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,

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,

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,


Teaching a Class

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

“Am I allowed to teach a class?”

A reply from the Minister:

Do you have something to teach? Then Yes!

You are allowed to teach! Welcome even!

The SCA is built on sharing information. Our organization’s success depends on people’s willingness to learn and then share their knowledge as teachers. The more we encourage people to teach, the stronger we become as a whole.

You’re not required to be in the SCA for a certain amount of time. You’re not required to have certain awards. You’re not required to hold modern degrees or experience. You’re not required to be a certain age. You’re not required to have prior teaching experience.

You just need to have a willingness to share.

Many of us start teaching with very little experience. Both as artists and as teachers. We end up learning our arts in more detail and how to be more effective teachers through volunteering repeatedly and getting better over time.

We learn. Our early classes are not always good. We may have not figured out the best way to explain a subject. We may have not learned the more common pitfalls of our art. We may not have practiced our communication skills.

That’s okay. As long as you are trying your best your audiences will typically understand. It is worth letting your students know that you are just learning and that you are open to feedback. You can learn from them as they are learning from you.

It is important to respect your students. They value their time in the SCA and they are looking forward to learning from you. That means you should take care with your class preparation and research. Your audience will appreciate you all the more for it.

Now, where you teach? That’s another matter.

You could offer your class at your home. Maybe your local branch offers a class series and you can volunteer to be part of that. You might be able to offer a class at a local event. You can volunteer at a colleguim or university too. Pennsic and the other wars are also great options.

Keep in mind, that while you are very welcome to teach, your class may not be appropriate for every venue.

Please do not get discouraged if you are politely turned down. And please do not take it personally. There are likely many other reasons that your class may not fit well into an event.

Some activities are theme specific. A Cooks Collegium will prioritize cooking classes over an embroidery class.

Some events have limited space. A one-hour session will be prioritized over an all-day class in order to offer more options.

Some events are audience specific. A Newcomers Event will prioritize “How to” classes over an advanced research class.

Some events do not have the space or equipment needed to support a class. A fighting focused event may not have a room to hold classes.

Activity organizers are not trying to deny you an opportunity. They are trying to plan for an overall event. Every organizer will be different. They will all work a little bit differently and they may ask different things of you as a teacher.

In the end their goal is simply to make the best activity possible that creates a good learning atmosphere for students and a worthwhile destination for teachers. They want to make a good time happen as much as you do.

Be patient and look for good opportunities for your class offerings. Sometimes you need to create those opportunities for yourself. And that’s okay. Much of the time you’ll find you can fit right into a schedule with everyone else.

Remember. Also be aware if there are any special requirements for the class you are teaching. Are you giving a youth class? Are you working with food? Are you working with hazardous materials? Are you teaching certain martial arts? Some of these will have certain rules and restrictions based off of your group and the event location. Simply ask!

A final note. Please do not be discouraged with low, or maybe even no, attendance. Try not to take that personally, too. It all depends on the event and the day and the people that are there. Sometimes you work really hard to get a class ready and then no one shows up.

It could be that people are obligated to serve other parts of the event and are sad to miss your class. It might be that they’ve already learned what you are teaching. Or, simply, it could be that they are not interested in your subject.

Try to be okay with all of those reasons. Some of my best teaching moments were to only one or two people.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,

Recovering from a Damaged Reputation

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

“Honesty? I feel like my name is mud. I know I made some mistakes in my past but I think I’ve improved. Yet I don’t think people see how I’ve changed. It feels like I am on a blacklist. I don’t think I’m ever given a fair chance. Why should I even bother?”

A reply from the Minister:

Does it mean something to you? Then you should bother. Do you think there is still fun out there? Then it is worth pursuing. You’ve changed for a reason.

You’ve made improvements. Don’t stop now. Keep going.

But only if you want to. It’s okay if you don’t. It’s ok if you do.

Questions like this are really complicated. Let’s look at it a little closer and consider a few things.

Personally, I would start with self-assessment.

Be honest with yourself. What was the mistake? What did you do? And how did you improve?

It happens. We all have moments we are not proud of and overcoming those can be hard.

Maybe we entered something that didn’t fit into a competition. Maybe we didn’t cite our sources well. Maybe we didn’t listen to constructive feedback when we asked for it. Maybe we used some poor language. Maybe we hurt someone’s feelings. Maybe we fought with a judge. Maybe we were not honest.

Really. It happens. I know. I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth any number of times.

But part of learning how to improve is being honest with yourself about what you did. Have you really changed? Have you asked for forgiveness? Have you shown contrition?

That’s always my first step.

After you’ve checked in with yourself, what next? Check in with people you trust. Talk to your friends and family. Listen.

Talk through what happened. Talk through what you think you’ve done to improve. Talk about where you think you made a mistake and how you want to do better in the future. Listen to what they have to say. Really listen. Perform another self-assessment and see if there is something more to work on.

That said they are your friends and family. They love you. They will do their best by you. It doesn’t mean that they are trained in giving good feedback. Keep in mind that they have a positive bias towards you and may not give you objective feedback. Still it is a good and safe space to start and gather support.

Once you’ve taken those steps then try something else. Talk to the people you think you’ve had trouble with in the past. Will that be hard to do? Maybe. But it will also be worth it.

Do you need to apologize? Then apologize. Do you need to learn more? Then learn more. Do you need a chance to show the new you? Then show off the new you.

Take you time. It is not a race. Work through at your own pace. Take care and go about it in a way that makes you feel good about your work and about you as a person. It’ll be worth it in the end.

Why do all this?

Because the arts and sciences are super fun. Because learning is fun. Because teaching is fun. Because it makes our organization a better place. Because it makes you a better person. Because it makes our members better people.

This is just what has worked for me. It may not work for you. And you may need to find your own path.

I wouldn’t be surprised if people also share their experiences on how things have worked for them. And people may share advice on other ways to go about it. There might be something there that clicks for you. Follow that.

Now. Did you read this and think, “It is not my problem. It is their problem.”

Okay. Maybe so. Maybe not.

You could be right. Sometimes it is their problem. Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes circumstances are unjust. It does happen.

And if that is the case then you’re right. It is their problem. You can’t control them or change them. But you can keep doing what you are doing and make the most fun despite them.

But some of the time? It’s not their problem. And in that case it is worth starting at the beginning with some honest self-reflection and personal understanding.

Most of time? It is not an either/or. It is not just you. It is not just then. In reality there is going to be issues on both sides. Find your balance and work through it in a way that makes you happy and proud of your own actions.

Still not convinced? Think the system is still out to get you?

It is not.

The system is built up to support people and encourage the organization to grow. The A&S Office does not have a blacklist. The Polling Orders do not have a blacklist. Even the Royal family does not have a blacklist.

Could individuals hold a grudge? Of course. People are people. Sometimes people hold grudges. I will not pretend otherwise. It can and does exist.

And that’s what the members of the SCA are. They are people. Laurels are people. The King and Queen are people. We’re all in the same boat of trying to be the best that we can be and sometimes we make mistakes or get in our own way. People are not always perfect. Even those of us trying to make the SCA a great place.

If that’s the case? So be it. Go about your business. Invest your time in your arts, your research, and the people who value your contributions to the Society. It is sometimes the best we can do.

To close I’ll let you know what I want to see.

I want to see everyone welcomed.

I want to see wonderful partnerships between entrants and judges. I want to see constructive criticism and active listening happening between people who respect and value each other. I want to see people caring and investing in artistic integrity. I want to see us being the best that we can be.

I want this to be our reputation throughout our organization.

Remember… Have fun! Learn! Teach!

Your Servant to Command,