Fifth in a series of workshop postmortems.

I didn’t have much to say about Thursday’s second workshop in Haren with Regular Client School. It didn’t go smoothly, primarily because my own concentration was flagging a bit. Some nice work got made though, and I’m sure the kids will do all right for the rest of the project. Nothing out of the ordinary happened.

Nevertheless, I think doing three workshops in a week helped me hone my skills for my return to the Praktijkschool in Emmen. I did a lot of things better than last week: I engaged the kids more from the start, showed more, and more relevant examples, was more responsive to questions from the group even when the questioners didn’t always speak clearly. And —most significantly— I eased the class into working with a theme. After three attempts at trying to get the theme into the heads of kids at this low level of academic achievement, I finally figured out how to get them on board with writing stories on the discrimination/social exclusion theme. Like I said last week, working with themes is always a hurdle, even with bright kids or adults. I think it worked this time, because I brought up the sponsors’ plans for an exhibit and then said the exhibit had the theme, rather than introducing it as an arbitrary restriction on the class itself. And my examples and introductory talk (again, with lots of questions to the class and some prodding of the more vocal kids in the room – if they’re gonna talk, let them talk on-topic) were clearer and more relevant to the kids this time.

In all, win. This class wasn’t the easiest to keep order in, but I’m learning to accept a certain level of background noise. If I was a regular teacher giving a course, I’d keep the length of the classes closer to that of the kids’ attention spans, but that’s not an option right now, so my next best option is to ride the ebb and flow of attention, finding the precise moment when the kids need some centralised control, providing it, and then letting them loose again.

Two more to go, both next Thursday, in Diever. Weather allowing, I’m taking my bicycle on the train, getting out in Assen, and cycling the rest of the distance. It’s a very difficult location to reach, or so I’m told.