Teaching in the SCA Part 5: Class Description

Ok- by now you should have the name of your class and the scope of what you want to teach, the next super simple part is coming up with your class description.

Your class description is going to do 2 things

  1. Tell people what your class is about so they want to come to it
  2. Help you stay focused on your class’s scope when you are doing your class notes

You should have 2 class descriptions, one that is very small that can be tacked onto your class titles for when class descriptions are not published, and a more thorough class description.

Here are a few examples:

 

Class name Short Description Long Description
Funny Little Cordial Properties of humors in brewing Properties of humors in brewing. Covers the classification of medieval beverages and how to create a cordial based on a desired humor. Over 21 only.
History of Drinking Common Medieval Drinks History of drinks, how they affected society and culture. Includes samples and recipes of common drinks found in the Middle Age and SCA. Over 21 only.
Persona-Based Arts and Science How to easily incorporate your persona and research into your daily SCA activities. Don’t just let your persona stop with your name. Learn how you can easily incorporate aspects of your persona into your A&S projects, garb, and activities at events. Includes beginner persona information and more intermediate resources for the next step.
Putting the Right Foot Forward The first step to learning about buying or making footwear for the SCA Want SCA appropriate footwear, but don’t know where to start? Come learn the basic styles for different cultures throughout the SCA time frame so you can easily identify what footwear is right for you. Class notes will also include links and references for tutorials on how you make your own SCA footwear.

Between your name and the short description, a student should know enough about your class to be able to decide if they want to take it.

At Pennsic ( and hopefully a majority of events), class information is available online before the event so people can see what classes they want to take. This way they can plan their day accordingly. This is where you want the longer class description.

In the main class description ALWAYS include if there is a fee, size limit, age restriction, and what the student can expect to accomplish.

As I mentioned above, now not only does the student know what will be covered in the class, but so will you as the teacher.

For the persona class I know I need to include:

  • how to incorporate Personas into your A&S projects,
  • How to incorporate into your garb
  • How to incorporate into your activities at events.
  • Some intermediate resources for the next step.

That right there is the basis of my outline for my class ( meaning the next step is half way done)

Teaching in the SCA Part 4: Name Game

What you name your class matters. It matter ALOT. A good name can increase intendance and a name that doesn’t describe the class can disappoint students.

Which class would you take:

  • Camp Fire Maintenance
  • Fire Starting for the Responsible Pyromaniac

How about

  •  Basket making
  • Underwater Basket Weaving

I could call my class that covers humors in brewing- Food Humors for Brewing, but I choose to call it Funny Little Cordial ( play on words of humors) to grab the attention of the would be student.

For my shoe class, I could call it Shoe Identification for the SCA… Instead I am calling it Putting The Right Foot Forward. The first would probably still get you interested BUT the second one will make you want to read the description to find out more.

The truth is- at Pennsic there are 17 classrooms, with classes running from 9am-5pm ( give or take before or after) add in the classes held in private camps and JUST for war week you are looking at over 1000 classes. You want to do something to make your class stand out from those other 999 classes in the site booklet. The first thing the would be student is going to see is the description, so try to make it interesting.

WHEN making it interesting do have the class accurately describe your class. Luckily a majority of site booklets have a small ( very very small) class description you could put out ( we will cover descriptions later). For my Funny Little Cordial class, the add on part reads Funny Little Cordial: Properties of humors in brewing. This is also the title I use when I know there is not a place for class descriptions.

I personally write the class title AND the class description before I write my handouts or lectures as it gives me a guide on what I want to include. Of course most of that should be easy as you already have your scope figured out from part 3 ( see how each one builds a little on the last)

 

Teaching in the SCA Part 3: Scope

By now you should know what topic you are teaching and how you want to teach it. The next step is figuring out HOW much to include in your class.

One of the most common mistakes new teachers do is either include to much into their class ( more common) or not enough ( not as common).

By the time your ready to teach something you know about, your probably of a fountain of information on the subject. Do Not Try To Cram All That Information Into 1 Class.

This is also why I recommend figuring out the format of your class before your scope. The amount and type of information is going to be different depending on the type of class you are teaching.

For example:

  • If your teaching a hands on class, you are going to want to focus on technique and less on documentation and history
  • If you are teaching a lecture class your going to want to focus on history, documentation, and where they can go for more information ( or to learn how to do it)

With my History of Drinking Class – I cover ALOT of time frame. I start with the invention of  alcohol and move quickly through coffee. I include a general history, leave out specific dates, and give our generics. I also have a handout with all the dates and an assistant who gives out samples of the drinks.  I specifically don’t go into recipes or specifics as there just is not enough time.

In my humors for brewing class I have over 27 samples I pass around KNOWING we will not get to all them. I just pick and choose which samples we play with.

I will be teaching 2 new classes at Pennsic this year, and will mostly be using them as examples through the rest of the tutorials.

  • A persona class that is going to be an “interactive” lecture series.
  • A shoe class that is going to be a show & tell lecture series.

For the SCOPE of the persona class I want to give them the basics of simple ways they can incorporate persona based items into their everyday activities. Talking very very basics here. As this is a basic’s class, I will make sure to include a handout for further information. If there is time at the end, I will have additional information ready for the next steps.

To determine your own scope. Write down the one thing you want them to learn. Now create a list of bare minimum items they need to learn/know/absorb in order to learn that item.

For the shoe class, I want them to learn the generic look of the shoe for their style persona.  For my list- they need to know the general “look” and shape of different shoes styles from Roman to Cavalier so that they can shop around Pennsic for the right shoes ( or even their local thrift store) That’s a lot to cover, so I won’t be going into construction or details. I will be giving them handouts that will include places they can go for specific’s, details, and how to learn how to make them themselves.

Some Helpful Hints:

  • Create a list and divide it into 3 parts- The information they MUST know in order for them to do the project or to get them hooked so they will want to learn more. 2. The information that it would be good for them to know ( you can cover this if you have extra time).3. Places where they can go for more information if they love the subject.

 

  • For hands on projects, time how long it takes you do the item yourself. Now times it by  3 or 4. That’s how long it will take you to teach it. It takes me 5 minutes to wrap a foot for a cast for shoe making- It takes me 15-20 minutes to teach it. 5 minutes for me to demonstrate the action, 5 minutes to answer questions, 10 minutes to watch them try to do it.

 

  • When timing your talks or lectures remember- You will 99.9% start late due to classroom change over. Deduct 5 minutes. Finish up with 10 minutes to spare so you can clean up, get your students out of the class, and the class ready for the next teacher. Allow 5 minutes of Q&A at the end ( as well as 5 minutes floating for when people want to ask questions in the middle). That leaves 35 minutes of teaching/talking time.

 

  • If you find that you have to much information for a single class- that’s ok. You can make it a series or a breath track. I only teach my shoe making class at Gulf Wars because there is to much information to cover in 1 or 2 classes at Pennsic.  You can have classes that build on each other ( ie they have to take each one in order) or you can have many classes that cover different aspects of the same topic ( breadth)

Let’s talk about belts baby!

An easy way to up your historical accuracy cool factor ( but like a millionth)  is by having a period belt. It’s also one of the cheapest and potentially easiest posts in our Historically Accurate Equivalent series .

Step 1- THROW OUT THE RING BELT!

Ring belts are not precisely historically accurate, but are a pseudo SCA and Renaissance Faire hybrid from somewhere in the 70’s. Do a google search on SCA ring belt not period, and you will have a whole day of reading in front of you. The funny thing is, your going to spend more money getting a ring belt then you would getting a leather belt blank and a buckle.

Step 2- Figure out what kind of belt is correct for your persona.

A Viking is not going to wear the same type of belt as a crusader of an Elizabethan noble. If you don’t have a persona yet, then normally a generic leather belt with a plain buckle is find. However is you do have a persona or a type of clothing you wear more often, then your going to want to spend just a little bit of time doing some research.

Step 3 ( optional) Research: Check out some of these links for help/guidance on trying to figure out what belt would be right for you.

Step 3: Make or Buy your belt

Now you know what you are looking for, you should either create or buy a belt. Of course SCA events are going to be a great place to start, but also check out Etsy, and Thrift Stores. I have found more “plaque” or “chain” belts at the thrift stores that have a striking resemblance to period belts. Luckily I did my research ( Step 2 above), so I can easily tell which styles are historic-esque.

If you want a really historically accurate belt, than you should consider making it yourself. You can weave them, make them out of leather, or even sew belts that resemble period examples.  If your not up to making one yourself, try commissioning one from a blacksmith or weaver.

Teaching in the SCA 2: Deciding on the format

Let’s do a recap real quick. You should be able to answer the following questions-

  • What event are you planning at teaching at?
  • What do you like to do?
  • What are you known for?
  • Do you want to teach a beginning class or a more encompassing in depth class?

For the remainder of this tutorial, let’s assume you have never taught a class before, and you would like to teach it at Pennsic.

The next thing you are going to want to figure out is the format of your class. It is important to figure out the format pretty early on as it will help you figure out the structure of your class as well as the title/description, class Size, scope of class, material fees, handouts & references needed.

There are many different types of formats/styles that you can use to teach your class, and you will ultimately figure out what is right for you. I personally think I do better teaching hands on classes over history lectures, yet I know others who make history fascinating.

I like to classify SCA class formats into the following divisions:

  1. Hands-On Classes- These are classes where you actually get to try your hand at the doing the activity. This could be a martial class where you practice the moves, or a silk banner class where you get to try your hand at silk painting. Hands on classes work great in both a traditional class format (set time, everyone starts together) or in an open scheduling format ( where people can come or go when they feel like it).  For handouts I usually recommend giving them to the student AFTER the class and make sure to include supply lists and resources so they can get started at home.
  2. Make & Take Classes- Make and take classes are similar to the hands-on classes as the student gets to try there hand at the subject. The difference is that the student works on their own item which they get to take home with them ( either completed or to complete at home). Unless you have “helpers” or teacher assistants, I recommend keeping the Make & Take classes small. Between 4-10 students depending on the subject.
  3. Lectures- Lecture classes are usually the hardest type of classes to teach in the SCA. They also normally have some of the best information and documentation. There are 2 thing that makes it so hard to teach lecture structured classes. First, attendance is normally lower for lecture classes ( unless you advertise) as people have a tendency to not “sit” in “class” on their weekends. Secondly, it is hard to keep the source material engaging and keeping the students attention (there is nothing worse than teaching a class and having a student nod off). However, there are teachers who  teach lecture style classes really well. Michael of Safita from Calontir probably does the best SCA lecture style classes in the Known World. His tent is almost always standing room only. If your interested in teaching a lecture style class- check out one of his classes. There are other ways to make a lecture style class interesting as well ( which we will cover in the next session) such as doing it in your persona’s voice or using props.
  4. Q&A-  A Q&A class is  exactly what it sounds like. A chance for students to ask questions and the teacher to answer it. Usually this class needs the least amount of prepwork, handouts ( if any), ext. If you have a good teacher with a mass amount of knowledge in the subject, AND a good number of students, this can be a very knowledge packed class. If teachers plan to do this format, than I recommend having some “previously asked questions” with answers ready to go incase the class is slow.
  5. Panels- Panels usually consist of 2+ teachers/speakers who have experience in the subject. A combination of mini lecture for each, and a Q&A session. When I organize panels for RUM I usually like to grab people with different successful methods to share a wide arrangement of viewpoints.
  6. Show & Tell- Normally part lecture, part show & tell, part touchy feely. These types of classes usually are lecture classes that allow the students get a close up experience of the process or end product but without the experience of actually making the item like in the Hands-On class. This is the way I normally teach my brewing classes. I give the history of the item/brew but also pass around samples for the students to taste. Show & tell works great when you have finished items that you have made that you can share while you explain your experience of the construction process.

Take your class subject, and where you are teaching it, and now figure out what format you want to do it in.

Example:

I am teaching non-alcoholic brewing at It Takes My Child To Raise A Village. As the class is aimed at teenagers, I want to keep their interest, so we are going to do it as a Hands On Class where we make root beer together as a group.  I’m also going to throw in a little bit of show & tell and have some samples of other non-alcoholic period drinks.

Deciding What to Teach Part 2: Does the event type really matter?

Before you decide the class you want to teach, take a second and think about WHERE you are going to teach it. You can teach anything anywhere, but picking a class that will go with the venue will increase class attendance and the enjoyment of the students and the teacher.

An easy example would be that you wouldn’t teach an alcoholic brewing class at an event aimed at youth.

In the same vein, you wouldn’t want to teach a very specific oriented class like fire building techniques of the Mongolian empire during 1256 at a regional event. Though entertaining, there might only be 1 Mongolian at the event, so your attendance might be small. However, if you teach the same class at a RUM or a War you could almost count on doubling the number of Mongolians present and coincidentally your attendance rate.

For instance, once I taught a Norse Seam Treatment at a Norse event in order to keep with the flavor if the event.  More recently, this weekend I taught a Fighter Nutrition class at a….Fighting Symposium. I only teach my history of brewing class at larger wars like Pennsic and Gulf, because the class involves opening larger varieties of home brew, and becomes a waste of alcohol if I don’t have at least 10 students ( or else they get really tipsy).

Basically, beginner classes and wide scope classes do really good at local & regional events, as well as at events where there is a lot going on ( like Crown Tourney). These are perfect for newcomers who might not already be overscheduled for the event.  More advanced classes or smaller scope classes do better at themed events, university events and wars ( as does beginner classes).

Taking your previous list of things you could teach, decide WHERE you want to teach to narrow down your class. Once you know that, you want to narrow it down from the basic list of broad range subjects of what you can teach to a single subject you are going to teach.

Teaching In the SCA: Deciding What to teach

The question I get asked the most is….. “Well what should I teach?”

Teach What Interests You

One of the best things about the SCA, is there basically is something for everyone. If you are into underwater basket weaving, then teach underwater basket weaving ( a real class at Pennsic, btw). If you are interested in the social implications of the plague on the peasant class of England, than teach that. If you are passionate about the subject you are teaching, than the class will be far more interesting ( BTW the social implication class is amazing… and includes finger puppets… all because the teacher is passionate about her subject)

Have you received any awards? If you have any awards specific to a subject ( AOA or GOA level fighting, service, or martial awards like the purple fret or the willow in the Middle Kingdom)? Then there were enough people who thought you were competent enough in that subject to write in award recommendations.

What do you normally do at events? Do you fight? Do you do service? Do you take part in A&S? Anything YOU do at an event can be taught in a class. Do you run troll? Teach a class on troll including the sign in sheets, the process, and how you run it to make it smoother. Do you sit and sew Viking garb while watching the fighting? Then teach a class on hand sewing. Don’t forget the service or martial aspects. If you are a fighter, fencer, or archer than think about teaching a class on martialing, techniques, or equipment.

Don’t take something for granted. Just because you know something, and it comes to you as easy as breathing, doesn’t mean everyone knows it. Everyone starts somewhere in the society, and sometimes its the very first steps that are hardest to learn.

Another way to help pick out a class, is to ask yourself what are you known for OR what do you want to be known for. If you are a Norse artisan, and you want to be the best darn Norse person you can be, then think about teaching a class on a Norse topic. People won’t know that you are passionate about a subject unless you put yourself out there. They might not know that you completely hand sewn your outfit after hours of research, but if you teach a class on it ( research aspect, how to, patterning, ext) they can than come back and say “Hey look at the hand sewn dress, I want to do one just like it”.

Finally, is there something in the Barony, Kingdom, or Society you would like to change or improve? The best way to make change is to be an example of it, and to try to encourage others in a positive manner. I personally wish we spent more time doing period research on our personas. Instead of complaining about it or even worse criticizing those who don’t do it, I teach classes on personas and research. Tennis shoes at events make me cringe, so every year at Gulf I teach very basic shoe making. If I can teach 1 person how to make shoes, than that will be one less pair of tennis shoes at events. So if you want to see a positive change in your local group ( more heraldry, better garb, food at events, ext.) teach people how to do it.

Make a list of everything that you do in the society, that you are passionate about it, that you want to be known for, or that you want to help change in the society.  Here you have a great basic list of broad range subjects that you could turn into a class.

Teaching in the SCA: Introduction

Shoe Making Class at Gulf Wars 2014

Shoe Making Class at Gulf Wars 2014

I remember teaching my very first class in the SCA at the age of 18. It was doing for my local shire ( Alpense) in Cynugua/West Kingdom . It was on heraldry and devices, taught out of the known world handbook, and given to about 7 people ( 2 of which I was related to). Over the next 15 years I would go on and teach a whole range of classes and topics at wars, events, meetings, and various Kingdoms. If I know how to do it, I have probably taught it, and if I don’t know how to do it I have been known to teach myself how to do it so I can teach it ( That’s how I came to teach the Norse Seam Treatment Class that is probably one of my most requested/enjoyed classes)

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SCA teaching means so much to me, that I jumped at the chance of becoming a Dean of the Royal University of the Midrealm (A position I have enjoyed more than any other service I have done to date).  Not only do I love to teach, but I love seeing others teaching.

This past month, I had 2 separate “teaching” related honors given to me, that are right up there as the top highlights of my SCA career. The most recent was being award my Evergreen at Gulf Wars by Their Royal Majesties Cellach and Vukasin.  The Evergreen is a Middle Kingdom (GOA award) given to those who have both taught and shown excellence in one or more of the arts, sciences or research.

Teaching Shoe Making  at Gulf Wars 2014

Shoe Making Class at Gulf Wars 2014Teaching Shoe Making at Gulf Wars 2014

The second incident happened before Gulf Wars. A Royal Peer, whom I highly respect, came to me asking for advice on how to put a class together.  I felt honored that a person (who is so highly respected that she recently received an award for excellence in authenticity) would come to me for advice on teaching. Later that day I had another friend come to me asking how to teach SCA classes, and then again at Gulf Wars I was approached by students and coordinators on how to create a class.

It was during the first conversation, that I figured I would start putting together a tutorial on how I go about teaching and some insights for future teachers. If at any time you have questions concerning teaching at SCA events, please contact me.

-Happy Learning and Long Live the Teachers

Fill till the cup be hid

  Antony and Cleopatra: II, vii 1607

The next post in the “Historically Accurate Way to Do It” series is probably the easiest, yet most overlook accessories- your cup.

You can easily pick up a passably period looking vesicle at a thrift store or event for under $5. So you can imagine my surprise when at this past Gulf Wars I was continually asking “whose can is this”. I felt like anytime I came back to my sunshade there was a new can of pop or energy drink sitting half consumed on my table. At first I would leave it there in case the owner came back to dispose of it, but once cans and bottles started to be left for longer than 12 hours, it became clear they were lost and forgotten souls.

Now if the liquids were in a more historically looking vesicle I could guarantee this would not of happened for 2 distinct reasons….

  1. A period cup on my table would not have gartered my notice, because it would not have stuck out like a sore thumb
  2. Almost no one leaves there period cups just sitting around.

So beyond the main reason of having a period vesicle, it also has a side benefit that you might actually finish the liquid you are drinking and are less likely to loose it or leave it just laying around*

Now, how about the how’s of period vesicles…. I believe there are 3 distinct levels of cuppdom.

  1. Beginning cups- normally a metal tankard ( usually with a plastic bottom), picked up for cheap at an event or a thrift store. Price $5-$10
  2. Pottery & SCA cups- Slightly more historically accurate, usually made of pottery. Usually done in a period design or with SCA themed elements ( like awards) Price $20-$40
  3. Period Appropriate Drinking Vesicles- Drinking vesicles that are appropriate to your person’s time/place. Usually made by SCA merchants or friends. Retail price $20-????? Real Price- Priceless.

Beginning cups

Do not get me wrong, if I could go to an event and I did not see a single person drinking out of a soda can, a Gatorade bottle or a beer bottle, and was using any sort of “medieval looking” vesicles- I would be ecstatic!!!!!  If you never get beyond stage 1 of the cups hierarchy I am 100% ok with that, as long as you use it regularly.

The best part of these beginning cups are that they are cheap, so if you loose it or break it, your not out time or money. I usually keep a couple extra beginning cups that have been left in my kitchen after wars, to be used as loaner cups for friends.

Fighters, pack one in your fighting bag, artisans through one in your baskets. Have one around. Even using a beginning cup is better than using an aluminum or plastic bottle.

So where can one pick up a beginner cup? Most events, even small ones, will have merchants selling feast gear. You can usually pick up a cup for around $5-10. Also check out thrift stores for pewter and aluminum goblets and tankards. ( please make sure it is non-toxic pewter)

Pottery & SCA cups

Enjoying a cup of coffee in my Ash & Griffin mug at Pennsic

Enjoying a cup of coffee in my Ash & Griffin mug at Pennsic

At sometime, almost everyone in the SCA graduates to an “SCA Cup”- ie a clay cup of unknown historical origins, usually in a design or color scheme they like or with an SCA award or element on it. These are normally found at wars and larger events. My personal favorite merchant is Ash & Griffin ( I have their collection of orange and green cups and plates) however other merchants ( taken from Gulf Wars Site Booklet) include: A’s Round Pottery, By My Hand Designs, Dancing Pig Pottery, Feed the Ravens, Fire Horse Pottery, Kerstyn’s Zeramica, Zettelmoyer Pottery.

These pieces usually run anywhere from $15-$60. More pricey, but they look better and your less likely to leave it lying around. I have my name on the bottom of mine so they don’t accidently walk away ( or get put in the Middle Kingdom Royal Feast Gear Box- Again). These are the ones you have sitting in your encampment, enjoy at feasts, and hopefully carry with you at events. Once again if you never get past this stage, that’s 150% fine. However, if you have one of these, PLEASE USE IT. If it breaks, its replaceable ( Ash & Griffin has remade 2 mugs/goblets for me in the exact color pattern in the past 10 years).

Period Appropriate Drinking Vesicles

The final stage of absolute drinking awesomeness, is to figure out what drinking vesicle is appropriate for your time and place.

Honestly, a 10th century Viking would probably not be drinking out of a pewter mug or a glass goblet. Vise versa, someone in Italian Ren probably would not be drinking out of a horn.

My cordial "humor" box filled with persona appropriate 14th century cordial glassesFor the most part, not many people are going to care if you are not drinking out of a historically accurate mug. However it really does look cool if you do.

 
My cordial “humor” box filled with persona appropriate 14th century cordial glasses

I have 1 set of 14th century Germanic shot classes made for me by the talented and way knowledgeable Lynn McAdams.  I pull them out anytime I serve cordials and at wars.

No matter which way you go, please use your mugs at events. If you have spare beginner mugs, pack those for others to use. If everyone personally tried to pour their water, beer, or Gatorade into period looking drinking vesicles, than the event as a whole would appear far more period.

Menu Planning Step 4: Signing People Up

Hopefully, before you started all this you already had a “core” group of friends or people you were planning on feeding.  My first ( horrifically unsuccessful) food plan was done at Estrella war back in 2002, and was done for just friends ( 7 or so of us). Since then I have fed local groups ( Baronies), friends, households, and this year a core group of the Kingdom attending Gulf Wars.

Whether you are only offering it to friends or a select group of individuals or advertising it to anyone who is food-less, the next part is letting people know all the finer details of your food plan.

VISIT HERE TO SEE EXAMPLE OF THE 2014 GULF FOOD PLAN INFORMATION

MP1I always start by giving the prices, an introduction, and share the link for signing up ( Meal Planning step 4.25 coming next). Then I go into the nitty details.

Personally I don’t have set days for breakfast, but I do have a set of items I know I am going to cook. I always let them know what the recipes I am planning on doing, and what I am including ( IE I have coffee, but don’t offer juice)

As dinners are pre-planned due to scheduling I break down those a little more thoroughly.  I include a fun description to wet their appetites, and then I include the finer details like bread options, soups, and desserts.

MP2After I let them know the things I am going to be cooking, I breakdown the rules of my kitchen for those who have never eaten with me before ( or people who have, and just forget).

This are my personal rules and each one has been created because of past questions or issues.  I highly recommend creating your own to suit your comfort level. If you want me to go into further details why I have each of these rules, let me know and I can create another blog post.

However, don’t feel bad if you are repeating information such as HOW to sign up, what to bring, ext. Also be really clear about what you are including and what you are not.

MP3Finally, I include information for how to sign up ( post 4.25) and how to pay ( post 4.5).

The key to letting people know about your food plan is to give as much information as possible. I would rather someone come back to me and say they didn’t read it, than have someone say I didn’t tell them.

MP4