Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Art of Effective Facilitation: Building a Framework for SJE

Chapter 2

Okay, chapter 2 was interesting and fun. I liked hearing the participant quotes the author used, as that made me feel like she knew what she was talking about. She has her own framework that she uses to help her facilitate her SJE sessions. She admits she's made mistakes before, and that her framework evolves as she does. It's separated into several portions. The outermost portion (imagine a rectangle) is based on facilitator awareness and growth. This is an area where we need to be constantly concerned. We grow each day with our observations and actions. We learn what works and what doesn't. We also learn from our participants what works and what doesn't. Something I learned from the recent meeting was that I need to be very careful about how I phrase things, and how I speak. So we're learning something every day and adding to our experiences. This is a good thing, as we become better social justice educators when we learn these lessons.

The inner rectangle is about creating an inclusive learning environment. We have to make the space safe enough that participants feel they can take a risk, and we have to make the space feel like a welcoming atmosphere for them to share things about themselves that are... Deeply personal and risky. People need to feel like their statements will be respected and that people who disagree will do so respectfully. Inside this rectangle, there is a three part session plan or semester plan. The three parts are: 1) A model of oppression, 2) Participant Self Reflection, and 3.) A call to ACTION. I'll devote a paragraph to each of these.

The first part is the model of oppression. This is the subject where things can tend to get over intellectualized. People think that this is necessary, almost. It should be an intellectual exercise in part. But there should also be stories to go with it. Stories are the examples you use to show that this model is correct and not just a fanciful construct. If they are participant stories, that's even better, because those can't be scripted ahead of time. They're real and compelling, and are more believable because of it. This is where students take a risk. They tell the story of what they heard or saw or did, or what was done to them. These are the stories that bring the model to life. You can also use stories from the news media, or from the campus grapevine to "Prove" your theory/model is alive and well.

Next is participant self-reflection. As a participant, I had a hard time with this as subtleties are not something I see well. I don't see connections between things that I think I should see. I felt somewhat ashamed of my privilege at different times as well. Self-reflection is HARD WORK. It's something that can be done both publicly and privately, and I did a fair amount for RAPP. I also do a fair amount for my job as a facilitator. About what went right, and what went wrong. So self-reflection never really stops, it just keeps going.

And finally, the call to action. We had this at the end of the RAPP curriculum. That was the point where we had a gallery walk and saw posters up all over the walls where we could join groups on campus to make a difference ourselves. We could actually go out and DO SOMETHING to help. That was my favorite gallery walk. There were so many opportunities to help, and I wanted to do about half of them. (Like I have the time.) It gives me hope to see how so many people are interested in making a difference. We had a large (well, fairly large) group for my RAPP year. At the very end of the year, there were 25 of us that had hung strong through all the meetings and retreats and such. And it was so wonderful to see everyone, it made my day!!! And now I'm even more involved, which makes me happy. I'm helping others learn about social justice, and I'm asking them to go out and educate their family and friends as to what oppression is really about. It's wonderful to do these activities and feel like I'm making a difference in the lives around me. It's wonderful, and emotional and terrifying, lol. (After all, what happens if I do something wrong?)

Speaking of doing things wrong, we didn't really do anything wrong on Monday night. We were hoping for a bigger turnout, but we only got five people. So we pretty much redid our session plan at the last minute, and only did some of our activities. Then we substituted a guided discussion for the two activities we had planned to do that needed a bigger group. Even with the last minute substitution, we did all right. We ended up having it in the RAPP Office, cause that was cozier, we didn't need all the space, and there were students out in the lounge playing around and having music. We could have done it there anyways, but we chose to move it in the office instead. Our participants were wonderful (thanks to all those who came) and really didn't mind sharing very personal things that they thought and felt. So I'm calling it a big success. (And I'm now much less nervous about the whole facilitation thing. I've got a couple under my belt, and they both went okay, so I'm starting to relax and not be so afraid.)

Hopefully, this finds you all hale and hearty and doing well. I'm happy with the way things are going. Have a good weekend everyone!!

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