Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Conductors, and others in the group

Paraprofessionals, assistants, other professionals

Earlier this year while I was helping to edit the book Just do it! I was brought up with a jolt by something unexpected (to me) in the paper submitted by conductor Ingvild Frøyseng. She was describing the way of working that she had met in her first job as a conductor, so very different from the arrangement that she had experiences during her professional training.

The group consisted not only of conductors and children but also paraprofessionals for each individual child [emphasis in original]. The paraprofessionals, each with a unique background, act as the children's caretakers. Some work with the child under their care only at school, while others stay with the child throughout the day. One might consider this a luxury and an easy way out, as there are more hands for assistance and heads for ideas.

...according to the school's insurance policies, the children attending the school are not permitted to attend unless they have a paraprofessional with them (pp. 88-89).

Over the next four pages Ingvild talks delicately about what (using the modern usage) she terms 'challenges'.

I was immediately surprised at two things:
  • that conductors were (are) working in this way
  • that I had never previously heard or read an explicit account of this.
I do not know how general such an insurance requirement might be, either between different establishment or between different states. Nor do I know what people have achieved - or failed to achieve – within such contexts.

Some questions

I do know that Inveld has brought me up with a jolt, setting my mind ringing with questions. Here are some.
  • How prevalent are such requirements across North America?
  • What do such requirements add to the cost of programs?
  • What are the effects of such requirements upon conductors' practice?
  • What do such requirements do for conductive upbringing?
  • Are paraprofessionals really 'challenges', or are they problems?
  • Who is are such requirements really 'protecting'?
  • What are the implications of such requirements for the initial training of conductors?
  • What are the implications of such requirements for the continuing training of conductors?
  • What about the training of paraprofessionals?
  • If such arrangements are common, why are they never openly discussed?
  • What are the implications of not discussing such requirements, and not having proper training in place, for the quality of conductive service?
  • Conductive Education in a room full of mediators: is it possible?
  • If it is not, what is going on here?
  • Etc.
Not just paraprofessionals

Of course, one can ask such questions in other countries and other situations too.
  • Most simply, just substitute the title 'assistant' or educadora or whatever the local term, for 'paraprofessional', and ask the same questions
  • In doing so, one might see overlap with what is termed 'multidisciplinary' (transdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary) practice, and ask the same sort of questions about 'challenges' experienced there..
Informal and communicable knowledge

There must be a huge well of experience out there, in individuals and in institutions, of conductors' working in all sorts of ways. Correspondingly, there must surely be all sorts of individual and local answers to the 'challenges' (or problems) met in working in such different ways, some ad hoc some formalised.

But if the general tendency for CE outside of the original mother institution in Hungary is for Conductive Education to be but rarely implemented by conductors working exclusively with other conductors, then where is the literature describing what to do in such situations, and how best to arrange things?

The 'classic' literature of Conductive Education has nothing to say about working in ways that are products of the international stage of the historical development of Conductive Education. Putting it baldly, unless I am very wrong about the amount of relevant, communicable 'literature' that already exists out there about conductors working in groups, in harness with people who are not conductors, then the critical outsider might reasonably remark that a large proportion of how conductors' contribution is arranged occurs without benefit of a relevant communicable knowledge base. Or, if you would like to express this in a very common way that that I personally do not like, how this work is aranged is simply 'not professional'.

All well and good, as long as the outsider in question is simply critical, and not hostile too, since the next step is to ask how expenditure can be justified upon such a service...

For the benefit of service-users, conductors and other staff, and for those who provide and administer services alike, is this not another urgent task for Conductive Education in the coming decade – preferably in its first half?


Frøyseng, I. (2009) Conductive Manhattan, in A. Sutton and G. Maguire (eds.) Just do it! Young conductors in their new world, Birmingham, Conductive Education Press, pp. 87-93

To view and purchase a copy of this book, go to:


  1. Paraprofessionals are absolutly a challenge and the CE program is certainly not the same as it ever could be with just conductors. In the sessional based services in which I work, these para-professionals (untrained/unexperienced and often happy to take on the role as wheelchair pusher and note taker instead of educator)are the people employed to work with the child the other 4-4.5 days that they are not involved in the CE program. Therefore the only hope of these untrained people being able to teach the child in somewhat of a conductive way is if they are in the group to be trained and taught how to to this and why the should adopt this way of working with their child. The biggest problems:

    1.The paraprofessionals often like the way they 'work' with the child (it is easier to do somehting for a child than to teach them to do it themselves)
    2.The limited opportuntities for supplementary training to reinforce what they are learning to do and why outside the classroom.
    3.The extra stress and work load on the conductor now having twice as many learners in their group.
    4. The turnover of paraprofessionals each term or year, requiring constant teaching of the basics, which can be both frustrating for the conductor and the child.

    I never anticipated working with assistants and paraprofessionals instead of conductor collegues and I would jump at the chance to add more conductors to the team in which i work (money/program management's priorities being the main factors preventing this).

    I would strongly recommend that conductors lucky enough to be working in a team of conductors, consider the extra benefit that their teaching can have on the children they work with if they were able to train and teach the other people working with the child to do this conductively. This is certainly not a new concept in CE considering the parent-child dyad in early years groupings.

    As much as the program I run has its downfalls due to the limited ratio of conductors to children and the limited conductor-team. I am confident that the clients all benefit from attending the program both in what they learn while in the group and what they can take back to school with the support of their better trained para-professionals!

  2. A question seeking an answer simply of fact: At the Peto Institute was it not the case that trainees and maybe others worked alongside qualified conductors?

  3. Over the time that I knew the PAI student conductors worked as an integral part of the conductive groups, spending a lot of the time of their training so engaged. Before I turned up they spent even more so. Going way back, on-the-job-with-Nellie comprised all the training that there was. I cannot answer for the amount of time devoted to this in the new degree training.

    Such activity I regarded an essential ingredient in paasing on conductive lore and successful transmission of the conductive culture, through the implicit socialisation that I have further regarded as essential to 'training' (or at least equal importance to transmission of knowledge and 'skills'). I subsequently tried to emulate this. Presumably other new courses have done the same.

    As a result, the visitor to the PAI sees lots of people in groups in white uniforms: many of these are students in training, without whom I doubt whether the institution could run.

    Some are also assistants whose role at the PAI has never been publicly discussed.

    Just the facts, man, as Joe Friday used to say, and as you already well know (so why do you ask?).


  4. I learned “the conductive way” in the Mother-and-Baby” group at the old Villányi. I learned much more over the coming years, just walking through the Institute with George, in the proper conductive fashion. I also waited around a lot, with groups coming and going around me – I absorbed the spirit, knew what was going on and why. My practical knowledge of the “how” only refers to George’s necessities, but I think that it encompassed quite a lot of the essential elements of CE.

    Later I was allowed – with other MOTHERS and family-carers – to participate in the “teenagers' International group” once a week, in the way described in the article. I saw that it was harder work for the lead-conductor, but she was VERY capable to do this extra work (as was my original angel of a conductor in the Mother-and-Baby group.) As for me – and other parents of those pioneering years - my already existing practical knowledge of CE was immensely reinforced and explained by A.Sutton’s book and I owe a lot to his constant inspiration.

    My subsequent promotional-organisational work through RACE, and through other channels, however, would not have been possible without being actively involved, from the very beginning, in what went on inside the group! It is most important, yea, essential for conductive carers (I use this description for the non-professional, but constantly responsible “Bezugsperson” looking after the child/adult at home) to become conductively trained (and educated, of course.) I admit that not everybody can or wants to do this. The aim is to inspire sufficiently the carer to WANT to act conductively, and believe that this actually helps both herself and the caree.