(Part of my series on coven life in practice)
One of the obvious questions once you start talking about teaching classes is ‘how do you plan that’?
I’ve never been a classroom teacher (outside a couple of short semester-break style workshops), but I’ve spent most of my life around educators. My father was a college professor, and for all but one year of my adult life, I’ve either been in school or working for a school as a librarian. (My current job has less direct interaction with students, but I work with teachers among others.)
So I came in to teaching witchy stuff with a lot of exposure not only to a wide variety of teaching methods, but to people talking about how to teach both ongoing classes, and how to teach one-shot classes or workshops (it’s a lot more common for librarians to work once or twice with particular groups than to work with them for a series of class sessions.)
I’m also the daughter of a professor who taught brilliantly organised two hour classes (complete with quotation from the relevant literary works) off the top of his head with no notes, so my sense of the field was skewed from the start.
Over the years, I’ve figured out my preferred teaching style. I bet it isn’t yours, but I encourage you to figure out what is. It’s not so much my particular style of teaching that saves time and energy, as knowing what works for me (and works pretty well for the people I’m teaching).
This is also one of those things where it depends on how many people are sharing teaching responsibilities. If different people may be teaching the same material at different times (but you want everyone to cover the same things), you’re going to need to do more advance planning than if one person is teaching, or if the teaching topics are more organic.
In my case, I want to make sure a specific set of topics are covered over the course of the year, but I’m somewhat flexible about what we talk about when (and want to leave space for things to come up organically.) In some cases, the sequence matters (I need to teach X before we can talk about Y more usefully), and in others it doesn’t so much.
Laying out a year’s worth of work
You can actually see this on my year and a day training suggested classes page – this is more or less the outline I start with, since I’ve done it once, revised it several times, and I’m pretty sure I’m not leaving out anything major and critical that I want to cover. (This is a matter of personal judgement: there are some classes on there that don’t get widely covered in other settings, and some that do.)
This part took a long time. Not just writing up, but revisiting it regularly over a few months to go “Have I missed anything important?” and “Does this sequence make sense, logically and in practical terms?”
Planning a class
That prep work pays off though. Now, to plan a class, my steps are pretty simple:
I write up notes for each class (not about content, but things that came up while we talked, assignments, and things to know are coming up – more on that in a separate post).
I put the next two upcoming classes in those notes. When I put them in the notes, I copy over the basic list of what I want to cover (or review it), and put reminders to myself for anything specific I need to prep at an appropriate point. Mostly, I keep ‘stuff I need to prep’ pretty minimal. This step includes things like “Figure out specifics of this meditation” and “Will be better with Y items, get those.”
A couple of days before the class, I go through and add details to my notes, with specific things I want to talk about. Because I’m me, and most of my details are in my head, this is mostly in outline form. (If I’m talking about people and dates, or anything else where the specifics are relevant and need to be precise, I write those down at this point.)
I also think about order and sequence.
All of these go in a file in Ulysses, the app I use for short writing, one file for each class, all kept together so I can swap between files very easily in the sidebar. When I’m teaching, I have the iPad open, and use that as a reference for what to talk about, and in what order.
I usually find a list of 4-6 major items works pretty well, clustered together under a similar topic.
Structure of class
One big consideration is the structure of class. We schedule three hours, and some gatherings we have about an hour or 90 minutes of ritual in there, and some we don’t.
We have three people right now (me and two students) and I aim for something conversational – I have info to share and to get them to talk about, but they also ask things as they come up. Our sessions generally run:
- They arrive, we set up food (they alternate bringing a main dish and a side dish, usually)
- We do some initial checkins, talk about questions that have come up since the last class, and so on. (I usually answer it directly in email, and then discuss the topic with both of them, to make sure we’ve hit all the same info with both people.)
- We settle in for the main portion of the class. I try to do a bit of alternation of ‘let me talk at you and answer questions’ and asking them things. When possible, I’ll build in an exercise for them to do, or something where they share something they’ve worked on, or something that’s not a lecture.
- At the end of the class, we clear the space and do any practical ritual or energetic exercises that take more space. (Over the summer, we were doing class in my bedroom, where we also did ritual, because that has the air conditioner, and also more floor space than the living room. In my current place, that’s not a problem.)
If we have ritual, we do ritual first, then sort out food, and then move into the class part of the discussion.
I keep an eye on the time, aiming to wrap up about 15 minutes before we’re due to finish (this gives us time to clean up, do dishes, and make sure there aren’t any lingering questions.)
Obviously, there are dozens of other ways to organise the time, and figure out how much to fit into a class – pick what works for you.