Wednesday, 5 November 2008

KISS in substituting

Recently I substitute taught a general creative writing and workshopping class for a mate. I used some of the Present Tense material I'd successfully used (see recent past blogs). The session went fine... or fine enough. It was satisfactory, and what more should you expect, coming in cold to an existing formed class? But I love the feel of a really good session, and I missed that feeling. So I have come up with two lessons learned for myself when substituting.

1) Keep It Simple, Stupid. The class was of mixed experience and level and my exercise was multi-staged, designed for my group of known experienced writers. It worked for some of these unknown students, but left others flat. It was too complex. So: don't be tricky. When subsituting, do a simple inspiration stimulus, a word, phrase or story question. Or rely on the treat of writing from picture postcards or from objects from a Serendipity Bag.

2) Always write out a lesson plan and a sheet of tutor prompts for each stage of the session. I was a bit blithe about planning, thinking I'd remember all the stages of that exercise. I'd brought my Matrix book to use as prompt to the stages, but then didn't pick it up and use it -- it feels unnatural to teach direct from a book, even when it is my own! Instead, I should have done what I always do: scrawl on A4 sheets the steps and prompts when prepping each session.

By prepping in writing, my psychic energy, passion and voice go from me, to my pen, to the page of session plan and notes and then out to the students with confidence, authority, conviction and fun, because the lesson has become part of me. I have become the message. The opposite of this is flabby, lazy, didactic or droning teaching. From me, anyway.

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