Today was the second mini-lesson cycle for a group of four enrolled in EOSC 516 – Teaching and Learning in Earth and Ocean Sciences. I have come away from today’s small group feeling joyful and successful in facilitating. Let’s celebrate!
Situation 1: Dropping the Invisibility Cloak
After all the participants had written out, posted, and shared their mini-lessons goals with each other prior to teaching, one of them asked me what my goals were for the day. Though, in regular conversation, one might normally expect for two people to ask each other how they are doing, mini-lesson sessions are set up and carried out completely participant-focused. Perhaps due to this combined with nerves prior to teaching, I had never before been asked a reciprocal personal-type question during facilitating, it was really quite unique and rather touching.
A few weeks ago before mini-lesson cycles began, I had a conversation with a fellow facilitator about whether we should participate when we ask the participants to share their goals. I was advised that this ultimately wouldn’t work for two reasons: A, the facilitator is “supposed to be as invisible as possible” and B, our goals would be very different than those of the participants. I decided not to plan on contributing to the goal sharing session due to the latter reason, though I do believe invisibility can be a great tool in some instances. Not only was today’s moment great because it was lovely for a student to take interest in getting to know me personally, but primarily because it validated my beliefs that a facilitator does not always need to be invisible.
If I were generally invisible as a facilitator, the safe and open environment I aim to create for the participants would be absent. I don’t intend to discredit the ability of the participants to support one another. The participants I have facilitated have been wonderfully encouraging of one another, I just don’t consider this their responsibility. Above all, it is my responsibility to ensure well-being of the participants, and give the them the freedom to focus on teaching and obtaining feedback. Therefore, my presence as a facilitator is vital to the success of the process.
Situation 2: Accidentally Obtaining (Positive) Feedback
During the one-on-one session with a participant, during which I typically attempt to elicit some rich reflective processing of the mini-lesson they just finished teaching, I obtained some very wonderful feedback! After extracting some first reactions to her own lesson, the participant exclaimed, “Rebecca, I just want you to know you are so happy and so nice and so kind!”. I thanked her and quickly switched the focus back to her, but I really reveled in her comment. As we were focusing on her at the time (or at least making our best efforts at it), I am confident I wasn’t anywhere near talking about my own experiences, which is why her unprovoked comment is so special to me. I haven’t had much experience with teaching and/or facilitating English as a Second Language (ESL) participants and I try to be conscious of inclusivity at all times, so it was nice to know that I’ve made a connection with her.
Situation 3: Sharing in a Participant’s Success
Today was very special for one participant, and I was overjoyed to share in it. Not only did the participant nail her goal to stay comfortably within the ten-minute lesson time limit, but her leaps and bounds in becoming comfortable with her teaching practice were apparent [note: I am purposely remaining vague in the interest of the student’s privacy]. It was wonderful to see the whole group excited over one person’s success. Her peers were so excited to celebrate her achievements, and her squeals of joy when she found out the timing of her lesson and received overwhelmingly positive feedback touched my very heart!
All in all, today I have reached some wonderful facilitating milestones. I was able to prove a gut intuition about my personal facilitating philosophy; I was able to (unintentionally) gain some positive reinforcement on my attempts to create a safe, friendly, and trusting environment; and I was share in a participants’ success. A pivotal day!