My First HE Workshop – Teaching & Learning

abstract that looks like blades of grass shooting up from the bottom of the image in greens and blues with accents of orange every now and then

Featured Image: Partial of Caribbean Vibrations by Stacey Leigh Ross

10 Feb 2019

If you missed it, click here to read about the planning behind this workshop.

The Set Up

On the train into London, I pumped myself up with so many uplifting power tunes. I was bouncing with energy and good vibrations by the time I got to Wilson Road super early, as per usual. Also as usual, the senior teaching team were very very supportive and relaxed.

G helped me set up the classroom the way I wanted with the right paper, messages on the walls (see images below), tables to the outer edge of the class, and a tight circle of chairs in the middle. I wanted to create very separate working and listening spaces for participants. My intention was that the tight circle of chairs around me and the slide screen would cue my students to adopt a listening mindset. Meanwhile, the worktables around the room would immediately make them adopt an active making, collaborating creative mindset. Practicalities also determined that everyone could not work on their large pages while seated in a tight circle, nor could they all see the screen scattered out around the room. Lastly, I hoped that the movement back and forth would help students who dislike sitting in one place for long.

Sign that was stuck to the wall during the workshop. It reads: RESPECT EACH OTHER We don’t know the whole story. All the people around us need is our support. Besides, it’s more fun when Karma delivers blessings, not smack-downs!
Workshop Wall Prompt 1
Sign that was stuck to the wall during the workshop. It reads: Is this a SPRINT OR MARATHON? What happens when people who didn’t train for a marathon, try to run a marathon? Consider, preparation, pace, stamina, practice… EYES ON THE PRIZE and you’ll power through the obstacles, even the surprise sprints in the middle!
Workshop Wall Prompt 2

A little over a week prior, I’d spent about an hour chatting with some of these students about projects they were currently working on but I didn’t know the bulk of the class. N introduced me to the group again as this was only my second time in their classroom (the first time was when I was shadowing) and explained to the students that my tutor would be there to observe my teaching, not them. They took it in stride and we were off. I know I started off with my bullet point ‘script’ clutched shakily in my cold little fists. Despite my nerves, I was game to do this and I knew I’d only need to sink into the zone to relax and go with the flow.

The Zone

Nerves

The Observation Report from my tutor picks up on my initial nervousness and over-talking, something I became acutely aware of as I settled into the session and eased up with the speed talking. It was nice to not hear my heart pound in my ears anymore. I knew I was all in when I happily did Dwayne Bravo’s Champion dance and laughed when the students all stared at me like I’d lost the plot. I got them dancing though!

PowerPoint

I fretted a bit when I realised that it was best practice for inclusivity to send your slides to students in advance of a class but then I realised that for me this doesn’t matter as much. I tend to create PowerPoint presentations that serve more as cue cards for me than information dissemination for students. My slides hosted topic headlines, music clips to signal an activity switch, and imagery that gave examples of tasks to be done. They are not loaded with text, the content is delivered in the actual workshop so the slides are pretty useless on their own. This is probably also a result of my lesson being ‘light on theory’, I suppose it was easy to have ‘light’ slides too. I’ll have to be mindful of how I develop the use of presentations in my practice as I learn and grow.

Class Control

I found it really easy to assume control of the class without being formal or authoritative. I think I just used my friendly in-charge parent voice with a hint of that Caribbean “I won’t put up with nonsense” tone I learned from my parents. I find when I teach, if I enter the room confident that I’ve prepared my best to give my best then students seem to perk up and pay attention. My rapport with a class is also strongest when I am actively teaching from a point of love about something that I truly believe and I’m passionate about. That was certainly the case with this topic so in the end I happily led my students to:

  • Map past failures and successes
  • Look to their past to identify what’s important to them
  • Do the Champion dance to celebrate their accomplishments
  • Think about what they want to do with their art, why they do it and how they do it.

Over the course of the session, I told stories, presented ideas, gave activity instructions, helped individuals and groups at work, and played and danced to music. Hopefully the session was varied enough that there was something to appeal to everyone. Click here to read about how it all turned out, complete with student feedback and the lessons that I took away from the experience.

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