This year I was invited to teach part of the course for people wanting to teach how to mow. These have been running since 2010 and I’ve been involved throughout, consulting on the content and working behind the scenes, especially with Christiane.
This year six students arrived to learn about how to teach and organise either a paying group of students or volunteers taking part in a group activity with scythes. Simon Fairlie, Christiane Lechner, Phil Batten and I ran the course, each of us offering our own insights and methods of running courses.
I was most keen to develop the actual teaching elements of the course. Being able to mow well is important for a teacher but how you put across your information is equally vital for students to benefit. I wanted to show the new teachers the methods I’ve developed through my own teaching for things like setting up the scythe and attaching the blade, sharpening and organising the group in the field. I encouraged them to practise some of these moves so their own demonstrations would become smoother and clearer and we discussed the value of repetition during courses as well as pre-prepared teaching aids.
Also new this year was a section on how to assess beginners and advise them to improve their technique. Christiane and I spent a lot of time beforehand thinking how we could do this and came up with a couple of exercises. For the first, I had some fun preparing a ‘demonstration swath’; thrashing around in the grass to replicate the most common problems of a new student. We then showed how the pattern left in the grass can indicate what is going on and be used as a diagnostic tool. On my own courses this allows me to often understand a students problem even before I see them mowing and makes it easier to give them the best advice to improve. It’s sometimes hard for new teachers to see what is to adjust on someone else’s scythe so to help we gave them a basic set of possibilities that they could work through and then they practised by observing each other.
Simon covered the history of the scythe, blade angles and models and gave an impromptu dancing demonstration with Christiane while the peening was once again covered by Phil. All through the two days of course each of us was able to add things and comment on all the sections and people commented that, beyond being a course for teachers, it was a fantastic opportunity to learn from the four of us.
For me personally the biggest praise was from Clive Leeke who returned to do the course, having attended last year as well and commented that it was “much improved, the sections on mowing are worth the fee on their own”. Hopefully, next year’s will be even better still.