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How to run a club: Sometimes be mean

What's often lost on some parents and educators these days, is the art of gently being mean to students.

Now please don't misunderstand me... in this current climate of rabid political correctness and over-zealous moralisers, a statement like that could be taken, plastered across the media without context and have me fired within a week.

Let me be perfectly clear: Do not be cruel to your students. But at times you have to stop supporting them.

Over the last few months I noticed my young neophytes somewhat stalling in their progression to true neck beardom. They had the models, and had the enthusiasm, and most were even getting some good painting done. But they weren't really learning the game.

Those times we did play, I was often doing all of the thinking for them. Instead of arbitrating rules disagreements, I was playing the role of DM in telling them exactly how much dice to roll and when, and what they needed to get on those dice rolls.

Which is fine for them, and gets them into the game. It makes them excited and determined to go out and buy more stuff to beat their opponent. But I'm not selling them stuff. I'm teaching them a hobby. I was acting as a crutch for them, and they weren't aware that they didn't know how to play Warhammer 40K.

I was, in fact, teaching from the front of the classroom.

In the old days, the teacher would sit at the front of the classroom and talk at students, or write things on the blackboard. Students would obediently write the things down, and education happened, presumably by osmosis.

It's a hand holding, hyper-controlled method of teaching. You can get through a lot of content, but whether or not it's fun is hugely dependent on how the teacher sells it. And if it's not fun, well that means students don't really learn anything. And if it's not fun, the teacher hates doing it too.

Also, it's exhausting.

This is the dynamic I was accidentally creating in the Wargaming club. Students were way too reliant on me to show them the game, and so they weren't really doing anything without me there.

So last week... I cut off the support.

I left them to set up their game on their own. I left them to make up army lists on their own. And I left them to do dice rolling on their own. When they asked questions on how to do things, my answer was, "Look it up in your codex."

None of them had codexes yet. I was basically being mean to them in the gentlest way possible. Rather than acting as video game interface for them, I was forcing them to discover things on their own. I was being as difficult as possible really.

It was an absolute mess. And they loved it!

This is the method of teaching that is in fashion today, the idea of guided discovery and students working things out on their own. It works really well for effective learning, but the pace at which new content is presented is much slower.

Is it effective here? Well this week they turned up with codexes, and complete army lists. So progress has been made! The game was still a total mess of not knowing what dice to throw, but then that't when you do step in to help.

A little bit of meanness is needed every now and then, but really the goal is to make them independent wargamers. Only then will neophytes leave the scout squads to become full battle brothers.

Until next time!

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