Teaching Tips 3: Take Fun Seriously

Ever since I started teaching I’ve strived to continually develop myself as a better teacher – either by learning (or refining) circus technique, learning related subjects (eg., gymnastics, first aid, leadership), or developing new ways of being and working with young people to get the most out of them.

Through these posts I hope to be able to offer you some new ideas, tips, and thoughts that will encourage and support you in being a better teacher.

Take Fun Seriously

Some of the worst teaching I’ve ever seen has been watching people work with children or young people and be very serious. I’ve watched coaches and trainers reprimand children in front of a group for doing nothing more than Continue reading

Teaching Tip 2: Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

Lesson planning has been the bane of my life. Or at least it was until I started to get good at it. I think a lot of teachers – regardless of whether they are school, circus, or any other kind of teacher – hate doing lesson planning. Lesson planning takes time, and in this day and age time is something of a precious commodity. But I don’t think that’s what really bugged me. It wasn’t the time; I can always make time for stuff that’s important. It seemed like a lot of effort for something that wasn’t very important and didn’t really make any difference.

But as teachers all know lesson plans are really important and do make a big difference.

But if we know they’re important, and we know they make such a difference, then why don’t they seem important when it comes time to sit down and write them? And why are they always so much effort?

Continue reading

Remembering Why We Do What We Do

On Sunday I went to see a movie. That in itself is nothing unusual for me but on Sunday I went to see a documentary called Without A Net which was showing as part of the Raindance Film Festival.

I heard about the film via Leila Jones, Circus Producer at the Roundhouse, who had tweeted about it, so I had expected to see some circus folk at the screening. But when I got there, as far as I could tell, I was the only one.

Without A Net is a documentary about a social circus project in Rio de Janeiro. It is the feature debut of Kelly J. Richardson of Live Wired Productions and follows the training and lives of three young performers as they train for their first big show.

This isn’t a review of Without A Net (which is excellent); it’s more of a reflection.

I’ve worked on various social circus projects for years. I’ve been a Cirque du Monde trainer, worked with youth at risk or kids excluded from school. Obviously it’s very different here that it is in Rio but the idea and the intention is the same.

“Social circus aims to help these young people get their self-confidence back, make them realize their strengths and discover their hidden talents.” ~Cirque du Soleil

Sometimes we forget why we do what we do. We get bogged down in day to day tasks and forget that children or young people sometimes just need to be given the space to realise that they actually want to learn. It’s takes some effort and intention to keep present to the bigger picture, to the future that you are creating for them.

Walking out of the Apollo Theatre I was reminded why I teach; not just social circus but everyone – why I started Airborne Circus, why I teach adults, kids and team building workshops. Circus has a special ability to allow you to not just learn a skill but to reinvent yourself along the way; to go from shy to outgoing, self-concious to confident, to become creative, clear, focused and proud.

Without A Net captured that journey. Watching Djeferson, a huge guy who you would not expect to be able to lift himself, turn himself into a trapeze artist while taking care of his family, and hearing Bárbara talk about her journey to becoming his friend was moving. Regardless of whether they continue their journey with circus, their lives will be forever changed. They trained, they grew and they performed. They cannot go back to who they were and they cannot forget who they can be.

Circus can give you direction, purpose. Circus can make you overcome your fears. Circus can make you patient, committed and hard-working.

Circus can set you free.

If you’d like to try a circus class or workshop please visit Airborne Circus.

If you’d like to support a social circus I recommend Sapana and Circus Kathmandu.