- Open-ended – Prevents yes and no answers. “What was the purpose of the activity?” “What did you learn about yourself, our team, our program, our organization, or our community?”
- Feeling – Requires participants to reflect on how they feel about what they did. “How did it feel when you started to pull it together?”
- Judgment – Asks participants to make decisions about things. “What was the best part?” “Was it a good idea?”
- Guiding – Steers the participants toward the purpose of the activity and keep the discussion focused. “What got you all going in the right direction?”
- Closing – Helps participants draw conclusions and end the discussion. “What did you learn?” “What would you do differently?”
- Stay on task. Every group should have a clearly stated purpose and agenda. This allows us to stay focused, considerate, and action-oriented.
- Avoid rabbit holes. Alice fell into a world away from reality – Your group doesn’t have to be that way. Stay aware of off-topic banter, read your audience, and consider other ways to share ideas before getting too far away from the point.
- Look for diamonds by working through the coal. There are rough things to go through in some groups. Instead of avoiding them commit- as a group- to getting in and going through them.
- Accomplish the specific task at hand, and when we’re done say we’re done.
- Build a sense of teamwork and purpose.
- Show that everyone has different strengths and abilities to offer the group and that no one is better than anyone else.
- Lead the gathering or group
- Guide towards goals
- Lead by example
- Who were the best facilitators you’ve ever experienced? The worst? What made them that way?
- What is your goal for being an excellent facilitator- productivity, interaction, fun? Do you think you can facilitate all those at once?
- What assumptions do you have about facilitation?
- Why do you really want to learn more about excellent facilitation?
These last few days I had the honor of going to Miami for an exciting opportunity to consult Catalyst Miami, aka the Human Services Coalition of Miami/Dade County, and to facilitate a day long seminar on meaningful youth engagement. You may have already read my post on consulting spectacular people doing awesome work, or getting ready for the seminar. This post is going to explore this Imagine Miami workshop in depth.
For my seminar on Meaningful Youth Engagement I was joined by 150 of the most determined learners I’ve been with in a while, including middle school students from a local school, nonprofit leaders from a variety of organizations, and concerned community members looking to learn about a truly revolutionary concept. I spent the day in full-on “Adam mode”, packed with energy and enthusiasm and completely present to the challenged, warm, and moving space we shared. And I was moved. There was so much passionate determination among the folks in the room, and I learned a lot from people there.
After a very deliberate prep time led by Lori Deus, the event coordinator from Catalyst Miami, and warm welcome from Daniella, the group was greeted by Modesto Abety, the President of the Miami Children’s Trust, who provided generous support for the event. With participants seated 10 to a table, we did some earnest small group introductions, and raced the engines to go.
Section three of the day focused on the barriers to meaningful youth engagement. This section hones in on discrimination against youth, which is a new conceptual framework for many adults to consider. Participants were introduced to the definitions of adultism, adultcentrism, and ephebiphobia, and I shared with them the reality that youth, adults, and structures can be barriers. We acknowledged these forces in practice by examining by assessments of youth voice.
I first explained the Sidewalk Story on this blog a year ago, and today I’m sharing a new video with me telling the story from my series on “Re-envisioning the Roles of Young People throughout Society.” Its an analogy for engagement and design – enjoy!
There are hundreds of manuals and workbooks and binders out there about how to teach and train young people, with most of them being well-intended and sometimes interesting. I’m guilty of writing more than one. But sometimes I forget to boil it down to its essence, the point.
Here are three elements for how to make learning meaningful:
- Relevancy – Young people know what they like, at any age. Sure, they’re constantly learning more things they like, but from the age of none my daughter has been communicating to me what she thinks is interesting and good. In my experience as I’ve grown up I’ve become so finite in what I like that I have to be conscientious of what bias I’m introducing to my daughter in order to ensure that I’m actually listening to her and in order to attempt understanding what she finds relevant. And relevancy isn’t just about likes and dislikes – its about where we’re been, where we’re going, and who we are, individually and collectively. Working in hundreds of classrooms across the country I’ve consistently heard from young poeplethat this is the most important part of their learning: That if they don’t see why, they might be able to see what – BUT they won’t feel how, and they won’t know where, when, who, or why.
- Transparent Teaching – Students want teachers who are real, fallible humans who act as co-learners, fellow searchers, and when appropriate, facilitators and leaders. Transparency gives teachers a mental frame for how to be real with learners. This is an important differentiation with traditional teaching, if for no other reason than because of the democratization of the process embodied inside of this way of approaching learning and teaching. Opening up oneself to demystifying teaching allows young people to conceive of themselves as both learners and teachers, and in turn gives them permission to see teachers as more than dictators. This creates a less hierarchical perspective, which in turn challenges the very nature of traditional schooling and learning.
- Speak by Listening. When I first read this adage in one of Paulo Freire’s books I didn’t understand exactly what he was alluding to. However, in the years since I continuously seen people who I admire live by this simple guideline. How we speak to others is a calling card for our self-perception, and in turn how we perceive others. To speak by listening means to let your receptivity, your ego and your ability sit exposed for the people you’re listening to.
There are many other keys, including appealing to multiple intelligences, using small groups, create action items, constantly checking-in, and avoiding the “trick-and-treat syndrome” that plagues so many well-meaning but poorly-executed community and school programs. We have to reach higher, and these points are meant to help teachers and youth workers make learning meaningful.