 15 children
This proved more difficult than I expected because I thougth the younger they were the easier it
would be.
These children also come from a very underpriviledged environnment and spend many hours at
school. I have them at the end of their day when they haven't had a break since lunch time!
In the beginning I tried to have them lie down while I was playing my violin but they were so under
pressure that it was impossible. Even listening to the story of Terry Tall and Digby Down in a quiet
way was very difficult for them.
I realized they needn't calm down but on the contrary release all the energy that had been keeping
inside themselves all day long.
So I started making them move with games like the musical statue, the making shapes game (where
many of them said they prefered the tight shape!!), designing a course on the floor they had to
follow while walking, jumping, squatting, crawling on all fours, Simon says no etc... which I would
have done anyway, trying to instil some Alexander principles in them.
It proved a good idea, they enjoyed it a lot and I had more of their attention and less disruption.
Last week I had a cold with headache and told them I really needed them to be quiet so that I
wouldn't feel worse and to my surprise I could immedialety have them lie down in a big circle
where they had enough space not to touch each other, eyes closed while I played a beautifull Irish
tune called The Butterfly and told them to imagine the butterfly going from one flower to another.
It was wonderful and they stayed at least 5 minutes like this. Then they told me what they had seen,
some had caught it, some had the butterfly come on their head, one killed it.
After that we played musical statue where they had to follow the music by moving slowly or fast.
I congratulated them for their behaviour, being very happy to see they could be quiet.
2. Primary school group of 8 to 10 children aged 6 to 8
Although these children come from the same background I managed to have their attention and
their consent quite easily. I must say that the fact that I come with my violin helps a lot. I also have
a small one for children so they can experience playing (in a tall and soft way) and they love it. One
of the children (whom I learnt later one was in a special needs class) responded extremely well and
improved his social skills, his behaviour which was quite eratic and his confidence through playing
and he had the best use and sound of the group.
I'm able to use a lot of the material you gave us; I do nice quiet times where some sometimes almost
fall asleep, story with a pupet, a song, inhibition games etc.
This group come of their own will every week so there are sometimes new children who fit in the
atmosphere very well.
We are all enjoying ourselves!! and I hope something will remain of it.
3.Pilot project
For this project I had 2 classes of 12 six years old children and their teachers.
I managed to give 4 dedicated one hour sessions where I fitted in the principles of the A.T. starting
with the story of Terry Tall and Digby Down and using a lot of the material you gave us. Movement
circles when the children arrive in the morning, carpet time when they comme back from lunch,
making shapes, miming, singing a Terry and Digby song I invented etc. One of the teachers didn't
see the interest of all this and we stopped the project (although I had explained it beforehand and
given them a short workshop where they had to put themselves in the place of the children for
example doing the labyrinth where they could realise the pressure put on them to “get it right”) but
the other one got really involved and has been really working with the children to reinforce the
principles all day long. She had them create their own stories and perform them. She took pictures
of children being Terry and Digby and pinned them on the wall with the magic words next to them.
I also gave her a Stop-go poster like yours.
After these 4 sessions I started working individually with the children at their desks while they were
writing (we had previously been working with the lazy eights and the labyrinth and also with
drawing a violin because the 8 shape is in it, and because I played my violin for them during carpet
time and they loved it). A lot of adjustments had to be done with chairs and tables and then we
started writing in tall and soft way. Quite a few children are getting there little by little; for some of
them it's very difficult but they still like to see me and enjoy working with me. They have accepted
me very easily and don't mind me touching them.
Lately we did a special session with 3 groups of 4 children: group 1 was playing a small violin I had
brought with me, group 2 was making a little book drawing the violin step by step and learning their
names with the teacher, group 3 was working on the labyrinth on their own. We had a lovely time!
The teacher who is a wonderful person and very dedicated went to observe another class and could
really see a big difference in the children's behaviour and use of themselves!
Another observer told me she had seen them singing with other children and she also could see a
big difference.
This is very rewarding for me and I enjoy working with the children a lot. One girl once came to me
with a little note saying thank you for coming to help them. My shoulders melted instantly!!
Unfortunately all this will probably stop next year because as a pilot project, I wasn't payed and
although we can say that the results are there the administration doesn't want to pay for this.
This is a pity and is very frustrating. I will have to look for private schools which might be
interested in this work. But this enabled me to have a good experience and gave me confidence to
continue the good work.
All the best to both of you and I hope to se you at the conference in 2020.
Marie-Laure Deplaix
Teacher in Montpellier, France

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