Newsletter #91 - March 2009
-- Sowing the Seeds for a Life Changing Experience, Suzanne McLauchlan
In this newsletter
Suzanne McLauchlan reports on results of introducing tai chi to students and teachers in a local secondary school in MacKay, Queensland during Mental Health Week last year.
How did Anastasia Yianni manage to impart her tai chi interest and passion to her teenage son? He started tai chi when he was 9 years old!
Bob McBrien accredits his successful teaching method to his imagination and bringing all that he learned from his master teachers to his class.
Read Sybil Wong’s insightful speech on adult learning, an extract from her morning talk at the recent one week Sydney workshop.
A Book Review on Cyndy Fels’ “The Tao of Teaching Tai Chi: A Learning and Teaching Manual”
New Zealander Chris Hattle, our scholarship recipient, shares with us her profound experience at the January one week Sydney workshop.
Tai Chi 4 Kidz – Instructional DVD
Teaching Tai Chi Effectively – Book
Buy both the DVD and book and you will receive a FREE Tai Chi Music CD, worth USD $15.95 or AUD $19.95.
Tai Chi for Arthritis Instructor Training
May 30 – May 31, 2009. Hartford, CT, United States
Tai Chi for Osteoporosis Instructor Training
June 6 – June 7, 2009. St Paul, MN, United States
Tai Chi for Back Pain Instructor Training
Paul Lam, M.D.
Sowing the Seeds for a Life Changing Experience
Suzanne McLauchlan, Master Trainer, McKay, Qld, Australia
In early July 2008, my colleague Dawn Ruffle informed me that she had received an invitation from a local secondary school to provide Tai Chi sessions for 100 staff and 950 students during Mental Health Week in October 2008. What a challenge and was it achievable we debated!
The school based nurse and the youth support coordinator were keen for the students to experience how the practice of Tai Chi could help the students manage stress and enhance mental well being.
It was decided that staff would be invited to attend an Introduction to tai chi and qigong session during school hours on a pupil free day, a month prior to Mental Health Week. The purpose of this session was so that the staff could prepare the students positively for their Tai Chi and Qigong sessions. Unfortunately only 23 staff attended this session.
During the first week of Term 4, 16 sessions of Introduction to tai chi and qigong were presented for the students. The 60 minutes sessions were co facilitated by Dawn Ruffle and myself as Instructor members of Queensland Keep Fit Association Incorporated with the support of class teachers. We were enthusiastically assisted by eight trained Tai Chi for Arthritis leaders who were also members of our association. Class sizes ranged from 14 to 72.
A total of 628 students attended the sessions. Numbers on the first day were down by 50% as some students incorrectly believed the first day back after the school holidays was a pupil free day.
A basic program was presented as the youth of Mackay have had limited exposure to tai chi and qigong. All students were requested to complete a short evaluation form at the end of each session. In exchange for their evaluation form each student was given a flyer explaining briefly what they had experienced and who provided the service. A different evaluation form was given to the teachers who accompanied the students at each session.
94% of the students reported that this was their first experience of tai chi and qigong.
68% expressed that it would be good to have more sessions of tai chi and qigong at school.
Of the 628 students 2% did not complete the evaluation, 11% did not like the experience, 9% were unsure and 78% enjoyed the experience.
Many students expressed in writing their sincere gratitude to the instructors for providing the opportunity for them to experience the benefits of tai chi and qigong in school time. The words repeatedly and independently used to describe their experiences were “relaxing, quiet, silence, calm, interesting, different, peaceful, fun, the breathing, sleepy, felt good, alright, relieved stress, nice, focus and enjoyable. One of the highlights for our team was when a student who had been disruptive in a session came to a group of us the next day to apologise for her poor behaviour. We were impressed when she told us that she had used some of the tai chi techniques successfully to manage her stress when her younger brother had been annoying her.
During each session while the students had a break from being active I related a story to them about how Tai Chi and Qigong had helped one of my sons who experienced panic attacks during Year 11 and how he still uses the practice now at 23 years of age. Each time I told this story every student listened very intently.
9 strongly agreed and 20 agreed that the session provided a positive experience for students and staff.
9 strongly agreed, 11 agreed and 9 neither agreed nor disagreed that the practice of basic tai chi and qigong activities could be integrated into the school program.
The feedback from staff was very supportive. Here are just a few of the general comments:-
Once students were settled they really noticed how relaxed it made them. Would be good around exam time.
All students were interested and engaged. Didn’t think the class would actually stand still and behave for the entire lesson but they DID. Was a good idea for all school. Integration would be a good plan for the future.
Great! The vast majority of the students actively engaged with the experience, positively and to their fullest ability. Definitely something different and interesting
Could be used in Health and PE sessions
It calmed and relaxed me and put me in a positive mood for the remainder of the day. I think I would like to keep doing this. Great to see the students calm their mind which they probably rarely do! A big thank you and come again!
Being invited to provide 16 sessions of Introduction to tai chi and qigong in a one week period to secondary school students and staff was an ambitious, challenging and exciting project.
Our recommendations for future events:
Maximum class size per instructor with a support person 25
Venue preferably with wooden floor, well lit, well ventilated and private
Willing participants preferable as those who have no interest have the potential to disrupt the positive environment demonstrate selfish disrespect, create unnecessary tension and waste valuable time and energy.
Offer a 10/12 week course where students are able to develop their knowledge and skills about tai chi and qigong and notice their individual life changing experience.
Anastasia Yianni, Senior Trainer, Melbourne, Vic, Australia
At age 5, he would come to my tai chi lesson and join in for a little while before running off to play. When Chris was nine years old we joined Jackie Watt’s adult tai chi class in Melbourne and he has been independently hooked ever since. With the inclusive teaching style and family like atmosphere, Chris has flourished.
Last year Chris and I were involved in the inaugural Tai Chi 4 Kidz leader training workshop in Melbourne hosted by Arthritis Victoria and facilitated by Dr Lam, his master trainers and Cheryl Lee Player the brain child of Tai Chi 4 Kidz. There was plenty of playfulness, gaiety and laughter as we all focused in on our inner child and expressed tai chi in creative childlike ways.
You don’t stop laughing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop laughing.
Tai Chi 4 Kidz is a good recipe. The method adaptable to suit individual needs. Children positively respond to fun like energy and attention. Tai Chi 4 Kidz aims to promote that very essence. Children can take these skills into adulthood and remain always connected to the child within.
I would be delighted to receive feedback from anyone who has completed the TCK leader training course and has or is running classes for children. And who would like to share ideas in order to enhance the program and get the right mix of ingredients to reach out to children with varying needs.
Dr Bob McBrien, Salisbury, Maryland USA
If at the end of class my students leave feeling uplifted, I give credit for the success of this class to the master teachers I have imitated. One clue that students experienced the beginner’s mind is when they say: “I can’t believe that an hour has gone by.”
Sybil Wong, BHTCC Instructor, Sydney, NSW Australia
Western society once believed adults didn't learn. Even today, if you ask a group why adults cannot learn, it may surprise you how many people still think the same. Unfortunately, many adults deny themselves what should be one of the most enriching parts of life because they assume they can't learn.
First of all, the bad news is that it’s true that adults learn more slowly than children but the good news is that we learn just as well but in a different way. We need to understand how we learn as adults so as to help ourselves as well as our students in their learning journey.
My daughter, Lian, was about 8 years old and I had a short work related workshop which I had to attend, I had to take her along because she had a day off school and I couldn’t find a baby sitter. The workshop kindly agreed for me to have Lian sit at the back of the room.
Lian with disbelief and indignation written all over her face, replied, “It was really bad, no one put their hand up before speaking, everybody spoke at once. I cannot believe you were all so rude to the teacher and didn’t get into trouble for it. The teachers at MLC would never stand for such bad behaviour.” The response was so unexpected to me that I was lost for words.
Patience – remember that there will be plateaux
Perseverance – keep doing it and enjoy the experience
Cynthia herself uses this multidiscipline approach in her book to get her points across to the reader, a synthesis of what worked so well for her in the classroom! She uses humor, personal experience, story, factual testimony, and current research to keep one turning the pages of this entertaining and informative handbook.
A Profound Experience: Report from a Scholarship Recipient in the Sydney January 2009 Workshop
Chris Hattle, Palmerston North, New Zealand
A week in January at the Tai Chi Sydney Workshop brings memories which will be carried throughout my life. I winged my way from New Zealand, leaving behind the seasonal bustle and focus on festivities with work groups, friends and family.
Sydney’s St Vincent’s College, the workshop venue, with its surrounding tree-lined gardens, is readily referred to as an oasis, by tai chi participants. Within a short space of time I was to come to realise that the warm and welcoming nature of all people present was an aspect which gave a sense of richness and diversity to this all-encompassing oasis. The recently departed December focus was re-directed into a focus on tai chi with all the accompanying celebration of individuality.
Abundant inspiration was transmitted to all present at the morning group meetings. This inspiration was through people speaking on their experiences with tai chi and breath-taking demonstrations of a variety of tai chi forms. Inspiration permeated through each day at the groups we had chosen to participate in. Tutors/trainers came to know us all very quickly and soon the training and encouragement became readily punctuated with humour.
Two of my goals in attending the workshop were …
• to open myself to learning the Sun 73 forms
• to learn more of the tai chi “integrity of coordination”
The Sun 73 Forms group was privileged to experience the training of styles of two vastly different and exceptionally gifted tutors. This added richly to the tai chi experience, by participants being enabled to take the tai chi way of being flexible/fluid about the change and so able to grow in “balance” under the two different styles of training. For me, this experience affirms my approach to participants in classes I lead, and encourages me to keep a broad view on creative ways that forms can be introduced to the variety of personalities in classes. These aspects alone are confidence building for Sun 73 forms and all other forms I teach and practise.
During the week I was immersed in opportunities to visually absorb tai chi balance and movement. In daily practical classes I found myself automatically playing with the “integrity of coordination” I was observing around me, at a level which challenged me considerably. This resulted in growth to my understanding of this intriguing aspect of tai chi.
I was privileged to be attending the workshop as one of three scholarship recipients. Mid-week we were presented with crystal plaques, engraved to commemorate the scholarships. Many workshop participants approached after the announcement and spoke openly and enthusiastically to me about their work with tai chi, also asking about my own work with tai chi. I am so grateful to these people as I learned so very much from their stories and found the reality of their journeys to add another depth to the spectrum of inspiration surrounding me.
The environment delivered additional treats such as occasional day-time raucous calls of a couple of cockatoos. The cockatoos’ presence and rapid flight between trees contrasted significantly with the silent eerie flight of night-time bats. I shall even comment that even these patterns of flight give inspiration towards the sought after integrity of coordination and wholeness!
All too soon, the week had passed by, evening sessions had given us further and very interesting variety to our daytime classes and it was Friday evening dinner. The caterers have to be mentioned; the week long catering had been fresh and with variety, then the dinner … all I can say is, it was superb, particularly the atmosphere; fun, friendly, sharing in conversation and plenty of sharing in talent. Next time I hear the tune of Zorba the Greek, it will be thoughts of tai chi in Sydney which bring a smile to me.
So thank you to all who …
- had a part in making it possible for me to be there
- carried positivity throughout the week
- shared enabling words and comments
- bubbled with humour
- are involved with Tai Chi Productions
Thank you to Dr Paul Lam for his insights, wisdom, abilities and his passion to bring Tai Chi for Health to the people.
by Dr. Bob McBrien
A year ago Bob was seriously out of shape, with a few health problems. His physician urged him to exercise, but he avoided exercise One day walking through the mall when John called out to him. They had a chat and Bob, impressed by how fit John was him how he got into shape. John referred Bob to his personal trainer, Peter. Bob made an appointment that day.
After questions and assessments Peter told Bob, “Your lack problem is motivation. I will get you motivated. Bob was told to be dressed for a run in the morning and a running partner would ring his doorbell at 7 a.m. Final instructions were do exactly as your partner instructs you.
Exactly at 7 the next morning the doorbell rang, Bob opened the door to be greeted by a beautiful, fit woman who said, “Hi, I’m Martha and Peter says if you can catch me and pass me before we finish, he will send the two of us on a cruise. Off Martha ran, and Bob plodded about 500 yards and collapsed. But they played the chase game for weeks, then months and Bob began to get in shape. One day coming close to catching Martha, Bob knew that on the next run he would win his prize.
At 7 the next morning Bob eagerly opened the door only to be greeted by a strange woman, obviously out of shape. She said, “Hi, I am Nancy and Peter said if I can catch and pass you on a run, he will send the two of us on a cruise.
Warning: Dr. Lam does not necessarily endorse the opinion of other authors. Before practicing any program featured in this newsletter, please check with your physician or therapist. The authors and anyone involved in the production of this newsletter will not be held responsible in any way whatsoever for any injury which may arise as a result of following the instructions given in this newsletter.