This session did not start well. People were arriving late after 5pm. How can you blame them, travelling after a full day’s work. The vegetarian and vegan butties ordered didn’t arrive. One of the group quickly nipped out to the shop for a sandwich. Back in five minutes, she said. Ok, then, said I, groaning inside. The topic we were discussing that evening was reading skills. We noted the importance of understanding the purpose of different texts and their format. We did exercises on skimming and scanning. I felt tired as I think we all were and for the first hour, it felt flat and not going anywhere. then, slowy, something happened which I have experienced before in adult education but all too briefly, the mood lifted and the session gained a new impetus and dynamic.
One of my colleagues with shoulder length dark, curly hair and thick calves dashed out for fresh supplies. We spoke of reading and related it to our own direct experience. Some of us went further and linked it to helping our own families with their studies. Suddenly, the discussion became real and personal, utterly relevant. A moment before when vague and general concepts met head to head with our practical experience and I understand more. It felt like I knew what I was doing.
At half-past six, the phone rang in the training room. That’s odd but I answered it. It was the sandwich bar apologising for forgetting the butties. Too late, I told him, no point in delivering them now. He promised cakes and treats for next time.
Later on, another member of the group spoke of preferring to work alone on a task. All this group work was fine but, actually, he didn’t feel particularly comfortable with it. Absolutely, give me something I can work on in my own time and pace without anyone else telling me what to do. It is good to acknowledge that some of us do like to work on our own. Other people’s views do ‘get in the way’ sometimes. Yet, I also argued with my face pointing both ways that it can be more rewarding and satisfying when you work something out together as a group. Tutors need to create space for both individual reflection and group companionship.
This is my fourth time delivering the Seedbed training for tutors interested in literacy, numeracy and language. I noticed soemthing else happening to me during that session. I am becoming so much more aware of the materials that I am starting to feel able to read the minds of the people who put the training modules together. I understand why something is there and, as a result, I can see the connections much more clearly between the separate modules and am starting to show the links more effectively to the group. I hope so, anyway.