Before this morning’s cartooning workshop at a secondary school in Gieten, I’d had a phone conversation with the class’s art teacher, who mentioned that that class had been giving her a hard time recently. That sort of thing always makes me worry, and so even before I’d met these kids, they’d grown, in my head, to a bunch of violent, screaming, crack-smoking monsters.
Fortunately I followed up that conversation with a chat with one of the project organisers, who I wanted to warn that the finished work from the first workshop might not be up to his expectations. He told me not to worry about that, and as for the next workshop, he reminded me that there are "a lot of tired people in education". That helped, but I still found myself dreading the class a bit.
I got out of bed at an ungodly hour to catch the Qliner to Gieten (which, as it turned out, was delayed – the bus terminal in Groningen is a bit of a nightmare right now), found the school easily, and met the class teacher, who was more cheerful in person but did say again that this class was a difficult bunch, prone to arriving late and arguing with one another in class… but when I asked what year and level they were in, she replied they were first-years, added a four-letter acronym to describe their level, and said they were twelve.
I did have that written down somewhere, but in my head, they’d got older and bigger.
Now, I may be a bit out of my depth teaching special-ed teenagers, but first-years at a secondary school aren’t that different from the Group 7/8 kids that I’ve been giving workshops to for 5 years. I can handle those. I switched to using my basic lesson template for group 7/8, with a few tweaks based on my experiences from last Monday, and mostly breezed through the workshop. Class was happy, teacher was impressed, art was produced. There were some disruptions, but nothing like what I had envisaged. No finished work, though, as the class had in fact arrived slightly late and the art teacher wanted to use Friday’s class to catch up. We’ll get the work soon enough.
Next stop, Diever, I think. Transport will be the biggest problem. If not Diever, then it’s the other special-ed school I’ve been booked for, for which I’d better be very prepared.