Teach-in-SCA-art - 12/26/00
"On Teaching Classes in the SCA" by Lady Meliora Leuedai de Ardescote.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called StefanŐs Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be
reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first
or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
On Teaching Classes in the SCA
By Lady Meliora Leuedai de Ardescote
Teaching a class in the SCA is not as difficult as you might imagine, and almost anyone can teach with a little practice and preparation.
If you think you might like to teach, think about what subjects interest you, what you are good at or what you know about. Once you have decided on a topic, the first thing to do is your research. Make sure you have your facts straight and/or your techniques documented. The more accurate you are in what you present, the better your class will be. Research as much as you can before the class, even if it's a brush up on a topic you already know. If you find you have little time to prepare or your knowledge of the subject is basic, you can call the class a beginner's course or a round table discussion. Either way, the attendees will expect more general and less detailed subject matter, and you are still able to teach the class or lead the discussion.
When you have your subject, decide what the focus of the class will be. If it is mapmaking, is it a history of cartography or a hands-on class to make a map. Are you trying to present an early Celtic religious belief or show that a legend that grew from it? What conclusions do you expect from the class? Will some fact be brought to light or will a project be completed? Is your focus too broad or too narrow - are you trying to include too much or do you need to find more information to round out the topic? If you find that you have too much information for one class, you can split the class into parts and ask for the time you will actually need. Don't try to fit 1-1/2 hours of information into a 1 hour class period.
Next, put your subject in order. Try to find the appropriate place to include each fact or subtopic in your information. Create an outline to work from. You can use the outline to form the basis of the class and to begin your handout, if you plan to have one. Put the facts that you want to present in order under the appropriate outline heading. It is at this point that your class starts taking shape and you will begin to see what parts of the class need more facts and what parts need cut down.
Once you have all of the pieces of the outline in place, flesh it out with all of the details that you want to mention in your class. This will be the outline you work from in your class (WORK From - Not READ From). Print this in a big enough font so that you don't have to squint at the page when you're referring to it. Spacing is good, different colors or lines after every topic will help you keep your place during the class. You should make notes on here as well.
The handout is a different matter. On your handout, there should be less detailed facts and more graphics or pictures. Students like to make notes during a class. If you put all of the details in the handout, it will be a great handout, but the student won't get as much out of the class and will feel like you are just reading from your handout. Let them make the notes. Remember to give credit where credit is due and always include a source page. Don't forget to put your name and contact information on the handout as well.
When your class is ready, try to give it a run through before hand, either before an audience of friends or alone. A lot of times there will be words that are tongue-twisters or sentences that you didn't realize you would have trouble getting out. A run through will give you a chance to change them. It will also give you a chance to time your class. Once you feel confident that the class is ready, offer to teach. Don't forget to be specific in your class description. Very often, the description of a class is misleading and students come with a different expectation than what the teacher has in store. Be sure that you clearly state what the class is about and that you don't use technical jargon without explanation. For example, I was once in a whitework class (illumination) and a gentle showed up expecting it to be another form of blackwork (embroidery).
Don't be afraid to charge for your handout or supplies. As long as you are honestly asking for a reimbursement for copy charges (color copies can cost a lot) or materials to be used, there is nothing wrong with a small class fee. Don't be afraid to limit the number of participants for your class. If you have only a set number of supplies, let the autocrat or the event's class coordinator know ahead of time so that there is no confusion. If you would be willing for people to audit the class (sit in but not participate or take supplies), let this be known as well.
When it's time for the actual presentation, try to see where you will teach beforehand. Blackboards, tables, podiums, etc. can be better utilized if you know they are there. Always take a watch with you and put it where you can see it. You can judge how far you should be into your presentation and how much time you have left a lot more easily if the watch is readily visible. Put a copy of both your outline and of your presentation where you can work from them. If you only have the outline and a student asks a question about the handout, this will keep you from scrambling for a copy to refer to. Face your students and make eye contact. Smile. Breathe. Speak slowly and clearly. Fear of speaking in front of crowds often makes people zip through their topics. I find it helpful to write reminders of all of these things on my outline.
It is always a good idea to know your opening sentence. Write it on your outline as well. Don't forget to introduce yourself and to introduce your topic. This usually quiets the students and gets their attention. Try to judge how loudly you will have to speak so that everyone can hear you. Remember to pause when loud things go by (especially helpful at outdoor events). Refer to your outline and don't be tempted to go off on tangents. The outline is especially helpful to find your place again if you get comments in the middle of the presentation.
Be prepared for questions at the end of the class - leave a little time. This also helps to keep your class from running over its alotted time, which is especially courteous to teachers following you. Don't be afraid to cut questions short or continue them away from the classroom if need be.
One of the biggest deterrents to new teachers is the fear of admitting they don't know every fact about their topic. Don't be afraid to say that you don't know the answer to an audience question. It is much better to admit this than to fudge an answer or hesitate while you frantically search through your notes hoping that you might have the answer somewhere.
Remember to be polite to all of your students. They took the time to come to listen and learn from you. As a teacher, you will run into different personalities in your classes. If someone seems rude, it could be that you are especially sensitive because of nervousness, so try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Occasionally, however, you may run into a student who really is inconsiderate. I recommend patience. It is always better to come across as being the more courteous. The other students will appreciate this.
Teaching may seem a bit awkward at first, but it is very rewarding to share your knowledge with and inspire the curiosity of students who may not have ever considered your topic before. With a little practice and patience, we can all be teachers.
Copyright 2000 Sandy Danielewicz, 27883 Sutherland, Warren MI 48093. <ladymeliora at tir.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in
the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also
appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being
reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.