Sunday, 15 January 2017

Preparations for a workshop can be

time consuming. 
I have never taught an intensive craft class to adults before, particularly adults who will expect a lot. They are coming because they want to be there. They want to learn something.
I have to try and judge how much they can learn - not too little but not too much. It's a knitting class and I have to judge how much they can achieve - and how much they might want to do. 
How much information do I give them? How much help do I give them? Do I ask them to do this exercise or that?
It is going to be a steep learning curve for me.  I want them to learn something valuable, to feel that the two days they spend have not been wasted.
I have taught adults to do things of course - but we have taken our time over it. If someone doesn't "get it" the first time then there has always been the next time...and the next...and even the next if necessary.  This time it will be different because there won't be as much time to explain again.
I don't mind explaining again and again if someone is trying. I'll try and find new words and new ways of saying something so they do end up understanding. It is not going to help them learn if you just repeat yourself. 
I still squirm when I think of what I once did to one of my lecturers in law school.  He was a nice man and I got on well with him but he was not a very good teacher.  One morning he was trying to explain an important concept to us. That week some of us had already had a group tutorial on the same topic. It had been early because the person responsible for it had gone to a conference. Several of us therefore had some understanding of the topic. 
The mature age student sitting next to me muttered, "Are you going to ask the question or am I?"
I knew what he meant. The lecturer had been using the same words over and over again to try and explain. The class didn't understand.
     "I'll do it," I said. 
Now it has to be said here that I am used to asking long series of questions - asking them of profoundly physically disabled children whose only capacity to answer is by looking up at the ceiling for "yes" and down at the floor for "no".  I think I know how to frame a question so that, even within that, I can give someone options.
But this was a much more complex concept and I was not certain that I fully understood it. All the same I tried.
I asked the lecturer twenty-three questions in a row. He answered every one calmly although I was getting redder and redder.  Then he said to the class, "Got it?" and went on.
An hour or so later he came into the law library where I was back on the books and actually said,
     "I wasn't getting that across was I? Thanks for doing that."
It was very, very decent of him - especially when he made no secret of it to the rest of the staff in the nicest possible way. One of the other staff asked me, "Wasn't he prepared or something?"
I replied that he was prepared. He was always prepared but sometimes it is difficult to find another way of saying something.
I try to remember that when I am teaching something. If the student doesn't understand then I need to find a new way to tell them the same information. 
You can't do that if you are not prepared. 

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