Today was the first day of our course, and I was definitely daunted at the prospect. After all, in starting something new, how could we predict how it would go? Were we prepared enough? Were we approaching it from the right angle? Was I going to bore the pants off people? So many questions were bumping around my head. Regardless, the time came and we tackled it head on and here I am on the other side, still fully intact.
The initial reflection on today was that I was glad to have revised the slide presentation I had put together. Initially, it began as a very word-heavy presentation with pre-filled information. Down the track, I altered it to be far more based upon pictures, though much of the presentation had a conversational focus on critiquing and evaluating the effects of commercial media on individuals in a community. When I did a mock presentation to Kim and Kirsty last week however, I realised that this approach could be problematic for setting a positive mood to start off the group, and it could possibly be slightly abstracted from the lived experiences of people with disability and harder to relate to. In light of that, I did some editing last night and kept the focus on different ideas of community and the value of preserving uniqueness and individuality whilst maintaining a sense of belonging in community, and using radio as a method to preserve and foster that diversity.
As it came time for the group I left the space at WWILD to drive and collect the catering and two participants of the group, J and F. We were a little late arriving back to the space as J and F needed some extra time to be ready. I felt glad knowing that we were not operating the group under a business model, and hoped that others could appreciate the need for flexibility for this group. When we arrived we walked in to a room of 15 people – participants, support workers and facilitators included. It seemed as it everybody had already begun getting to know one another and showing each other their favourite music (I am hoping music will be a really strong tool for connecting as a group over the weeks). As we settled we introduced one another, and I noticed that without any prompting, each member of the group were thanking and readily applauding people for sharing things about themselves and contributing to discussion. I noted my surprise and realised that this was a sharp contrast to my regular experiences within social groups, where such positive reinforcement was not the norm.
I began the slide presentation, and as I spoke about ideas and concepts of community, regularly asked questions to encourage group discussion. For such a new group with goals that are yet to be determined, I was pleased to see that most people were actively ready to contribute and share their ideas, and also patient in allowing others to speak. As would be expected, some members of the group talked more and some talked less. One member seemed particularly shy, but answered some direct questions when given time, and at least held eye contact and was smiling often, which I am hoping is a good sign. Hand raising to speak was quickly established as the agreed upon rule without discussion, and again I was glad of and commended the courtesy everybody extended to one another. When going through the slides I regularly stopped to get opinions and feedback. I found going around the whole circle individually, asking direct questions to participants and opening the topic up for general discussion were all effective methods, though it was important to use a mix of these to ensure people who were quieter were given opportunities to speak. I also wrote ideas that were said on a whiteboard to feed them back to the group to reinforce and allow further discussion.
The slides used pictures, key phrases and some video material to discuss different topics, and I intuitively skipped or expanded on certain sections depending on the level of group conversation and engagement. The videos and many of the pictures were aimed to be quite positive and supportive of ideas about individuality and interconnectedness in community, and also the value of community radio, and some of the videos and phrases expressed in the pictures were given applause too. I feel that regularly giving positive reinforcement and thanking participants for sharing their ideas or asking good questions contributed to keeping energy levels up and keeping people engaged. Indeed, when the lunch catering arrived, everyone agreed to push through and finish the slide presentation before eating. I took this as a positive sign, as I had worried that by lunch time the slides might have become repetitive and people might have already disengaged.
Over lunch most people got out of their chairs to speak to each other, and once again started taking turns showing each other their favourite music. The people who remained seated chatted to their support workers but also to the people walking around the room, and conversations appeared to flow quite naturally.
We did not have time today to discuss the radio code of conduct or address privacy & disclosure as a group. I hope to do this at next week’s meeting and open it up for some discussion. I noted one person this week who wanted to disclose some things about their past to the group but their support worker suggested that this wasn’t the appropriate group. I am interested to see how we can be supportive as a group around sensitive topics, and if we will be able to create a space where people might be able to talk about such matters in a way that is supportive for them and relevant to chosen topics & constructive to the course aims of self-advocacy.
All in all, I am happy with how today went and am looking forward to next week. Hopefully everyone turns up again!