My work takes me to a variety of places and this was my second visit to Wrexham in a couple of months. On this occasion, I was teaching another workshop for Voluntary Arts, specifically for the organisation BAWSO, doing what I can to encourage and enable some of the women taking part in one of their projects to get together and organise creative groups to sit and share their skills with one another.
Of course, not everyone had a good command of English and at times, it wasn’t easy to discuss the benefits of getting together around a table to learn something new. Can you imagine how to communicate the concept of learning styles with limited English language skills? I found myself thinking fast on my feet at times, wondering how on earth I was going to manage the day when I was struggling to get any response at all from the women who sat there in front of me. I had failed to consider the impact of communication difficulties: that someone who doesn’t feel confident to speak is unlikely to participate much at all. I needed to find some common ground.
“Do you cook?”
Nods all round. Phew!
From that slow start and with the support of a colleague, gradually a kind of conversation began. Where would I start if I wanted to make a new dish? A cook book! What if it didn’t taste good? Where could I go for help? Ask a friend! How could I learn to do it better? She could show me!
Of course, you recognised that as a discussion of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning styles, didn’t you?! Well…of sorts, but all agreed, the best way to learn any skill was by having someone show us how, by having a go ourselves and maybe by making mistakes. And everyone agreed, we learned a lot of these skills from our mothers.
Time to practise what we preached then and get on with it. My colleague taught half of the women to make a sock puppet with felt hair and googly eyes. In no time at all, the atmosphere lightened and people began to chat, to smile and laugh and slowly we won their trust.
Meanwhile, I taught the other half of the group how to make a small book. You know, the one I did ages ago for the WI and uploaded here. After a bit of lunch, each group showed the other how to make what they just learned.
Whilst they did, the extraordinarily well behaved children made their own entertainment!
Though it was a really tiring day, the results were terrific and I think everyone had a great time. They left with at least two ideas for things they could teach to their friends and had some fun at the same time.
As they gathered their things together at the end of the afternoon, one or two of them came and said thank you. It was clear they were proud of what they’d made and the women who waved goodbye as they left, smiling and relaxed confirmed what many of us know already.
I can’t begin to tell you how much I learned as well.