First pblished on Conductor on Friday, 5 February 2010
Sometimes I have the feeling that I am always a student, constantly learning and trying out new things.
I am me
One of the themes of these discussions was questioning what did Littlie mean. Does Weil ich bin ich really translate to “Because I am me”?
It was lucky that I was on the spot when she said it and had time to ask what was meant. Because Littlie can now talk and communicate well enough she explained it to me, but still with the help of her eyes and facial expression.
She took the time to explain because she wanted to and also because she realised that she was being pretty clever! It was important enough for me to have asked her the question and she realised this straight away.
This little girl speaks so differently when she comes out with her gems of wisdom. She is so clear and self-assured because she knows when it is something that she knows better than anyone else.
She laughed a lot during this conversation. She was wobbling around so much while laughing, but she was so sure of herself, that she knew that even though talking and laughing she was in no danger of falling over.
We both ignored the wobbling while I asked lots of questions. We managed to establish that she meant that she knew what she needed, better than I knew, because she is who she is, and I am not. I do not live inside her body and soul, she does.
She definitely didn’t mean “Because I’m me, that is how I am”.
When answering one of the communications that I received on this weil ich bin ich subject, I wrote how important this kind of communication is between client and conductor. I also wrote how important it is for me to be observing every second of the day, otherwise important moments go by unspoken. I also mentioned how, although group work is good, it is not the be-all-and-end-all and, even in a group, moments spent alone with an individual are very important.
It is a ray of sunshine suddenly appearing in this grey winter to have clients like all my littlies and my stroke clients who explain things to me. They tell me how they experience life and how a conductive life-style helps them.
This ray of sunshine turns into a shower of presents. I receive wonderful snippets of information from my clients, or I am shown by them how to change how we do something together, because they realise that it is better that way. Sometimes the changes are so small that only they can indicate to me what is needed. I wouldn’t know it otherwise, as the changes may only be feelings, feeling safer maybe or understanding their own body movements better, things invisible to my eye except perhaps for the look in the eye or the smile in the soul.
I store away these presents. I will at some time in the future have a need for them and I can then adapt them to use in my work with other people. I shall never, though, be able to use again the solutions that I have found together with individual clients in the form in which they are stored. But I can be more aware that there are possibilities to do things differently.
Every one of my clients is different, their lives are different, and all of them are constantly changing. How we work together has to be changing with them. Because of these differences and changes it is so important for all conductors, clients, carers and parents to know that there is no recipe. There is no CE cook-book. You cannot buy CE off the peg.
A theatre of spontaneity
Conducting is very much like acting in improvised theatre (Stehgreiftheater), where the audience throws in a word or two, suggests ideas, and the actors use their stored skills to bring the work together. That is what we conductors are doing all day. We have a base of knowledge that we use to form new programmes for the children and adults. We start to build, depending on what gets thrown at us each and every day. Each day a new tasty meal is put together, and each day lots of happy souls.
We are observing, listening and using what we see and hear and feel, in order to create a hundred different dishes a day, each one suiting a client in a specific situation. One child may need the scissors upside down, another may need to hold them in the other hand, a chair may need to be higher or lower when used to do this or that. Things don’t stay the same for a minute, so there is no instant recipe.
This is an important area for discussion in Conductive Education. It is certainly something that conductors providing a service must make clear to parents, carers and clients.
All too often it is established that there is a problem. Unfortunately, then, also all too often it is believed that a recipe can be found to solve the problem with a peek in a cook book. Then perhaps a conductor will be brought in to cook the chosen recipe. But then again perhaps not.
Conductive Education does not work like this. There is certainly no cook book and certainly no free gift taped on the cover, there are no wooden plinths and no 1,2,3,4,5. These are not the ingredients we need. They may be our utensils, but then again, maybe not, just as sometimes when we cook we think that we might “need” a rolling pin or a baking tin, when a glass bottle full of cold water and a flower pot will do the job just as well.
A conductive upbringing most certainly does not come in a book of recipes, and certainly not with the cook-cum-conductor thrown in.
I can at times feel that I am working to a recipe, but then I find that there are ingredients missing, the grandma or the sister or the dad, the home life or the school. Then the recipe doesn’t work. The cake doesn’t rise or the dish has an odd taste to it. A conductive upbringing needs to include everything in someone’s life and must be always changing to accommodate every change that takes place.
Of course there are lots of ideas that we can pass on from conductor to conductor, from client to client. There are, however, no recipes to write down, saying that this will be suitable for such and such or for someone else in a similar situation. It usually isn’t!
All change, all the time
CE is about change. It is about observing the changes, and listening to communications about making changes. It is about making new changes because other changes have taken place because of the last changes.....
If a child can stand up and then discovers how to use the hands while standing, then next time the opportunity arises the same child can have a go at baking bread, or playing with a dolls house standing up instead of sitting on a chair or on the floor.
If there is a problem here, I do not know whether it comes from the conductors or from the people they provide a service for. It is a bit of a chicken-and-egg story. In many situations parents, centre-managers, teachers, whoever the customer is, decide that they want this method that they have seen working on television, at a summer camp or in Budapest. They see clients developing but do not necessarily understand why and how. They perhaps do not understand how they are going to achieve such success in their own setting, so they wonder whether perhaps they can buy a cookbook!
Some perhaps get themselves a meat-and-two-veg cook book, and then employ a Michelin-star chef to cook the recipes in it.
Ask any cook
But we cannot choose any single recipe to fit the bill in our work, and neither can the wrong ingredients be given to a chef with the expectation that a well-balanced meal will be produced.
Conductors need to be instrumental in the planning of how a conductive upbringing is to be provided from the word go, not brought in to provide a service that has been decided in advance by non-conductors.