Being in a group class has been rewarding and enlightening; observing what works and what doesn't work, and how those same lessons apply to art workshops, no matter if you're hosting, attending or teaching. It's made me think more about and reaffirm what fosters good workshop energy, and also think about the other kind of group energy that's less desirable. Obviously, my quiet mind isn't quite quiet yet. That's why it's called a practice!
I may be pure minded but I believe that most people want to be inspired, happy and feel good. It might be interesting to consider some common contributions to group energy and how you are contributing passively and/or actively to any group situation and the energy created.
Have you attended classes or retreats where other attendees talked over the instructor or were so busy chatting with each other, the instructor had to raise their best school-teacher voice to be heard? Raising my hand - me, too!
In the spirit of mindful and positive group energy, I offer the following:
Keep your ears tuned for the instructor's voice and cease talking so he or she can be heard. Your chatter can also be distracting for others around you who are trying to concentrate on what they're learning or they may have difficulty hearing. Your recent surgery can be regaled during the lunch break and not take away from another person's experience.
Be open to learning and experiencing new ways (even if you already know how to do it) and be mindful to not distract from the learning experience of someone who doesn't have your same breadth of experience. They paid to attend and learn from the teaching artist, not you!
Don't interrupt the instructor and save your "tried and true tips" for the person sitting next to you, and not when the instructor is in active teaching mode.
Please, offer critique only if someone asks for that input from you, do not offer it unsolicited.
Don't bring the kitchen sink unless it's on the supply list. Space is not an infinite resource and other people shouldn't have to climb over your supply stash to get to the bathroom. In the same vein, read your supply list and pack accordingly. While most people are helpful and okay with sharing, self sufficiency doesn't disrupt the class.
Tidy up after yourself. If you make a mess in the bathroom, wipe it up. Leave it better than you would like to receive it.
Nearly every single teaching artist has shared that late arriving students disrupt the flow and energy of the class, and their tardiness is an unwelcome distraction in their teaching. Most teachers plan the first few minutes of their "Day One" class to be filled by introductions, housekeeping, etc., and it also generally accommodates the traffic challenged attendee. Anything beyond that, begins to present several challenges to the instructor, the host and the energy of the group.
When people pay to attend workshops, they are paying for the expertise of the artist's instruction and for an inspiring learning environment. It's up to the person attending the workshop to organize their supplies, their travel arrangements, and life, in order to support their attendance. It's unfair to the instructor, the host, and the other students, when someone doesn't manage their personal affairs to support them being present and ready at the class start time. Multi-day workshops require multiple on-time arrivals. Don't be late!
When one person's needs become more important than the group's, the group energy will suffer. Be mindful, be considerate, be self sufficient, and be responsible.
My job as an organizer and host is to attract the best talent, the best classes and make sure the needs of the artist teaching and the group are met. There are many things that contribute to nurturing and maintaining good group energy, including rules and policies applied evenly to foster an inspiring experience for all members of the group. It may be unpopular for the offender but necessary for the greater good.
How you show up and what you bring with you to every class and workshop is either adding to or taking away from good group energy. Keeping the group energy positive starts by simply being more mindful and self aware. Positive, inspiring group energy is up to me, to you and to us!