Sunday, February 27, 2011

engaging in a classroom

I spent two days this week leading a small group of students, who are enrolled in a Human Services course, through a "canned" workshop on techniques to use when working with someone who is aggressive.  Non-violent crisis intervention.  Somewhat effective skills to have in your toolbox if you are planning to work in the frontlines.  It's the 5th time I've delivered the training in the past year.  The first time I had to pull it off, I was in complete and utter personal crisis! 

The whole experience during the first run through is a bit of a blur. From the feedback I received however the class enjoyed it. I was manic and so determined to hold on to the reins of facilitating all the while knowing my marriage was on the brink of collapsing into a dusty heap of broken bits. I think I came across as a stand up comedian on speed!  It was surreal when I look back on it almost a year later!  How I managed that feat is beyond my comprehension.  Crazy! I the NOW .... I've successfully completed day the workshop again.  My examples, experiences, skills, awareness have sharpened from all that has unfolded this year.  My humour has been honed too..... a little more biting I think, full of honest observations and big dollops of feelings I'm comfortable sharing.  My facilitating has a edgier feel to it.  In a good way, I think. 

Because this is my 5th go around, I have been able to incorporate more of my own self and knowledge in between the pages of the training manual I was supposed to be following.  Emotional awareness and lessons in emotional literacy have been slipped into the dryness of the regular training.  So are stories, and a strong encouragement for the class to engage, share, and tell their stories..... make connections between previous learning and new stuff. Making connections with one another.  That's where the best learning dwells. 

It was a tough little crowd. Quiet.  Leaning back in their chairs. Half listening. Getting "through" the "must take" workshop.  My feeling is that they have chose to spend too much time playing the roles of passive learners.......... listening, writing notes, living within the walls of  lectures.  They were also a quiet group. Introverted.  It's an interesting dynamic when you have a an introverted group and an extroverted facilitator.  You have to walk a fine line.......... and accept that at the beginning the will be a whole set of eyes staring at you like you're from another planet! 

Usually, I try to set the environment up to encourage a much more interactive discourse as quickly as possible.  It was a difficult sell. Blank stares greeted me whenever I lobbed a question or asked them to give me examples.  My silence only led to their silence.  So, I filled the air with SO MUCH OF MYSELF that I got home on the first day and felt like I had been in a frigging confessional for 6 hours!  I was sick of hearing my own voice!  That evening, I reflected on the day, and decided I needed to step back even more than a few silences to allow for them to engage in the material.

Reflection is such a key component in counselling and facilitating.  What worked? What didn't work? When was there flow?  When did it drag along?  What kind of teaching techniques were a hit?  Which ones should I put away for another group?

Facilitating and group work is such a rush for me.  Not only do I thrive on the challenge of creating the right learning vibes conducive to the collective personality of the group, I love the free flow that eventually breaks free of the ice jam that some groups are stuck in.  Day two was completely different with this group.  I saw the breakthrough right after the first coffee break.  They didn't leave the classroom.  Instead, they had gathered in a circle and were sharing.  Without me there, they found their voices .............. but they were talking about the workshop material.  Though I intended to start up with a teacher directed kind of lesson, instead, I quietly grabbed a chair and joined the group.  Turns out, it was the right thing to do. Their thoughts, feelings, interpretations, opinions and stories began to flow......... Lovely!

The next day, after the workshop was completed, I bumped into one of the students out in the parking lot.  She told me that during their regular class that morning, one of them cracked a joke in the middle of their class.  Their instructor laughed and said..... "that's what I get for sending you to spend two days with Dana..........!" 

I guess some of my crazy teaching antics stuck.  Hope they learned something too.  

Now, if I could only figure out how to take these skills, package them up, and shift the gears in my career so I could run workshops on a full time basis.  Self employed....... Big groups.  Small groups.  Many topics, all threaded to the important need to connect and to share.  This is my goal.  This is what I yearn to do.   More thoughts on this to come...........


Anonymous said...

I love the way you handled day two, pulling up a chair and just rolling with it. I have a sister who tries to live the motto "do what you love and the money will follow." Whenever she gets stuck in life, she usually finds she's ignored that motto. She is my hero.

awareness said...

thanks CK. Always looking for the teachable moments. :) As for your sister's motto? LOVE it! As soon as I get past the pending "anniversary" in March, I will sit down and scratch out my gameplan more succinctly.