Maintaining your feeling of relevance

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“I’ve been a Laurel for over a decade now and I have started feeling irrelevant. What can I do to feel wanted?”

A reply from the Minister:

This is a really honest question, right? I think so. It is also a really hard question to ask oneself.

I don’t think this is a problem that only Laurels face. And I don’t think it is a problem that only peers face. Or, for that matter, I don’t think this is a problem only people in the SCA face.

As we grow older, we likely all eventually struggle with relevancy.

I think in order to understand why we feel irrelevant or unwanted we have to start by asking ourselves what it is we’re doing in the SCA right now.

Not a decade ago. But right now.

What are we doing?

Are we going to our local business meetings? Are we working gate? Are we helping with set up? Are we washing dishes after feast? Are we teaching? Are we learning? Are we spending time with our friends?

Are we doing the things now, today, that made us feel a part of the game a decade ago?

Are we “resting on our Laurels”? Or, are we still doing?

Are we changing with the Society? Are we adapting to how the game changes? Are we making new friends? Are we investing time and efforts into their successes?

Are we adapting to how our bodies and abilities and bank accounts and time commitments are changing?

It takes some honest self-assessment to look closely at what our participation is in the Society. Then, knowing that, it can help tell us how it is we’re fitting in with everyone else.

Now, to answer this question, I’d like to hear what is working for others.

What’s your success story? What worked for you? What did you find helps you still feel like you fit in? How have you adapted? How have you changed?

Tell us the things that are positive and constructive! Help us learn from you!

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

Supporting others who are recognized

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White: 

“Someone I know received an award. I don’t think that they are deserving. What should I do?”

A reply from the Minister:

Spoiler alert. This was really my question. I’m allowed to ask questions, too, right? If you follow my feed you saw me ask basically the same question on my friends’ list.

I felt it was a good chance to check in with people and see what their thoughts were and to get some different perspectives. There were a lot of great ideas and I think that they are worth sharing more broadly.

Also. I get that this is a broad question that deals with all parts of the SCA. It is not solely A&S related. However, these kinds of things do come up a lot with A&S recognitions and I am comfortable addressing it for those reasons and hopefully it can be helpful everywhere.

So, back to that reply.

Start by thinking about why are you even asking this? What is your basis of opinion? Where are you starting from? Do you already hold the award yourself? Are you a member of the Order or have that same rank? Are you presuming superiority?

Be honest with yourself. Is this a moment of jealousy? Is this part of a personal issue that really has nothing to do with the award?

Start with that self-assessment. Be mindful of what’s making you feel the way you feel and that will help you know what next steps you should take.

Okay. Now. Maybe you’re right. Maybe the award is not a great fit. And maybe you’re wrong. Maybe there are some things you don’t know about.

Unless you are the Crown it is not your decision to make or decide if it is right or not. Keep that in mind.

Here’s how I would approach it.

Have fun. Learn. Teach.

That is a motto I try to live by in the SCA. So, I have decided that however I go about addressing this issue needs to fit in that framework.

So, nope, I am not going to walk up to someone and say, “now you’ve got to earn it.” That’s not going to make either of us feel good. That’s not how you make a good mentor. That’s not how someone learns.

Nope, I am not going to walk up to someone and say, “You don’t deserve this.” Same trouble. No one feels good. No one learns. No one teaches.

Here are some things I am going to do:

* Have I checked in with others? Maybe I am off base in my assessment. Maybe my standards are too high. Maybe I don’t have all the details. I need to be open to being wrong.

* Can I have another conversation with the person? Not about getting the award. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad. But, maybe we were just having a misunderstanding. Maybe they’ve done work I don’t know about.

* Can I speak with the person’s peer or mentor? Maybe they have some way that we can mutually help the person.

* Is this recognition for a Peerage? Then I can speak with the candidate before elevation at their vigil. Again, I do not want to ruin their day. I’ll go in a congratulatory manner and I will take the opportunity to emphasize the positive aspects of their work and behavior. I want to focus on the good parts and build those up.

* I can encourage the person to continue exemplifying those aspects that helped them earn the recognition.

* I can give the person a chance. Again, maybe I was wrong. Maybe the person is ready. I should give them a chance in their new role without judging them based off older events.

* Can I find common ground by empathize with challenges of the new role and accept that we may have differences of opinion? We’re all human. We can disagree and that’s okay. We can make mistakes and that’s okay. I am not going to expect total alignment or perfection of any one. That would not be fair to the person or to others.

* After the award is granted, I can caution the person on questionable behavior as it happens. Make the context of the conversation about how the person’s actions could be in opposition to the person’s own goals and good experiences.

* Sometimes bad behavior does happen. Sometimes mistakes happen. That’s okay if we allow that we are all human and that we own up to our own actions. It is important to keep these kinds of events transparent. That’s how we learn from our experiences and continue to grow.

* I can work as a positive example myself. Be the person you want candidates to be. That’s the best way you can show the populace what a good example is of an award recipient or an Order member.

* Advocate for exemplary behavior and achievement. Focus on the best qualities of these people. Keep striving for excellence and promoting our best achievements.

And, really, these strategies work to encourage all kinds of people. I think I’ll be using them with anyone to help create good experiences for everyone.

Note!

These are things that I think will work for me. You’ll have different ways that work for you. People are welcome to share their approaches too. We learn best by listening to each other.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

A&S Orders and making recommendations to the Crown

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“My friend makes really awesome work! Everyone loves what they do! Their art is beautiful and gets lots of praise and recognition. Everyone wants to own one of their pieces. Shouldn’t they be a Silver Broach? Or a Maunche? Or a Laurel?”

A reply from the Minister:

Maybe?

Ultimately, award recognition is up to the Royalty. To make their decisions, they do rely on recommendations by their populace and by members of their orders. So, how’s that work?

Recommendations and the endorsement of candidates rely on a number of factors.

These factors are not all equal. Some Royals value some factors over other factors. Likewise, existing Order members and populace members will also value some factors over other factors.

Let me state that again.

Everyone sees these things differently. The different Crowns and the members of the Orders and the populace all have different feelings and expectations. There is no easy answer.

I sympathize with those who find this frustrating. I find it frustrating too.

I want to try and help with that here.

How individuals achieve these factors varies from person to person and from art to art. Sometimes a candidate is strong in one aspect and weaker in another aspect.

But, somehow, they come together to make a compelling case to members of the populace who make the recommendations, members of the Orders who endorse them, and the Royals who decide upon them.

I know there are people who wish there was an easier way to go about this. That we had a checklist or a rubric that would help people understand expectations and in order to help set goals.

At least in my opinion, recommendations are really much more of an art than a science.
So, to help with that, there are many questions you can ask yourself when writing an award recommendation, including but not limited to:

* Are they showing expertise?
* Do they have a good understanding of materials and practices?
* Are they attempting difficult works?
* Are they able to reproduce the same quality of work repeatedly?
* Are their works well researched?
* Have they added or extended to the research available?
* Do they understand the cultural/political/social context of their works?
* Do they teach?
* Do they share information in order ways?
* Are they examples of positive behavior?
* Are they encouraging other artisans?
* Are they a good judge of other artisans and their works?
* Are they serving through the arts?

All of this information can help the Orders in endorsing candidates and can help the Royals make their final decision. If you’re writing a recommendation, answering these questions and including examples supporting your responses will help.

Reasonably, a Silver Broach candidate will achieve a few of these, and, perhaps to a lesser extent. A Maunche candidate would likely fit well for more of these and to a higher degree. And a Laurel candidate would be a great example of a number of these factors. Only a rare individual would have all of these and maybe more.

I do not write these as requirements. They are not an exhaustive list.

If you meet existing members of any of these Orders they will share with you how they all have very individual expectations. They will tell you want they want to see in order to add their support to a candidate.

I fully expect people to add where they agree and where they disagree with this post. I expect them to say what was missed or what should be added or what should be removed. That’s okay!

Everyone is different. The candidates are different. The members of the Orders are different. The Royalty is different.

And that is okay. Differences can make us stronger. That’s what can advance our knowledge base and improve our proficiency.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

The new SCA harassment policy and A&S activities

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“Clarification, please, about implementing the new SCA Harassment and Bullying Policy. Do we need to post the policy at locally sponsored activities? Like our monthly craft night?”

A reply from the Minister:

The short answer is “yes”.

And that “yes” is not just for A&S activities. This goes for any SCA sponsored activity. This includes weekly meetings, craft nights, demonstrations, fighter practices, and the rest that your local branch is hosting.

Bullying and harassment can happen anywhere. We all know this. It doesn’t just happen at weekend events.

I ask people to do three things: have fun, teach, and learn.

People cannot do any of these things if they are experiencing an environment of harassment and bullying.

It is important that we let people know that they have resources. It is important that we reassure people that the SCA is a safe, supportive, and welcoming group. It is important that we commit to this policy.

Please do not think of this as “work”. Please do not think of this as something that is “hard to do” or “taking away from the fun”.

This is really easy to do.

You can just print out the bullet points onto a piece of paper once and then remember to bring it with you. Tape it up when you are running your branch-hosted activity. That’s all it takes.

Now…

For anyone who needs to understand the details, here are the particulars for a longer answer:

The SCA Harassment and Bullying Policy:

http://socsen.sca.org/the-sca-harrassment-and-bullying-policy/

Specifically:

The following statement must be posted at gate/troll at every SCA event in a size large enough for people to see it as they enter our events. This language must likewise be quoted in ALL site handouts at every event a site where a handout is made available.

* THE SCA PROHIBITS HARASSMENT AND BULLYING OF ALL INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS.
* Participants engaging in this behavior are subject to appropriate sanctions.
* If you are subjected to harassment, bullying or retaliation, or if you become aware of anyone being harassed or bullied, contact a seneschal, President of the SCA, or your Kingdom’s Board Ombudsman.

The Organizational Handbook, Including Corpora, the By-Laws, Corporate Policies, and the Articles of Incorporation:

http://sca.org/docs/pdf/govdocs.pdf

Specifically:

II. Events
A. Society Events Defined
The term “Society event” refers to tournaments, feasts, and other activities whereby participants can display the results of their researches into the culture and technology of the period in an environment which evokes the atmosphere of the pre-17th century European Middle Ages and Renaissance. It also refers to educational activities involving either one-time classes or ongoing Society university organizations, and meetings where participants share skills or discuss the business of the group. All Society events must be sponsored by official branches of the Society, registered with the Seneschal of the sponsoring branch, publicized at least to the members of that branch, and conducted according to Society rules.

Please keep in mind:

These policies are subject to change. The organization changes and our policies change with it.

You may support these policies. You may want more out of them. You may not be happy with them. You are always welcome to send your feedback to the Society directly. Take that opportunity.

Please set aside your personal feelings and understand that it is important to follow the rules of our organization.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

Overcoming language barriers in A&S

Une question adressée au Ministre A&S du Royaume, Maître Philip White:
“Comment devrais-je encourager les francophones a créer plus de documentation s’ils ne peuvent lire ou écrire l’anglais?”
Une réponse du Ministre:
Laissez-moi adresser quelques points méritant attention dans cette question.
Premièrement, personne n’est obligé de créer une documentation ou même de faire de la recherche. Il est possible d’apprécier beaucoup d’aspects de la SCA sans jamais mettre l’accent sur les études historiques.
Créer une documentation et faire de la recherche peuvent être amusants. Nous sommes membres d’une organisation historique. En apprendre plus au sujet de l’histoire que nous étudions peut être intéressant. J’encouragerais tous et chacun à découvrir les aspects plaisants d’effectuer de plus amples recherches, et d’ensuite documenter leurs trouvailles pour les autres.
La recherche peut consister en la lecture de documents académiques. Ou ce pourrait être lire un livre. Ou ce pourrait être de regarder des photos sur l’Internet. Effectuer de la recherche n’a pas à impliquer de la lecture – il est possible de rechercher en bricolant et en expérimentant ! Il existe beaucoup de flexibilité dans la profondeur que vous souhaitez donner à votre recherche. Au final, vous apprendrez plus à propos de notre histoire. Et la façon dont vous apprenez devrait être divertissante pour vous.
La documentation peut consister en l’écriture d’un travail académique. Ou la publication d’un blog. Ou ce pourrait être de publier des photos sur Facebook. Peut-être de faire un vidéo, ou un enregistrement de baladodiffusion (podcast). Encore ici, il est aisé de décider de la profondeur que vous souhaitez donner à votre documentation. Au final, vous partagez et enseignez plus à propos de l’histoire. Et la manière dont vous partagez et enseignez votre savoir devrait être plaisante pour vous.
Toutes les choses mentionnées précédemment peuvent être réalisées dans n’importe quelle langue. Je peux vous assurer qu’il existe de nombreux historiens parlant français. Ils recherchent, écrivent et enseignent tous en français.
Donc, en tant que personne francophone, je vous encouragerais a trouver ce que vous aimez des périodes qui constituent notre champ d’études, recherchez (apprenez) plus de choses à leur sujet, et ensuite, documentez (enseignez) ce que vous avez appris.
Ensuite, permettez-moi de répondre à la partie concernant l’anglais. Si j’ai bien compris, il existe une inquiétude selon laquelle une audience anglophone ne donnerait aucune valeur à un travail de documentation effectué en français. Il existe une perception selon laquelle le travail effectué par des francophones serait automatiquement mal coté si jugé par des anglophones.
C’est vrai. Il y a naturellement une barrière de langue entre les gens quand au moins l’un d’entre eux n’est pas bilingue.
Il est aussi vrai que la majorité des individus dans la SCA sont principalement des anglophones et aucunement bilingues.
Laissez-moi être clair.
Je ne veux pas que les barrières de langue deviennent un point de découragement pour les individus ne parlant pas l’anglais.
Demandez de l’aide. Laissez-nous savoir comment nous pouvons vous accommoder.
Parlez-vous seulement français ? Et vous souhaitez entrer dans un Championnat d’Arts et Sciences ? Dites-le nous. Nous travaillerons avec une traduction de votre documentation écrite, ainsi que des interprètes afin de juger votre travail.
Peut-être est-ce une autre langue. Communiquez-vous au travers de l’ASL ? Nous lirons alors votre documentation écrite et pourrons faire usage d’un interprète ou de textes pour juger de votre travail.
Êtes-vous moins familiers avec les termes académiques ou techniques ? Alors nous pourrons travailler avec vous afin de traduire ces termes en vocabulaire laïc.
Encore une fois, laissez-moi être très clair.
Notre but est d’éliminer les barrières qui pourraient empêcher certaines personnes d’apprécier les arts et sciences.
Dites-nous comment nous pouvons vous aider. Nous pouvons aider.
Vous pouvez m’envoyer un courriel a moas@eastkingdom.org, ou m’envoyer un message privé ici sur Facebook.
Souvenez-vous… Ayez du plaisir ! Apprenez ! Enseignez !
Votre humble serviteur,
~p.w.
English Translation:
A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:
“How should I encourage French-speaking people to do more documentation when they can’t read or write English.”
A reply from the Minister:
Let me answer a few things that are popping up in this question.
First off, no one is required to do documentation or even research. You can enjoy lots of the SCA without ever focusing on historical studies.
Documentation and research can be fun. We’re members of a historically based organization. Learning more about the history we are studying can be fun. I would encourage everyone to find the fun parts of first researching more and then documenting it for others.
Research could be reading academic papers. Or if could be reading a book. Or it could be browsing pictures on the Internet. Research doesn’t even have to involve reading – you can research by tinkering and experimenting! There is a lot of flexibility in how involved you can make your research. In the end, you learn more about history. And the way you learn should be fun for you.
Documentation could be writing a paper. Or publishing a blog. Or it could be posting pictures on facebook. Maybe you make a video or do a podcast. Again, there is a lot of flexibility in how involved you can make your documentation. In the end, you are sharing with and teaching more about history. And the way you share and teach should be fun for you.
Everything above here can be done in any language. I can assure you that there are French-speaking historians. They research, write, and teach all in French.
So, as a French-speaking individual, I would encourage you to find what you like about the time periods we study, research (learn) more about them, and then document (teach) what you have learned.
Next up, let me reply about to that part about English.
If I read into that correctly, there is a concern that an English-speaking audience would not value any work on documentation done in French. There is a perception that work by French-speaking people would not do well when judged by English-speaking individuals.
It is true. There is going to be a natural language barrier between people where at least one of them is not bilingual.
It is also true that the majority of SCA individuals are primarily English-speaking and not bilingual.
Please let me be clear here.
I do not want language barriers to be an actual inhibitor to non-English speaking individuals.
Ask for help. Let us know how we can accommodate you.
Do you only speak French? And you want to enter A&S Champions? Let us know. We will work with a translation of your written documentation and interpreters for your judging experience.
Perhaps it is another language. Do you communicate through ASL? Then we will read your written documentation and can use interpreters or text for your judging experience.
Are you not experienced with academic or scholarly terms? Then we can work with you to translate them into laymen’s terminology.
Again, let me be clear here.
Our goal is to eliminate barriers that may inhibit individuals from enjoying the arts and sciences.
Tell us how we can help. We can help.
Email me at moas@eastkingdom.org. Or message me here on Facebook.
Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!
Your Servant to Command, ~p.w.

Controlling participants in an A&S activity

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“I am running an A&S activity. There is a person that I do not want involved. Can I stop them from participating?”

A reply from the Minister:

I’ll reply to this with some caution. Questions like these are likely loaded with a lot of personal circumstances and they do not come with an easy answer.

Are you hosting this A&S activity for your local group? Is it to be an SCA function? Or is this going to be a private matter separate from official SCA activities?

Is this a private activity?

Your private activities are your own affair. You’re welcome to make plans and limit participation, as you need it. These activities would be outside of the SCA and your own responsibility.

Is this an SCA activity?

We’re an open organization. We welcome members and newcomers alike. Please keep an open door as much as possible.

That said? We are also volunteers. We need to keep people safe and comfortable.

Now, there are a variety of A&S activities you may be running. Here are two examples that may come up.

Are you hosting an A&S night at your home?

Of course you need to be careful about who comes into your personal space. If you are not comfortable sharing your address with strangers in your home you may instead want to find a separate venue. If you have individual conflicts with existing members you may want to set up conversations with independent people to mediate issues.

If you’re not able to welcome all people, that’s okay. You do not have to welcome everyone into your home. Set your activity up as a private event, then, so that you are able to control your space and not cause conflicts within the group.

Also be prepared that others in the group may set up the same kind of activity in order to welcome the whole populace. That’s okay too. A private activity and a group activity can exist at the same time if it needs to.

Are you running a competition at an event?

Publish your entrant rules. Set up restrictions or expectations as you need them. You can require original work or documentation or only beginners. Those things are okay. Or perhaps entrants have to meet the expectations of the Crown or local Nobility. That could be okay too.

If a person then qualifies you would allow them to enter.

Still. You may have judges that would not feel comfortable judging the individual. We’re all volunteers. We are not going to force ourselves to do things we are not comfortable doing. So, try to find a judge that is okay with working with the individual. Do not force people into positions that would be difficult to manage.

As I said, these are just a few examples. Please treat each instance individually. Ask for help. Talk to your local Seneschal and your up-line A&S Ministers. Figure out what your options are and go from there.

This is all kept in balance. We’re providing a welcoming and safe environment for all individuals, both visitors and volunteers.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

Note, I have not addressed individuals who have received a Revocation and Denial of Membership (R&D). These people are not involved with the SCA in any function. People also receiving Banishment may have limitations on their participation. SCA rules apply in these situations.

Note, also, there may be modern legal circumstances that affect participation. Legal direction will always be followed first.

Just like getting a PhD?

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“They say that getting a Laurel is equal to getting a Ph.D. but is that really true?”

A reply from the Minister:

I’ve heard that comparison, too. Probably most of us have.

If I think about it, the description happens more when people are trying to describe the award/recognition structure of the SCA to brand new members. And, someone who is not a member of the Order of the Laurel usually gives that comparison.

The association is well intentioned. And, on the surface, it seems like an easy way to help people get an idea of what happens within our structure of recognition.

So, let me be clear here. These things are not equivalent.

Being made a member of the Order of the Laurel is not the same as earning a Ph.D..

While requirements for being awarded an earned doctorate degree vary by institution, they will all involve combinations of intense levels of academic study, coursework, examinations, and original research of a quality ready for scholarly publication all of which is reviewed and approved by the institution.

It is important to me that we respect these educational institutions that award Ph.D.s along with the work that these people do when earning their degrees. I do not want to under represent these accomplishments.

It is a different process and a different level of expectation. They are not the same thing.

As I said, the association is well intentioned. I understand why it is made. The way people become members of the Order of the Laurel can be complicated. This feels like an easy way to help people understand.

Being recognized as a member of the Order of the Laurel is a different process. Candidates are focused on scholarship, research, creation, and teaching with an expectation of mastery within the arts and sciences. The Crown will take feedback from the existing members of the Order on potential candidates. The Crown then makes their decision on what new people will become Laurels.

To become a Laurel you are not expected to do Ph.D. level work. You are not required to publish a dissertation or produce an equivalent level of work.

Candidates are expected to produce a high level of work. That’s true. And we will call that “mastery” within the SCA.

Research and documentation can and will be an important part of that process. To aspiring artisans, and their friends, it may feel like they are expected to write a dissertation. That is not what is being requested.

Please don’t let it sound like I am taking anything away from the artisans of the Society or the existing members of the Laurel. They are doing great work. They are doing great research. And they are publishing important scholarship.

There are people now who will earn a Ph.D. in the SCA but be recognized as a Laurel. There are people who will become Laurels that will never do the work related to earning a Ph.D.. There are also many people who will achieve one first and then become the other. All of those are valid options.

What I do not want happening is people getting discouraged from working towards a personal goal of being recognized as a Laurel because they hear that they have to do the work equal to a doctorate degree. That’s not the case.

So, instead, let me suggest when you are talking to new people, be comfortable saying, “The Order of the Laurel is the highest level of recognition we have for people interested in the arts and sciences.”

That’s a fair an accurate statement. And it easily complements the people who are members of the Order. And it happily gives people something good and dignified to work towards.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

A&S officers, reports, and you

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“Getting mentioned on the A&S Officer reports means I will get recognized, right?”

A reply from the Minister:

We love to hear about everyone and everything on A&S reports.

We want to learn about individual projects. We want to read about group activities. We want to hear about guilds and displays and competitions. We want to hear about collegia and workshops. We want to learn about classes or largesse projects.

We want to hear that people are having fun together, are learning from each other, and are teaching each other.

All of this goes into an A&S report for administrative purposes.

The A&S officers are helping track the health of groups through arts and sciences activities. We’re looking to see if people need support or help within the organization. We’re looking to see how one group might help out a neighboring group. We want to share successes and foster the arts.

Our primary goal when we do these reports is not to provide recognition for individuals.

Could that recognition also happen? Possibly. But that’s not the purpose of the report.

The local A&S officer is now sending reports to a few people. They report to their regional officer, their local seneschal, their Landed Nobility if they have them, and their Baronial or Provincial A&S officer if they have one.

So, as a result of reporting, a name and/or certain projects could be noticed. Recognition could even come from that notice. But it doesn’t mean that it will.

There are ways that we as A&S officers can help people get noticed. We write letters to the Royalty and submit recommendations for polling orders. We write letters to our local newsletters. We post on social media. We talk to people and share good works.

We as A&S officers have the same access to these tools and resources that anyone has.

All of us can write the Royalty. All of us can submit award recommendations. The Royalty may or may not choose to grant an award. Your local Nobility may or may not choose to grant your local group’s award. Awards are just one way for people to receive recognition.

All of us can publish word fame. All of us can sing the praises of our fellow artisans.

That’s how recognition comes about. It’s not from a report.

Recognition comes from people thanking each other and respecting each other. It is from people noticing each other and taking the time to share how they feel.

We can all make that happen.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

Asking an expert to teach you

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“I want to learn a new art. I asked a Laurel to teach me but they were reluctant. I want to learn! Aren’t they supposed to be an expert? Why won’t they help me?”

A reply from the Minister:

One of the first things I heard about the SCA was that you could ask almost anyone about almost anything and they would teach you how to do it.

It is a wonderfully romantic idea. It is certainly one worth working towards. But, when you think about it, that’s a tall order!

Let’s be realistic. And consider the circumstances.

How best to start to get your answer?

Ask that Laurel why they’re not up to teaching. They’re going to give you best answer for their situation.

Still, there are some common reasons why Laurels, or really anyone who is an artist, may not want to teach a class.

First off, teaching is both a talent and a skill. Not everyone is born with the natural inclination to be a teacher. Not everyone has been trained in the skill set it takes to be a good teacher.

By the time someone is elevated to the Order of the Laurel they generally have a good idea of their own expertise and limitations. They may simply know that they do not make a good teacher.

It may also be that they are less confident working with beginners. Some artisans are better at teaching people who are already somewhat experienced. They may be best at teaching advanced or masters classes instead of entry level or how to classes.

And lastly? People are people. That Laurel or artist may just not be in good shape to teach.

They may be out of practice. They may not be feeling confident. They may be tired from lots of work. Or they may have family stresses. Or some other obligation altogether.

Or maybe they are just shy. I know that may be surprising. They are a Laurel after all. Part of their role is to share knowledge. They might go about fulfilling that role in other ways, though, than teaching classes or working with people one-on-one. They may teach people through publications instead.

You shouldn’t take it personally.

If they can’t teach you then maybe they know someone who can. Just ask! There’s help out there for you.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.

Choosing Pennsic A&S War Point Champions

A question to the Kingdom A&S Minister, Master Philip White:

“How are the Champions for the Arts and Sciences War Point at Pennsic War chosen?”

A reply from the Minister:

Thank you for asking! It makes sense that people would want to know how it works. Unless you’ve asked someone involved it would look like a bit of a mystery.

As I have committed to transparency in this office, I’ll try my best to answer now. I hope this reply helps people understand how it has been working so far. (Of course, all this may change next year! We’ll do our best to keep people informed then too.)

Now, we’ve only held this A&S War Point twice. This year will be the third time. We do not have a lot of history to say, “This is the way things are”.

Each year the War Point rules have been different. And each year the Champions have been chosen in a different way.

So it would be easy to be confused and not know the process.

Before I go too far, let me remind you. This is a War Point.

The Crown and other principals of the War first decide the whole process through negotiation. The Crown then decides on how process is handled in the East. They are fitting this into all of the war point negotiations and scheduling for the war.

And it may help to know what has happened in the past.

The first year the Champions were chosen directly by the Crown.

The second year the Kingdom Arts and Sciences Minister provided a set of proposed individuals to the Crown. The Crown then decided on the Champions.

This year, the Crown named an Arts and Sciences War Point General, Meisterin Agatha Wanderer (Rachel Case). That General then consulted with other individuals, including the Kingdom Arts and Sciences Minister, and provided a set of proposed individuals to the Crown. The Crown then decided on the Champions.

It is also the East’s custom that the King’s Champion and the Queen’s Champion are by design considered part of the Pennsic A&S War Point Team. Note there, that the Crown for Pennsic is not the Crown who chooses these Champions. The Pennsic Crown gives input while they are Heirs but it is not their decision. The Arts and Sciences War Point General and the Crown will consult with the Champions about their participation at the War.

Yes, okay. So that’s technically how it happens.

There’s more. I will not leave you hanging! For the most part I’ll focus on this year’s process.

So you may also be asking yourself, “Why this team?”

To understand how the individuals are chosen it is important to know the rules of the competition.

This year the War Point entries must be anonymous, may not be food or a performance, and must be a newly created item not previously entered. There can be no more than two Laurels. The winning side is then determined by a popularity contest of all the people attending the War.

That makes for a difficult challenge for the General. Right?

Prospective Champions are given a hard task. You’re asking these people to make something completely new. You’re asking them to make that new thing in less than four months. You’re asking them to keep it anonymous as they work on their entry.

You’re also looking for prospective Champions that appeal to all of the people at Pennsic.

Let that settle in for a moment. Everyone at Pennsic.

And these people only view these entries for a few moments. Few people actually take the time to carefully review each entry and consider the research and skill these artisans put into their works.

That means we’re now in the challenging position of finding entries that can appeal to everyone voting and capture a win vote within a very short amount of time from a populace not usually trained in artistic evaluation.

So add that to the hard task these prospective Champions face. They have already been asked to enter brand new work anonymously. We’re also asking them to accept being judged by a popularity vote by all of Pennsic after only a short review time. It means that their hard work is likely going to be seen by hundreds of people who never know their name or be able to praise them for a job well done.

But here’s the difference from Pennsic A&S Champions and other A&S activities like King’s and Queen’s A&S Champion.

At Pennsic? You’re not there for yourself. You’re not showing as an individual. And your personal renown is not your first goal.

Your first goal as a Pennsic A&S War Point Champion is helping the East Kingdom to win Pennsic War.

It is an unfortunate circumstance that competitions like this do not necessarily recognize the most interesting or complex arts and research that we do in the SCA. We know that.

Negotiations are hard. Pennsic has a long history. And this is only the third year that we have this A&S War Point as part of the war. There is both room for change and improvement. You have to be “in the room where it happens”. We should be happy that the arts and sciences are at least represented with a war point. That’s already an improvement.

We have lots of amazing artists and researchers making incredible works and publishing really interesting finds that would never be right for this kind of competition. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with what they are doing. It just means that what they are doing is not matching up to what the competitions is asking for of entries.

You may have also asked yourself, “Why not take volunteers? Why are there not tryouts?”

The Arts and Sciences War Point is not quite like other War Points. You may be thinking about how the fighting teams have been chosen from regional practices or tryouts. That’s good for them because they are directly fighting against other people. Who wins is directly decided between the combatants. Further, these people will be working together. They need to get used to training together and working as a team.

There’s another difference. The fighters have a good expectation about how their war points will work and what the rules may be. It can change, of course, but they have history to work off of as a starting point.

For the Arts and Sciences War Point we simply don’t know. We don’t have a history. We can make requests and recommendations to the different Crowns each year but it is still a growth process and we are learning what works best for the War.

Because of timing with negotiations, it has been hard for us to manage scheduling something like tryouts or a competition. The Kingdom calendar is already very packed. Asking for more space to fit in another event or to add something to an existing event has not worked out yet.

Instead, the proposed Champions have been artists that are actively producing work, have been known to do well-researched and skilled items, and are available to attend Pennsic. The proposed Champions are also representing different regions of the Kingdom and different arts of our community.

They are not only people who are entering competitions. They are not only people who score well at Kingdom A&S, or show well at Laurels’ Prize Tourney, or win Baronial Championships. Those people are considered of course. Artisans who show their work through blogs, on social media, or donate work to Crown and Kingdom are also considered.

This is all a lot? Right?

The A&S General has a hard job. The artisans have a hard job. I think that they are going to be successful this year and that the East is going to represent the arts and sciences wonderfully.

Want to help? Visit the A&S War Point. Spend real time looking at the entries. Vote for the entries that show great skill and exceptional research.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,
~p.w.