To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mastery Year 1: Part 3: Post 2: Workshops

You know, in all the years I’ve been here, I’ve never actually been on campus the second week of May before. 

As you might recall, almost all of May is a gap between the spring and summer semesters, during which time there are a series of workshops and, for the yearlings and faculty, the trip to the Island. I’ve never been clear on whether the gap exists to create space for the Island trip, or if the trip is simply a way of putting to use a gap that has some other purpose. In any case, the trip leaves a few days after Beltane and returns 14 days later, after which there are the workshops, including some required for yearlings. While the masters and the yearlings are away, senior students are allowed to leave campus, or they can take any of a number of other workshops. Since the masters aren’t here, these are taught by mastery candidates.

I never had a chance to go to any of those candidates’ workshops, because first I was a yearling, and then I was assisting Charlie on the Island. This year, I can’t go to the Island, because June is going, and a big part of the trip is an opportunity for the yearlings to bond as a group. June can’t do that if she is distracted from the group by my presence. At least, that is the theory—neither of us are convinced it’s true, but the masters haven’t given us a choice; she has to go to the Island, and I am barred.

So, here I am.

May isn’t the only time candidates can teach, of course. Some teach often. But the middle of May is the only time that we’re not in competition for student attention with masters. It’s also the first chance new candidates, like me, usually have to get on the schedule. In fact, we all more or less have to teach something.

Eddie, of course, is teaching three back-to-back workshops on dog training. If you take all three, it adds up to a full three-credit course. And the public is allowed in. Curiously, participants are not allowed to bring their dogs, except to the first session. After that, Eddie supplies dogs to work with. As he says, “I’m not training your dogs, you have to train your own dogs. I’m training you.

Ebony is teaching one workshop in creativity—it’s mostly discussion—and a second one on ceramics.

Rick is teaching tree identification and advanced tracking. That’s two workshops, I mean, not one on both topics.

Ollie is teaching just one, on Christian therapy. It is, predictably, poorly attended, as most people around here believe Christians should be in therapy, not offering it. It’s probably very good, though. He’s spending the rest of the gap off campus with Willa.

I can’t attend any of those workshops, though, because I’m teaching, get this, six of them. It was probably a bad idea, and I think I was allowed to do it largely so I would know not to try anything this insane again, but I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity—because most of my topics are predictably unpopular, too, and if I had competition from the masters I’m not sure I could get enough attendees to test my material.

I’m doing things like statistical literacy and scientific reasoning. Five out of my six (the sixth being introductory tracking) are drawn directly from my first two semesters at grad school, and I’m focusing on the drier, more technical things I learned there on purpose—because Charlie said I have to teach all of it, or at least try to, and this is the only way I can think to do these topics. The fun things I can do any time.

It’s not that these topics are inherently boring. I wasn’t bored when I learned them. But as Charlie has said, retention depends on context. As a grad student, I had reasons to learn things like ecological research design. And I had an already-established interest in natural science. A lot of the people here have neither. So, it’s on me to figure out ways to explain why anyone should bother with my classes.

Wish me luck.

It looks like summer, here. Everything is green and lush. We’ve even had a few warm days, though no hot ones. But, unlike summer, there are no mosquitoes yet, and even few flies. When I’m not busily rushing around getting my workshops started, I can take naps out on the central field in the sunshine. It’s glorious.

I just wish June were here. How do people cope who must spend months or years away from their sweethearts? It’s been less than a week since I’ve seen mine and already I’m going crazy.

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