For years I have gone to dozens and dozens of workshops on anything and everything under the sun. After joining the CYH Justice League, for the first time I was on the other side of the classroom facilitating workshops. My first experience was quite daunting, going to a private school to facilitate middle-schoolers on a topic that many of them were unfamiliar with – poverty. The result? Mixed feelings. After coming out of the workshops, I felt quite disappointed. I felt like I hadn’t been able to get my point across to many of them. At the same time, I also felt excited to have done something new that was outside of my comfort zone.
After taking some time to reflect on the experience, here are 6 things I have taken away for my next workshops:
1. Know your role as a facilitator.
Going into the workshop with an understanding of the role of a facilitator was extremely helpful to know my place in the classroom. PeerNetBC’s facilitation training was amazing in terms of getting a grasp on what it is that a facilitator should and shouldn’t do and also knowing what works best for you.
2. Be aware of the time!
I found it was really easy to go over time because you can go in depth with so many different discussions. We only had one hour to hold a workshop that was normally 1.5 hours, so after some trial and error we were able to rearrange activities to better suit our needs. Make sure you have time to do what you feel are the most important activities, which brings me to my next point…
3. Prioritize and know what your goal is.
Sometimes you won’t be able to do all the activities and discussions you had hoped to do, so know which ones will be most beneficial in guiding your group to your workshop goal. More importantly, know what it is that you hope participants will get out of the workshop, especially given your time frame! That way, if you know what you want others to take away from the workshop, you can lead it accordingly.
For example, we had to cut out one of the longer activities that I was looking forward to, but we felt like the others were much more crucial to understanding our message. Every group will be different though, so know your group and know your goal!
4. Know your content inside and out.
Going into my workshop, I felt underprepared and nervous. I didn’t know all the content so when it came to discussions, I felt lost and incapable of asking the right questions or articulating exactly what it was I wanted to say.
Knowing the content of your workshop will not only help you feel more confident going in, but it will also allow you to answer any basic questions that might come up. However, don’t freak out if you don’t know the answer. As a general rule of life, don’t lie and make up an answer, you can speak on what you do know and even turn it around and see what others in the group may know.
5. If someone says something problematic, make sure you address it.
During my very first workshop, we were doing a brainstorm of what “wealth” looked like. I let a comment slide that should have been caught right away then opened to discussion but instead, I let it slide because I was too afraid of and not sure how to address it.
It’s important to bring attention to any problematic statements made or else people can leave the workshop with the wrong impression or feel disengaged after being overlooked. This ties into my previous point of knowing your goal of the workshop. The second time around, when this happened again, I found it was much easier to open discussion on a comment simply by asking them to explain why. Don’t be afraid to Check their Head!
6. Remember why you’re there.
I went in to the workshop expecting to shatter all misconceptions of poverty and make sure everyone came out woke. Needless to say, I came out of the workshop more than a little disheartened that I wasn’t able to convey my message to each participant. However, after some reflection and debriefing I realized that I had kind of forgotten why I was so eager to facilitate in the first place. Not only did it help me feel less helpless in the grand scheme of things, but it also reminded me of my first time my mind was blown in a workshop.
Years ago, I went to a series of workshops given by two wonderful facilitators that, not to be dramatic, changed my life. Those workshops have led me to where I am today, giving workshops to other youth. If I am even able to plant a tiny seed in one young person’s mind like they did in mine, I will have done my job. Even if it wasn’t this time, you can be sure that I will keep trying until I have!
~Kar Hing, a cohort member.