Registration – simply the business end – making sure that everyone is here, paid up, and that phone numbers etc are accurate. Boring and absolutely essential. If you still have questions over anyone’s suitability, check them out now.
Opening Circle (OC) – we would do a standard Co-Co Opening Circle, such as “What are you bringing today?”. The responses are crucial to you as a teacher, since it gives you real information on the state of each participant, especially those feeling vulnerable and possibly wanting to “work”.
Brainstorm & Booking - At the end of the OC, we would stop and ask the group what was the purpose of an OC. We would then brainstorm different purposes, different possible OC’s, and everyone would sign up to do either an OC or a Closing Circle (CC). We limited the group to 10, so one member would do an extra CC on Thursday.
Agenda Poster – we asked each member to flag up what they were hoping to achieve from the course. This allows both us and them to confirm what they have achieved at the end, during the Accreditation process.
Rules – this was a residential course, so there were some rules about timings and loos, and smoking. Whatever you need to be comfortable as a group. It also gives the facilitators a sense of whether the group is “needy”, “challenging”, or prepared to work together.
Operation – we covered the outline timetable for the 5 days, bearing in mind that some of the headings would need to remain cryptic until their meaning became apparent as the course progressed. Additionally, although we were all Co-Counsellors, we needed to make it clear that the body of the course would be conducted in the group with normal group work rules, i.e. mainly a straight teaching or Gestalt basis, as we needed to be able to facilitate the work to maximise the benefits to all participants. Everyone was encouraged to work in the group, although everyone was free to do their own work outside the group in normal Co-Co pairs.
Worst Fears (WF), which we titled Short Straw – this was a crucial aspect of our course, both most feared and most valued! We initially asked everyone to flipchart their worst fear around running a Fundamentals course. Common fears ranged from “facing a hostile group” to “being unable to bring someone back”. Without any discussion we then pointed out that confronting your worst fear would be an essential part of a good training experience, and that we would work our way through the list of their 10 worst fears. We asked them to decide on the running order.
That would bring us to lunch on day 1 – and outlines how much time is needed to set up the parameters so that the “work”, whatever it is, can go well. At this stage, everyone knows “how” we’re going to work, what methodologies we’ll use, and that they will be fully engaged throughout!
Short Straw 1 – Immediately after lunch we would go into the first “Worst Fear”. The process involved the Facilitator (A) reminding the group what was their Worst Fear. They would then set the scene regarding the other 9 group members, i.e. they were a “naïve” group of Co-Co-ers, or they were half way through a fundamentals and beginning to challenge hard, or they were fully functioning and well able to challenge. (A) would then choose a support (B) from the 9, in order to make the exercise more effective. The remaining 8 would then role play the WF, often with a lot of energy! For the “group”, this was playtime! Throughout this process, Gretchen and I would observe on the sidelines, so that if (A) felt overwhelmed or restimulated into their own material, they would call “STOP” and we would immediately halt the action so that (A) could either work on their own stuff, or get support from (B), or have a discussion with the group as to the options they had, or get some suggestion from us, or just re-gather their energy and move forward again. Often it was a mixture of all of those. When (A) was ready, the role-play would re-commence to a resolution. At the end of this long piece of work, sometimes up to 2 hours, we would debrief.
Debrief – We almost always used a Resent/Appreciate model. Firstly (A) would debrief themselves, followed by (B), then all the other members, usually in a normal rotation around the group. Lastly, Gretchen and I would make our comments. The response of members was universally that the exercise was terrifying but incredibly valuable, and many people later told us that doing the exercise was harder than anything that actually happened to them while running a group!
Meta-Level Poster – we put up a poster depicting the structure of the meta-level facilitation that we were operating in the Short Straw exercises, to clarify that although there was a facilitator in the group, i.e. (A), there was always a second level of facilitation that guaranteed ultimate safety. This process allowed very powerful work to take place, often in the “group” as well as for (A). Naturally this led to lots of jokes about super-facilitators!
Facilitator Skills – in order to give the group a break from the intensity of the Short Straw exercises, we brainstormed and flip-charted a poster to encapsulate what this group felt were the essential facilitator skills. This allowed members to reflect on which skills were their strengths, and which needed developing. It also was groundwork for later stages of the course when we would ask them to consider who they would both want and need to teach with, to ensure a full complement of complementary skills.
Short Straw 2 – a session working with the second worst fear. Each time we did this exercise, participants knew more what to expect, and therefore there was more pressure, along with more familiarity. It was noticeable that the skills and fluency shown increased as the group integrated more of the facilitator skills that they had identified earlier.
Elements of Theory – we gave the group homework for day 2 – they would be talking to a “naïve” group about some aspect of the theory of Co-Co and be questioned by the group, so they needed to prepare.
Closing Circle – we did a CC which was led by whoever had booked that slot. We then debriefed using the same Appreciate/Resent methodology, i.e. first the leader, then around the group, then G & MB.
Brainstorm – essentially a repeat of the OC brainstorm in the morning but on CC. We looked at options and functions of CC.
Resent/Appreciate on the day – led by whoever wanted to begin, around the group, then finished by G & MB. This was/is our standard method of debriefing ANY piece of work we did together, and is a technique I still ALWAYS use with anyone with whom I share a piece of work.
Closure – quite low-key, such as “That’s all for today folks, see you at 9 tomorrow…”