Often, when someone new applies to join the Coven, they’re shocked to realize that we have “Dedicant Classes.” They’ll often wonder what that is or what it entails. Truth be told, those classes are more Feycraft-oriented, so it’s kind of like someone is expected to have at least read some material on modern Wicca, know what the typical Sabbats are and some of the more general Craft-related knowledge. Even those folks are sometimes surprised to learn that we do have a sort of informal classroom setting at our Covenstead.
The thing is: we actually do have literal classes.
Let’s be clear: I’m not a licensed teacher who has gone to college to learn the teaching process or who has to come up with specific documentation for the School Board, etc. But over the years, I’ve learned a lot about the act of teaching. There are some really good books out there on teaching adults, which is what happens in a Coven, so I’ve read a few of them. There are some great online tools for “designing” a teaching plan, and I use one of them. I actually have lesson plans for every topic I teach on in our Coven class setting.
In many ways, the fact that I spent some time as an “Interdenominational-Pentecostal-Charismatic” (what I call “Bapticostal”) Worship Leader and Minister has contributed to my ability to teach. At the very least, that period of my life has made me less afraid to stand and speak in front of a group of people. I can put on and take off “stage presence” at a moment’s notice. Even in ritual, this can be a useful skill to have, because it aids in a faster transition in one’s state of consciousness.
I do have to say: teaching adults is not like teaching young adults. We don’t remind them to stay on task (except for that one guy). We don’t hand out rewards and enact punishments. We don’t artistically seam together a list of activities to fend off impending boredom. (And with “that one guy” I just mentioned in class, there’s never a reason to fend off boredom – he keeps it active and fun.)
The difference, really, in teaching a Coven and being a teacher in a classroom (to me, the amateur, non-professional teacher, that is) is that we don’t do the same things one might do as a high school teacher. The teaching really happens in a discussion-oriented classroom. It’s more about facilitating a discussion of what we’re doing here and how we’re doing it and why. And that’s because we’re teaching adults, not high-schoolers.
Yes, I have lesson plans for every class I teach. Yes, I have a whiteboard and I actually use it for teaching purposes. The Dedicants in my Coven classes actually take notes and get homework assignments. We have an actual curriculum based on what (and how) I was taught when I was being reared in the original Feycraft Coven. Our class schedule is set out for a little longer than a year and a day (because we have Sabbat Rituals scheduled in, as well).
Do I grade homework? Do I have “tests” and “quizzes?” Do I have the Dedicants write a paper? Sometimes, the answer is yes. It really depends on the group.
But here’s the kicker: I don’t depend upon cumulative recollection of knowledge to Initiate or Elevate my Coveners. The curriculum is based on spiritual development and progression within Feycraft. It’s designed specifically, one class building upon the previous class, to produce change in the individual. If they do the work, they get the results, and thus, I see the shift (because the shift is obvious) within them. And that shift is what determines whether they get Initiated (or Elevated, as the case may be). They’re success isn’t determined by the completion of their time as a Dedicant – it’s determined by the shift that happens as a result of their work over time.
Have I found a “balance” between teaching and priesting? Probably not. I would imagine that any professional teacher would shun me for doing what I do as an amateur. But I am a “spiritual teacher.” I always have been. This informal classroom setting for the new Dedicants is useful. It gives them the foundational knowledge in their heads for Feycraft, but taking the action (doing the work) that goes along with it produces spiritual growth. If you do the work for the time you’re a Dedicant, you’re virtually guaranteed to grow. The material I teach (which is the Feycraft material originally given to me) is specifically laid out to produce that growth. So if you follow the plan, you progress.
I suppose, then, what I actually do is often more like a “customer service” training seminar in a corporation’s conference room. There’s interaction and activity, not just pontification. And maybe that, plus assessing the progress of the individual (not the accumulation of book knowledge) is what makes the difference.