Monday, February 24, 2014

To NECCA I go: Teaching training workshop, part 5 (Final)

Obviously I'm a few days late on this last blog post. One reason being that as soon as the workshop was over and I'd said my goodbyes, I got in my car and drove home--this time it only took me the 2 hours it should to drive from Brattleboro to Somerville. The other reason is that, as I mentioned in my last post, I've run out of new and/or interesting things to say about the workshop.

I'll try to summarize a few thoughts I have regardless.

1. It was a lot of information. I think my learning curve was much higher than most of the people at the workshop, having never taught aerials before. I had to learn about spotting (where to put my hands, how to move around and with the student, when to spot, etc). Thankfully I didn't have to learn any new moves (there might have been 1 or 2 on the trapeze I'd never done before, but they were easy-peasy), although I still had to figure out how to break them down and explain how to perform them. Plus, there were additional info sessions after lunch about injury prevention, learning styles, and rigging, and I was trying to make notes of the different warm-up routines.

By Thursday, my brain was pretty saturated. I don't know how people stuck around for the foundations training workshops in both fabric and trapeze.

2. There was a lot of trapeze. Although the time spent on each apparatus was equal (or close to), I think it's fairly obvious that this session started out as a "How to teach trapeze" workshop. The spotting explanations were the most specific for trapeze, and there were few times where we were told to "take a few minutes and just figure this out for yourselves." The latter statement was more common for the fabrics portion of the day, and then we often didn't have to try to explain to a partner how to perform the move. I'm not saying that it's bad that there was a heavier focus on trapeze, I'm just pointing it out, because that's the way it seemed to me (possibly because I'm a verticals person).

3. Spotting, spotting, spotting. In my opinion, I'd say too much spotting was encouraged. Maybe that's just me, maybe that's my Canadianism coming through (i.e. Canadian's don't automatically jump to threats of lawsuits if something goes wrong--more likely a student would apologize for having a fall), or maybe that's because when I started I was in a class with several other fairly athletic adults (and so heavy spotting wasn't necessary). I'm also weary of the idea of doing too much for a student rather than letting them fail. Sure, it's not fun to not be able to do a move, but I feel it's better than being over confident in the belief that I can do something, only to discover that when I don't have a spot I either hurt myself, or I can't lift my feet off the ground.

4. I managed to keep my Darcy-pants off. I was extremely nervous about having to be social without Andrew or another friend around for 5 straight days. I tend to be socially awkward at best, or come off as a Darcy-pants at worst, but I think I managed the workshop not too badly. I did bounce a little between groups, partially because I was trying to work with different people, but also because I didn't want to appear like a lost little kid, desperately following around attendees like a shadow. I was extremely grateful to those who let me join their groups, and helped walk me through how to do things. I was amazed how many people gave me pointers in a friendly, non-threatening fashion, when they could have easily put me down and made me feel bad. Circus people are awesome.

That's all I've got for now. I'm hoping to take more of the fabric instruction workshops, (possibly expanding to the rope workshop after I've taken the foundations session) in the future--and of course, I'll blog about it.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

To NECCA I go; Teach training workshop, Part 4

Since I blogged after the first 3 days, I feel like I really ought to blog for the remaining 2, except I also feel like I'm starting to run out of new things to say about the workshop. (Note how I used the word 'feel' twice in that's probably a good indicator that I'm a kinetic learner.)

So, Day 3: I got up, I worked a little before I went over to NECCA, we did trapeze work in the morning, there was a rigging workshop after lunch, and fabric work in the afternoon. We talked more about giving appropriate spots, how to think about and explain moves, and troubleshot (or is it still shoot? It seems kind of weird) why students may or may not be able to perform certain skills.

I still feel awkward and tongue-tied in at times, but hey, Rome wasn't built in a day, right?

A very fun thing we did first thing, was a Kids Warm-Up. I'm probably never going to teach kids, but that doesn't mean warming up like them isn't enjoyable. It meant games. Running around, yelling, and making funny noises and shapes with your body. I spent 10 minutes of my phone conversation with Andrew telling him how to play Ships and Sailors (a kind of very involved tag-like game with a nautical theme), and how to do a Clown-style warm up.

The biggest thing for me on Day 4 was that I got a private session on fabrics. It was awesome, and I was completely exhausted after an hour (it's a lot of work when you're the only student). I've got videos with explanations to take back with me so I won't forget anything...and damn it, I need to remember to point both of my feet when I perform skills (my right toes are often left foot seems to like to flex a lot). I was so excited with the new moves that I learned that I spent another 10 minutes of my phone conversation trying to explain them to Andrew.

I will refrain from explaining them aerials moves written down aren't nearly as exciting compared to watching them being performed (although, I have written a new manuscript, which is an aerial romance!).

That's it for now. I've got one more day of the workshop, then home, where I'll hopefully soon be able to put my new skills into action.



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

To NECCA I go: Teacher training workshop, part 3

Day three was the big Sample Class day. For a lot of people it was probably no big deal. As I've said before there are a lot of people at the workshop who already teach, but I'll admit I was kind of nervous. Or, maybe not so much nervous as worried I wouldn't do well. Does that make sense? Is there a difference? I think so.

When I'm nervous I get all gittery, I feel like I need to pee constantly, and my mouth goes dry. Last night I was reasonably calm, but I was worried about how I would do. Would I be able to speak clearly? Would I be able to demonstrate effectively what the students were to do? Could I successfully put those two together? Would I spot appropriately?

For the sample class we were placed into groups of three. Two people were to actively teach and support a 25 minute session on the fabrics, and two people were to actively teach and support a 25 minute session on the trapeze. The person left out would sit and observe (not to be the same person both times). Since I was the only one who had experience on both apparatus, I ended up participating in both, which was probably best for me since I have zero teaching experience.

I think our session went fairly well. We had three guys (one teen, and two in their early twenties) and they seemed to enjoy the whole thing. They thought it was cool to hang upside down and make poses, and they seem impressed with the few skills we demonstrated. Interestingly none of them seems to think twice about using my knee as a stepping tool up to both the silks and the trapeze. I got through my explanations reasonably smoothly, although I probably talked more than necessary, and faster too, but I think I made sense. So, go me? But I still need more practice, practice, practice.


We were asked to think about our teaching habits. Words and phrases we use repetitively, gestures, etc. One brief session isn't enough for me to pin-point these behaviours yet, but as I wrote above, I suspect I issued more words from my mouth than necessary, and at-a-faster-than-optimal-for- comprehension (see what I did there?). Words come out of my mouth quicker than I can make sense of sometime, and it's probably the same for others. If I continue onto the certification program (which I hope to) I'll have to video tape myself teaching, then critique it. It's painful to watch myself in these types of situations (I had to do it for a class in my Masters), but I'm sure it will do wonders for identifying areas of my teaching that require improvement.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

To NECCA I go: Teaching training workshop, part 2

So, after the completion of day two, I still feel like the worst spotter/instructor in the room. Maybe that’s because I can’t see what anyone else beyond the small groups I work with are doing, or maybe I feel that way because I keep ending up with people who already teach and know what they doing, or maybe I just really lack confidence in this and need to build it up. It’s probably a mixture of all three, but at least the people I work with don’t seem to be holding it against me. In fact, I kind of like working with people who already teach, because they seem to be happy to teach me how to spot.

I also got hit in the nose with the end of a trapeze in the morning. That didn’t exactly help my confidence. And I accidently felt up someone’s butt (when I thought I was holding onto their sacrum) while I was trying to spot them through a bird’s nest pose. I will improve with practice, right?

Something new we talked about yesterday was learning styles: visual, auditory, and kinetic. I’ve known for some time that I’m pretty strongly kinetic in my learning style (apparently it’s a fairly small portion of the public that is, around 10%). For one thing, when I’m in a fabric or knitting store, or shopping for clothing, I MUST TOUCH EVERYTHING. If it doesn’t feel nice, I’m not interested.

How does being a kinetic learner factor into my aerials training? For one thing, I have what I call, a "gold fish brain" when it comes to learning new moves. As much as I try to position myself in a good spot to see what the instructor is doing, and hear what they’re saying, once I get up on the apparatus to try the move myself, I’ll almost immediately ask, “Okay, so what do I do now?”. Then I need to be walked through the steps again. The good thing is, once I get something in my brain and body, it’s pretty much in there…but only if I totally get it.

If I haven’t mastered something by the end of the class, chances are I’ll need the instructions over and over again until the information and my body click to perform the manoeuver I was struggling with.

Everyone’s learning style is different, and most people aren’t 100% one type of learning style only. In terms of teaching it means that you have to use a variety of techniques to demonstrate and show students how to accomplish aerial skills. It means I have to think of ways that maybe somewhat foreign to me of explaining how to do things to others. It’s a challenge, but hopefully one I can rise to.


Monday, February 17, 2014

To NECCA I go: Teaching training workshop, part 1

After the first day of the teacher training workshop I would say I’m a hesitant spotter. I hope this is just because I haven’t ever taught something that required spotting before, and that I’ll overcome this with practice. Yesterday we went through what might be a typical first class on fabrics, and a typical first class on trapeze.

It’s hard to remember what those first classes were like. I know both Andrew and I enjoyed it enough that by the end of our first hour and a half on the equipment we asked when we could enroll in our next session. I also remember that I couldn’t manoeuver my knees up to the trapeze bar without a small jump, and then desperately tring to hook my toe onto the bar so I could push myself through to an inverted pike.

Almost 3 years later, I don’t give much thought to getting up onto a trapeze (when I do venture onto a bar), I just do it.

So, spotting. It’s important. You need to keep your students safe at all times, the priority being, as Serenity Smith-Forchin said, your student’s computer (aka brain) and to do that, you need to put your hands on them—but in the right way. Not creepily, not with too much force so that you’re practically doing the move for them, not too little so that they can’t perform the move either. It’s something of a Goldie Locks situation, where you need just the right amount of support and guidance. I don’t have the golden touch, yet.

I hope by the end of class I’ll be on my way to getting there.

Our homework from yesterday:

Postural Analysis (a part of injury prevention): While standing, and thinking about it, I can maintain a reasonably neutral spine/pelvis position, although when simply standing around I tend to jut my pelvis slightly forward. I also think I’m reasonably good at keep my shoulders engaged when I lift them. But this might just because I was thinking carefully about what I was doing. I know when I work at my computer I have a tendency to allow my shoulders to slouch forward (who doesn’t?). I frequently remind myself to sit up straight (and sometimes Tweet it too).

Goals for the first year of teaching: Given what I wrote above, I’d like to grow my confidence as a spotter. Along with that, I feel I also need to build confidence in giving step-by-step instructions as I spot (We didn’t exactly do this as we practiced in class, but many people seemed to do it naturally. Some people were very good at it, others, not so much. It doesn’t help that everyone in the workshop knows very well what to do without help).



Sunday, February 16, 2014

To NECCA I go: Teacher training workshop, part 0.5

I had something of a challenging start to my week of aerial teacher training.

The drive from Somerville, MA to Brattleboro, VT is only about 2 hours, but last night it took me…3.5, I think? There were 2 reasons for this: 1) the weather was kind of crappy, and I spent much of the time driving between 60 and 80 kph, even though I was on major highways where I should have been driving more like 100 kph or more; 2) I’m still not a pro at navigating the New England area, which meant that in the dark…well, it was awfully hard to read my directions. At least every time I made a wrong turn I realized it almost immediately and just had to wait for an opportunity to turn around.

Then I thought I lost my wallet. I stopped to get a snack on my way, since I was driving over dinner, and threw my wallet on the passenger seat when I got back into the car. Then, when I arrived at my accommodations, I was in a hurry to get out of the car and must of have knocked it over so it was wedged between the seat and the door. Later, growing panicked and very dark, when I went out to look for it I couldn’t see it, so I called Andrew to tell him I’d lost it. He was at a party, but agreed to cancel my American credit card for me, and we’d deal with the rest in the morning. Good thing we didn’t go all gung-ho and cancel everything, since I found it this morning, in the day light.

Now I’m just having some breakfast and gearing myself up for 5 days of socializing with people I don’t know. This is a pretty major challenge for someone who’s a Darcy-pants like me, especially when I don’t have Andrew, or other friends with me as backup.

Wish me luck.



Sunday, February 2, 2014

A conversation between me and Andrew, a la the Bloggess

I have a tendancy to build up muscle knots in my back. Sometimes they're small and don't bother me, but this morning when I woke up I had a big one around the edge of my right shoulder blade that was uncomfortable without moving my arms. It's in a weird spot and I can't effectively roll it, so I asked Andrew if he would massage it for a bit to ease the discomfort. Because he's a wonderful husband he obliged, and spent almost half an hour pressing on lumps in my back.

Then we had this conversation:

Andrew: You've got knots on knots.

Me: I know, I didn't think I over did it at the gym yesterday, except maybe for the bench press.

Andrew: This isn't from the gym. I can feel bits moving onto top of other bits that aren't muscle or bone.

Me: I guess I'm stressing out a bit.

Andrew: Just think about Hannibel Lecturn [sic], he's have to stew you for ages.

Me: That's a weird and disturbing reference, where did that come from?

Andrew: I don't know, it just came out. But think about how unpleasant you'd be.

Me: I guess I'd just be really gamey.

Andrew: I don't know, the knots are build ups of lactic acid, right? So you'd be meaty with these hard lumps in it. So think of Hannibel Lecturn [sic] think of that as an incentive to not build up knots.

Me: It's Lecter.

Andrew: Oh, sorry, Lecter.

Me: And wouldn't that be an incentive for me to build up knots?

Andrew: Yeah, maybe.

Then we laughed, and I wrote this blog post.



Saturday, February 1, 2014

Staycation 2014: Yes we did, and it worked pretty well

For some time Andrew and I felt that we were in desperate need of a vacation. I kept throwing out: "Why don't we go away for Christmas?" But Andrew wouldn't go for it. Personally, I have no problem with the idea of palm trees and no snow at Christmas time, but Andrew (probably rightly) felt we were better off to go home and visit family and friends.

At any rate, and as is often the case, when we got back from the holidays, the feeling of exhaustion only continued to mount (I never sleep, nor eat well when we stay at either of our parents homes). Eventually we agreed we had to take some kind of proper vacation, but we couldn't decide on what. Being a port city, lots of cruises go out of Boston, so that was one option. We could go for a packaged beach deal (something we've never done before), I was even toying with the idea of flying to England or Scotland for a week.

There was one teensy, weensy problem. Aerials classes. I know, we could have just missed a week, except I'm already going to miss a week when I go to NECCA mid-February, so that left us trying to cram something in between Thursday of one week to Tuesday of the next. That's not really enough for a relaxing vacation. After much discussion (and probably a lot of moaning from me) we decided we could do a staycation. Sleep in, visit museums, eat out or do take out, take things slow and do whatever we want, and I'd say for the most part, it worked.

I'm not going to give an in depth recounting of our activities. That would be long and boring for everyone, but I'll give a brief overview of what we saw and did. Most of the places we went didn't allow pictures, and the weather was generally cold, which isn't conducive to outdoor photography either. So...

Saturday, Salem: Phillips House, this was great, we pretty much got a personal tour (January isn't exactly the height of tourist season in Salem). In the afternoon we went to the Peabody Essex Museum and saw an interesting exhibit on Japanese Haute Culture.

Sunday, Normal Day: Sunday was aerials practice and class, which was standard order for Sunday.

Monday, Boston: We were going to go for breakfast at the Neighborhood Family Restaurant, it's very popular around here, but as it was actually a holiday in the US on Monday, there was a sizable line by the time we arrived. Instead we went to S&S Restaurant, in Inman Square. We spent the afternoon in the Museum of Science, which was pretty fun and we also went to the planetarium. I haven't been to a planetarium show in ages, and it was awesome (all about moons)!

Tuesday, Cambridge: Tuesday was MIT day. We took a tour of MIT, which was interesting, but not quite as historical as we might have liked. It was also pretty cold that day, so the outside bits were kind of uncomfortable. In the afternoon we went to the MIT museum. It had a collection of cool robots and interesting art exhibits.

Wednesday, Boston: We went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which is a super cool art museum, created by well,...Isabella Steward Gardner. She collected all kinds of art (wide ranges of ages, styles, etc), built a building to show her art, and arranged it as she wished (she was very rich).

Thursday, Our Apartment, and Boston: We were going to go to the Boston Symphony on Thursday, but we were getting kind of pooped out from the walking and appreciating culture by this point. Instead, Andrew slept in, while I watched the Lizzie Bennet Diaries and knit--he joined me once he got up (all told, we watched, roughly, episodes 35-100). Afterwards (around 2:30 pm) we went to the Museum of Fine Art, which was enormous. We saw maybe a quarter of the museum.

Friday, Cambridge: Friday was kind of wonky. I had an appointment at 12:30, which made it difficult to make plans. Instead we went shopping for the afternoon (and both got trench coats from Banana Republic--they were half price).

Saturday, Revere, Cambridge: We decided to go to a movie matinee to see Frozen. Probably due to my on going health questions (see previous post) I was extra emotional throughout, but I think we both really enjoyed the movie. In the evening we went to a beach themed party (and a got to whip out my trusty Hawaiian shirt from high school).

Sunday, Normal Day: The last day of our holiday, was pretty much a normal day, except we went for a big expensive dinner in the evening. Unfortunately, I ended up super sick to my stomach in the middle of the night, which was something of a damper.

I think our staycation was fairly successful. Andrew and I both felt pretty rested, and by Sunday we were both feeling that we were ready to get back to normal life.


The one place we did take pictures was the Boston Museum of Science. This is kind of the 'back' window, looking out at the Charles River.
The front window, with a kind of nifty art installation, where the pink things actually changed colour.
Us playing around in the math discovery area. This one was looking at fractions and multiples, as each of the 3 chairs were replicas of each other, but different dimensions.
Tiny chair.
Big chair.