Tuesday night was the final workshop of the three-part Caught in the Act series that I’ve been leading at 826DC. I played trombone in high school band, and I remember the teacher telling us that the most challenging pieces weren’t the flashy allegro fortissimo showpieces (however much we enjoyed them) but rather the lento piano passages–unassuming, soft and slow, but deceptively difficult because they exposed your playing to a high level of scrutiny and vulnerability.
I think something similar applies to large vs. small workshops. When students far outnumber TAs, your work is cut out for you: keep circulating, keep the students on task, give as much attention to each as you can, and try to get through the whole class plan in the allotted time.
Teaching a very small workshop presented its own set of challenges: with everyone getting one-on-one attention, I worried the students would feel on display, over-attended-to, and uncomfortable, like patrons in an empty restaurant.
What I tried to do was have us all be in it together: we all sat at the same table, all did each of the exercises, and all read everyone else’s work. Did it work? I think so; the students kept coming back, anyway. And I was really impressed with the stories everyone ended up with. Truth is, I was lucky to have such a great group–students and TAs–to work with; they deserve pretty much all the credit!