Opening the Circus Training for Trainers – Conclusions

We have just concluded the Training for Trainers, where 18 participants from Spain, Italy and Hungary have learned about what we have been discussing for more than a year from now:

How can we improve the quality of our social intervention by implementing critical pedagogy, Pedagogy of the third Millenium and gender perspective in our social circus work.

It was not easy to put together the content of the training, and to plan it to be the most suitable and useful for our participants. 2 month before the training we have gathered in Alicante for 3 days to work on it, and after that, many Skype calls and many working hours were put together to let us say: we have a combination of our methods and we have the conclusions of what we have seen in Naples, Alicante and Budapest during the project, and we can train youth workers about it, to improve them professionally. It was the first time a training of this kind was done, and according to the feedback, it was successful. But don’t go so far ahead, let’s see what did we do finally.

The morning session of the first day was about meeting each other, presenting the organizations, getting to know the place – Inspiral Circus Center – and to start to reflect about what is social circus, build a common understanding about what do we do in our work and why.

The afternoon of the same day was an introduction of the pedagogical methods, to reflect about how society works, and get clear some key concepts for our methods, like oppression, oppressed, inequality, priviledge, social status etc. We have done the actvitiy „one step forward” which is a kind of role play activity about the different possibilities of people of different social statuses, so instead of just talking about it, we had a community experience.

After this we continued in the way of letting our bodies express what we know about oppression. The activity is called „4 chairs of oppression”. Just 4 chairs, nothing else, without even sitting on them, can express infinity ways of oppression by the way you position them in space. Very simple but powerful, by the end of the day we all knew what we mean by working with „oppressed groups” in all aspects: symbolic, economic, physical, psychical, relational, educational etc.

On the second day we have entered deeper in the pedagogy of the oppressed by analyzing in small groups some quotes of Paolo Freire, the main theorist of this pedagogy. By these quotes, we have reached the basic concept what Freire introduces, how education can stop being a tool for maintaining a system of oppression, and start to be a practice of freedom. How can education be an act of liberation – that was the center of the discussion.

In the afternoon we continued the line of oppression but including the gender perspective. We have also clarified some clear concepts and categories what we undersand of gender and gender violence.

Then came the difficult part for the participants. Until this point it was time to talk about theory, and talk about the oppression of „other people”, but in the next activity participants were asked to share gender based violence that they have experienced. After shearing them in small groups, the groups have chosen one specific situation of violence that we analyzed deeper with the methodology of Theater of the Oppressed. Strong situations have come up, and meaningful discussions appeared, that continued throughout the week.

Third day. We started with something completely new and completely related: the Observation. Observation is a key concept of the Pedagogy of the Third Millenium, that Circo Corzaro is using. But what to observe and how? First of all: yourself as a trainer, your inner functions how you analyze and reflect on a situation as a trainer. If you are reflective on yourself, you can start to observe the group, you are working with, but always keeping the self-check, how your own feelings, experiences, automatisms, assumptions influence your observation and your reactions. We have done different activities about this topic on the morning, and on the afternoon, we have have met with some local youngsters of a social circus group of the Hungarian Juggling Assocation.

The whole afternoon was a social circus workshop, we played different games, learned circus techniques, met each other and had fun. The session had a double aim. For the youngsters the main aim of the workshop was to experience something completely new, to widen their horizon, to make them try themselves in new situations. As they live in a very closed neighborhood, it is a completely new situation for them to meet foreigners that do not speak their language, they come from a different country and culture. The common ground is the passion for circus, that we have shared, and they could feel comfortable with, even if there are no common words that we all understood. We tried the afternoon with the least verbal communication and so the least translation possible. It worked.

The other aim of the session was for the participants of the training to have and experience about how we work, how is our local social circus group in Hungary, that we have included in our project. The session was – according to the feedback of the participants – a highlight of the training.

On the fourth day, we continued on doing circus. The focus of understanding what is happening in the society switched to what is happening in our circus classes. We continued without too much talking, it was time to do circus, see, how we do it, and what happens to us while doing so. We juggled in many different ways, always in pairs, trios, groups, to learn about ourselves, the other and the world in the same time. Also it worked as an experiential introduction for the afternoon’s topic which was mediation and participation, other key concepts of the Pedagogy of the Third Millenium. Mediation is how you stand in relation with your pupil. Participation is how you facilitate your pupil to be engaged with his or her learning process. The learning process is an act of liberty, is freedom of self expression, is creation, and the way they participate in it is essential. We all foster this participation in many ways in our work, but it was important to take some time to analyze and evaluate our practices in this sense, and we leaned a lot from each other.

Ont he last day we still had some important topics to reach. We started the day doing circus, juggle with the diabolo in pairs, in an unusual way, that is a huge pedagogical opportunity. We continued getting back to the topic of gender identity, putting the focus this time more to how it manifests in circus and in our circus workshops.

In the afternoon, before the evaluation and the farewell, one of the most important activity came up. It was a coaching activity to „prefigure” your future” or in other words, how to use the learned methods in your work at home, or how will you do education as an act of liberty. How? When? Why? With who? With what opportunities and despite of what difficulties? Not easy to face these questions, but it is only worth to complete this training if we try our best to give our personal and unique answer.

All in all we have facilitated a training where participants have put in many valuable content. They were all trainers themselves, some with more and some with less experience, some from the field of circus, some from theater or other performing arts, some with huge academical knowledge, some with great circus skills, but each and everybody could put his or her skill, experience, idea, and creativity together to have a week that we not just spend making many friendships and laughter, but where we also all become better trainers. Me, personally, I did so, I have learned a lot.

Márton Szabó, trainer of the triaining of trainers