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)

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.