Cherie talks about Farnham Youth Company

Access Officer, Creative Learning Associate and Teacher, Cherie, recalls her journey with Farnham Youth Company...

I have worked with Farnham Youth Company since my placement year with Stopgap; which was in 2013! I have been a volunteer for the group, one-on-one support, a teaching assistant and now a teacher.  It has been a long journey but an incredible one. I have learnt so much from being a part of the sessions; watching different Stopgap teachers work, getting to know the youth company members and their parents, understanding what each individual student needs, teaching exercises and playing games that are a hit (and those that won’t be played again...’Grandmothers footsteps’ is a no!).

 So, I began attending teacher training sessions and slowly started to build my confidence in leading parts of sessions. I would tag-team teach with the amazing Nicky Norton and Nadenh Poan, I began taking care of the paper work; registration forms, STATS, risk assessments and so on. I created the Farnham Youth Company Scrap Book, where we reflect on the sessions and write down a ‘word of the week’ as well as select our dancer of the week.  These ‘words of the week’ are usually to do with how we felt the session went, what we enjoyed, what we didn’t and so on. Sometimes however, we might have completely unrelated words - One young lady for a while would say ‘Pizza’ and that’s okay! But, after some time, she began to say dance related words and this is an example of why I love working with this group, and just one way of how I see them progressing.  Our dancer of the week gets chosen for different reasons, for example if they have focused and tried hard or had been helpful and kind to others. This book has been a real hit with the group! 

Since working with Farnham they have completed their Explore Arts Award; during which they worked with different professionals to help create their own Arts Award portfolio. They studied yoga with Amy Butler and photography with Stuey B. Farnham Youth Company also perform at platforms such as our annual Christmas show and Farnham in Bloom, and they are always willing to join in with other workshops that go on throughout the year. They’ve also been one of the pilot groups for our IRIS syllabus, which I think is where I have really seen them progress.

 I’ve taken part in IRIS Teacher training and have learnt exercises from the section of IRIS called Dance Skills. Supporting the group through these exercises, I started to see how their technique, memory and overall engagement within the sessions was improving. As expected, there were some things that they weren’t very happy participating in but overall, they all did well and all completed the Dance Skills segment successfully!

 I had to leave the group for a whilst I was touring with Stopgap for The Enormous Room as an Assistant Stage Manager. When I returned to Farnham, Siobhan approached me to take on leading the sessions and I had two weeks before term to refresh my memory with the newest IRIS Segment called Contact Dance, and get to grips with planning and sorting out music. It was great to be back but slightly daunting to be the lead teacher, however I soon started to settle in. I have always had a good connection with Farnham as I have known them for years, and because of this, I started to see how much they were all improving in so many ways. For example, in previous years, if we had to do any floor work, the moans and complaints that the group would give you were ridiculous! But now, they take to the floor without any fuss. We stress certain key principles such as our working position, contact position, stable table, inhale, exhale and roll down to name a few, which they can all confidently show me and even come to the front and demonstrate. I’ll be out of a job soon - some members even have the confidence now to lead warm ups and cool downs!

As we went through the term I realised which things worked and what didn’t work with my teaching. Which exercises I had to break down and repeat as we worked our way through the Contact Dance section of the IRIS syllabus. It has been hard but they have taken the challenge in their stride. There were days the sessions went well and then days where things didn’t go to plan.  I needed to remind myself sometimes things will go wrong but you reflect and learn.  This group make me so proud every session when I spot each one of them do something different or improving in a certain way. I have been told teaching comes naturally to me and I’m very personable, the truth is I just love what I do and I still have so much to learn.

 I can’t stress enough how much I would not be where I am today if I didn’t have the support of some brilliant teachers, volunteers and participants beside me to help me on that journey.  Farnham Youth Company is a group full of hardworking, talented and supportive young people and is a successful group due to everyone involved in supporting them to grow. Everyone plays a key role within the group and I cannot wait to see what we achieve in the next term!

Thanks for reading,

Cherie

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