Be Prepared: The Key to Spontaneous Facilitation
When I was a boy in Southern Ontario, every WASPish boy like me went to Boy Scouts. You started at age 5 with Beavers, moved up to Cubs at 7, and then eventually graduated to the full Boy Scouts program. I mostly remember the games, my first exposure to what would become a life-long love of canoe camping, and the really scratchy wool shirt that my mother sewed my merit badges on.
(At the time, I didn't really appreciate the dubious origins of Boy Scouts as a colonial, para-military project of Lord Baden Powell, but hey, I was a kid!).
But the one lesson that has stood me well as a learning designer and facilitator has been the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared. I've lived this in spades this past week as I prepared for facilitating a session of GLP's dialogue education foundations course, Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach: The Principles and Practices of Dialogue Education.
I haven't taught this full course in four years, so I needed to take some time to review the learning design, to conduct a mid-design Learning Needs and Resources Assessment (LNRA) research (via an email survey and some surfing) and to customize the design accordingly. This required adapting the Steps of Design to the real Who, Why, When, and Where of this workshop, adjusting the examples to meet the needs of my learners, adding in some supplemental materials in response to their learning needs and then doing a lot of reformatting of the layout to accommodate my changes and to let the design breathe.
I also had to book the venue, secure the LCD projector, pick up the keys, finalize the participant recruitment, and coordinate with the host organization re: the food and printing of the final design.
Then, there were materials to order ("We're gonna need post-its! Lots of post-its" -- The Matrix), special requests for snacks to secure (Green Tea, Honey, fresh fruit....), name tags to print, charts to create, slide presentations to adapt.....
Then I had to get everything to the church where we were holding the workshop....In all, I made three separate 14 km roundtrips on my Kona Ute to ferry the workshop supplies, books for a display and a flip chart. It was a great excuse to be on my bike while keeping the carbon footprint of our course low. The learningcycle in action!
When the day of the workshop finally arrived, I got up extra early to go set up the room: arranging the chairs and tables in a way that promotes conversation between the learners, removing the extra clutter that tends to infest a church basement, laying out table cloths to hide the warn folding tables, putting the coffee on...all with the intent of making it a safe and welcoming environment for the learners.
In all, I probably spent about 3 days to prepare for a 4-day workshop. It sounds crazy, I know, but when I finally greeted the first participant, it felt like the bulk of the work was done. Now I was free to focus on the facilitation, respond to the needs of the participants and learn from their experiences and stories.
Day 1 went well: the logistics came together, all the participants eventually arrived despite the unexpected April snowfall and traffic, and they were all actively engaged with the content throughout the whole day.
When I finally closed the day Task 10 at 4:30, they broke into spontaneous applause! Just like Canadians on a transatlantic flight when the plane touches down in Amsterdam! That made the time that I had invested in organizing and customizing the course all worthwhile.
p.s. As I gear up for Day 2, the best preparation I can do now is to sleep! Good night. dh