NC-Academie-art - 7/15/17
"Creating a Newcomers Academie" by HL Jeanne-Marie la Verriere.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
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
Creating a Newcomers Academie
by HL Jeanne-Marie la Verriere
When we were all newcomers to the SCA, we were dazzled by some aspect of it that reached out and grabbed our attention. Maybe it was the fighting, maybe it was the beautiful clothing, maybe it was a good friend or family member sharing their love of medieval European history. Whatever that first spark was, we were so excited and we couldn't wait to get involved! We all remember that special, magical time, but do you remember what happened after that? Did you find your 'chosen SCA family' right away? Or did you flounder around a bit, unsure of where you fit in? So many of us want to find a way to fit in, to find where we belong, to find our 'tribe,' and while it can happen seamlessly for some, for others it can be overwhelming, and maybe even feel a bit scary or lonely. An Academie group can help with these situations for newcomers.
Another issue that a newcomers group can solve is the plight of the transplanted SCAer. Rather than feeling excited about finding this new and amazing group of medieval history enthusiasts, the transplanted SCAer already has an idea of what the SCA is, what a chosen SCA family is, what The Dream is. They grew up in a different Kingdom, perhaps even in a different country, and the culture shock is doubled because not only are they learning a new city or new career, they must learn a new Kingdom with an entirely different set of traditions. These can double the feeling of displacement, of recognizing certain aspects while at the same time recognizing no one or nothing at all. It is incredibly unsettling. A newcomers group needs to be able to accommodate these transplanted SCAers and introduce them to their new Kingdom in a respectful way.
Lastly, we have been encountering a new type of newcomer to the SCA in the last 5 to 10 years– the 'other groups' players. These are history recreationists from non-SCA groups such as Amtgard, LARPing (live action role-play) groups, and even some of the civil war groups. They already have an established idea of community, and a language full of jargon all their own. Most of both won't translate easily to the SCA, and they may inadvertently say or do something that in their group would make perfect sense, but in our group would be a massive faux pas and earn them a negative reputation. These players need a different kind of assistance integrating into their new group which will involve learning an entirely new definition of community, a whole new language, a whole new way of 'playing the game.' This will require patience and an open mind because not only do they need to learn a lot of new things, but so do we.
The concept of creating a newcomers group is not original or new. There are various examples across the Known World of newcomers groups that help people learn about their group/ Kingdom and how to become a part of it. The Academie as it is currently in the Barony of Elfsea seeks to take the best parts of these groups, use what works for Elfsea, discard what does not, and proceed with the flexibility to grow and change as the needs of the group dictate. While this might sound like a difficult task at best, it doesn't need to be. Proper planning, an open mind, and the support of the local nobility, peers, and officer corps are really all that is needed to get your own Academie started.
Who? - who will be leading this group? who can attend?
*The Elfsea Academie Pedagogue organizes the classes, recruits instructors, secures the location where classes will be held, and is a point of contact for students and instructors. They also will organize the graduation ceremony. The Pedagogue (or whatever title you want to use….Principal, Mentor, etc.) does NOT have to teach classes unless they wish to. Attendance *MUST* be open to everyone and exclude none, as per Kingdom law.
What? – what classes will be held and in what order? who will teach? what materials will be needed for the classes?
*The Elfsea Academie has a class list that continues to evolve depending on the needs of the group. Classes may be added, deleted, or modified as needed.
When? - on what day of the week will class be held? What time?
*The Elfsea Academie meets on the first Monday of each month from 7-9pm. This gives working members a chance to get off work and drive to the location. The first Monday also does not conflict with any other activity or meeting in the Barony or its Canton.
Where? – where are the classes held? is there room for a large number of students? are children welcome? are food and drink provided?
*The Elfsea Academie is held in the party/ banquet room of our local Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant. We do this to provide a safe, public atmosphere that welcomes adults and kids. There is also plenty of parking in a well-lit area, and folks can order food or drinks if they want. Lastly, B-Dubs has a non-profit program where any food/ drinks purchased earns monies for the group! Imagine that, THEY PAY US for the use of their room!
Why? – when is the start and end date for classes? is there a mission statement?
*The Elfsea Academie starts classes in July and ends them in March. The reason we do this is to allow summer months off for college students, and to allow repeat instructors some time off from teaching. We run 9 classes with the intention to have graduation at our largest event held in late March. Our mission for the Academie is to provide the opportunity for all students to feel welcome to learn about the group, the Kingdom, and the SCA in a safe, family-friendly, public atmosphere.
How? – is this format successful? can it be adjusted or changed?
*In the three years that we have been holding Academie classes, our success rate has been roughly 70% of attendees are now active members of the Barony, with more than half of those holding office or being the deputy of an active officer. We believe our format is so successful because it is very flexible, easily adjusted, and easy to implement and run.
1) Decide who will lead the Academie, and what role they will have in your Officer Corps (deputy hospitaller, guild principal, etc.)
-this person should be a current member of the Society and should have a working understanding of who does what in their surrounding area, ie. who would good instructors, etc.
2) Decide where classes will be held. It is strongly advised that if possible, classes should be held in a public place with plenty of lit parking.
-a restaurant with a banquet/party room, a community room, a meeting hall at a church or college, or other public place is recommended. Bonus if food/ drink can be purchased or brought in, as students are often coming straight from school or work and will get hungry/ thirsty.
3) Decide on your course curriculum and its duration.
-it is recommended that there be a definite start and end to the curriculum, with some sort of reward at the end for special achievement. The Elfsea Academie provides 9 classes, with graduation/ token being awarded for attending 5 classes, and Valedictorian honors/ token being awarded for attending all 9 classes.
4) Decide who your instructors will be, and have a written set of goals to be met during class.
-instructors do NOT have to be peers or nobility. However, these individuals tend to be more experienced, and can provide a wealth of experience and good advice to newcomers. If no peers or nobility reside in your area or are unable to participate, do not be hesitant to rely on your grant level members or members from nearby groups.
-do not limit yourself to having only one instructor per class. Rather, having a team or a panel of instructors can be very successful, as can a 'round table' type of discussion.
-it is STRONGLY recommended that you insist on all instructors to come to class wearing their SCA clothing and ALL their regalia. This may seem silly, but having the instructor wearing a coronet or medallions in a very comfortable setting that is nearly one-on-one really helps the students avoid developing 'peer fear.' Rather than seeing a crown or coronet and being afraid, they will instead recognize that person as a friend, a mentor, someone 'they already know,' and they will feel more comfortable seeing and interacting with others dressed in a similar way.
-it is also strongly recommended that the Pedagogue come dressed in 'regular street clothing' or their work clothing. Just in case some students do not yet have their SCA clothing/ persona, having someone else there dressed in regular clothes like they are will help them feel less isolated.
5) Decide what the end graduation ceremony will entail, who will need to be involved, where it will take place, and what tokens, if any, will need to be created/ secured for the students (and instructors, if you will to recognize their efforts, as well.)
-address ahead of time what costs will be involved with this, and what officer budget, if any, will be used.
-be sure to keep the local nobility and your exchequer involved in this portion of the Academie, so as to ensure that whatever funds are being spent are within the rules of the Kingdom and Corpora.
You will rarely experience any real problems with this format. When we have had issues in the past, it has almost always involved switching classes around to accommodate special dates (do NOT plan to have your Academie on the same night as holidays, important dates, and larger mundane events like the Superbowl or the World Series) or to accommodate instructors schedules. Be as flexible as you can, and try to be as accommodating as you can regarding both. The idea is to provide a safe place for attendees to learn and grow, and this needs to remain the major focus of the group.
As always, however, there are going to be situations that can be stressful, and the leader of the Academie may need to address those situations head on. It is important to know who your upline officers are, and to know your chain of command. Do NOT be afraid to communicate with your upline officers, as they are there to support you and ensure your success. If you don't communicate with them about a problem, they won't know about it and they can't help you solve it.
Lastly, be open minded about change. This format is successful because it is open to change. Classes can be switched, instructors can be increased or lessened, topics can be adjusted to fit the group, and dates can be moved to accommodate the students and the instructors. In the end, the most important thing is that the students have learned what they need to know to enjoy the SCA to its fullest, to become active and contributing members to their groups, and those who already are active will be able to welcome well-versed and well-acclimated newcomers into their fold. Everyone benefits from this format! We certainly have, and it is my sincere hope that your group will, as well.
Academie Class Topics List
1) SCA 101
2) Introduction to SCA Costuming
3) Courtly Graces and SCA Behavior
4) Eventing and Camping
5) The SCA Martial Arts
6) Formal Students – Squires, Apprentices, Protégés, Provosts, Cadets, and Arcarius
7) SCA Awards and Regalia
8) Volunteering in the SCA – How to Get Involved
9) Persona and Heraldry Refinement
**Classes that are highlighted are encouraged to be taught in this order, so as to better explain the SCA to the brand new attendees. Classes not highlighted can be switched around to accommodate instructor's schedules, etc.
To set the date for class #1:
It is encouraged to set the schedule of these classes so as to have the final class taught just before the largest tournament so as to allow for a large attendance of students for graduation. In our case, our largest event is Elfsea Defender, which happens in March. To have the final class happen just before the event, in our case on the first Monday of the month, I counted backwards and found that the first class needs to happen in July. So class #1 is set for the first Monday of July.
Copyright 2017 by Michele Reichek, <txcolorandstyle at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible 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.