It has been a hardworking and very successful year for the Men’s Group at the Life Skills Centre. A year, in which they have amongst other things, produced an exercise video while learning about the importance of keeping fit, taken part in Safer Internet Day resulting in a display on internet safety for the centre and raised an amazing £145 for the National Autistic Society by hosting a lunch and running a raffle during Autism Awareness week. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to facilitate this group with support from some fantastic colleagues.
So the big question was how do we bring this amazing year to an end? After talking to everyone involved in the group, it was decided that what was needed was a new challenge that everyone could enjoy. In liaison with staff at the Caldecotte Experience, a day was planned where the group would have access to two boats; the first a Wheely boat for people with a need for speed, and for people who preferred their enjoyment at a slower pace a 20ft Lugger. All students would have the opportunity to learn to drive the Wheely boat and steer the Lugger using a tiller, as well as learning other boating skills.
I think the pictures and quotes speak for themselves. Knowing the group, I wasn’t surprised that every student took up the challenge and excelled at it.
“I was steering the boat, it was fun. I would like to go again”
- Niall, student
“I just loved seeing the joy and excitement on everybody’s faces”
- June, Community Learning Facilitator
“I drove the boat, I drove fast. It was my first time to drive a boat”
- Adam, student
“Great interactions between students, staff and instructors, with students intuitively supporting each other”
- Lynda, Community Learning Facilitator
“It was great to see the student’s take control of the boat and have fun with it”
- Danielle, Community Learning Facilitator
“I got to steer the boat, I enjoyed the speed, I sailed the boat at a reasonable high speed. I had a great time, I would like to go back and do it again”
- Luke, student
“It was good to see the students’ trying something new, and overcoming any fears they had”
- Michelle, Community Learning Facilitator
“The boat was really fun and very fast. I piloted the boat and wore a life jacket. I really would like to go again”
- Sam, student
“Hearing student’s actually say they were having fun”
- Vicky, Community Learning Facilitator
And my reflections
When I had a chance to reflect on what had been an amazingly successful day for everybody involved, I realised how the 10 facilitation skills had played such a big part in something special.
From the first session I facilitated back in October, when being creative in my session planning and making of accompanying resources was so important in ensuring not only that everyone was able to participate, but were also able to achieve the intended outcomes and feel a sense of success. Communication also played a big part in making it all work by ensuring staff were aware of the session plans and objectives prior to the group. This meant staff were all able to tailor their support to a specific student, and explain what was happening using the student’s preferred method of communication. Over the weeks a real bond developed between the students and staff participating in the group, and I was privileged to witness Great Interactions between students and staff, week after week.
All of this made planning the end of year experience so much easier for me. I felt I knew the group and what they would enjoy and this proved correct when I made the suggestion to them about the possibility of going sailing: it met with unanimous approval.
The groundwork I did prior to the trip paid off, including conversations and meeting with the staff at Caldecotte to share what the students had said they would enjoy, resulting in so many Great Interactions.
What I observed
The student who saw that one of the group appeared nervous about stepping into the boat and instinctively bent down and held the boat steady. There were many instances of non-verbal communication between staff and students, offering encouragement when maybe they were slightly nervous about trying something new. The reassuring touch of an arm, the smile and the look that said, “You can do this”. And in return the joy in the voices of the students when saying” I did it!”.
The lesson I have learnt from this is, when we get it right “Great Interactions” really do happen.
Community Learning Facilitator, No Limits Buckinghamshire