Eight reasons why we write SCABs – By Marc Lewis

SCA Scholarship


Eight reasons why we write SCABs


Even before their first day in the SCA studio, we ask that our students regularly write SCABs. Max puts together a schedule in which three SCABs are written each and every day of the year, including half-term and holidays.  We only stop for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Why do we write SCABs?

I have lost count of how many times I have heard from future students of SCA who have shown gratitude for the SCABs written by present and former students,  and I have lost count of how many times I have heard present and former students bitch and moan about how much of a ball-ache it is to write a SCAB.

Both times, I smile and get on with my day.  I didn’t come up with the idea of getting students to write SCABs simply for the benefit of future students (although I quickly recognised the value and spoke about SCABs at several Ed/Tech conferences).  Nor did I come up with the idea of SCABs as a way of giving my students something to stress about.  SCABs are an essential part of the SCA learning experience, both for students and for me.

Here are some of the reasons;

  1. I am a disciple of Kolb’s learning cycle and was heavily influenced by David’s learning theory when I created some of the systems and processes that underpin the SCA learning experience. Reflective Observation is a huge part of the cycle, and I have engineered several forced moments of reflection into the plumbing of our model.  For example, the cohort are given a subject to reflect about each week and asked to make a Reflection Slide.  The smart students realise that this exercise has multiple applications; (i) It forces reflection,  (ii) it encourages them to practice craft skills in making the slide,  (iii) it ensures that even the quietest student must stand up and explain their Reflection Slide, so everyone has a voice.
  2. SCABs are powerful reflection tools, when done with mindfulness by the student. I concede that many students do not approach their SCABs with mindfulness, but I will explain why I am OK with this and how I use this to learn about a student later in my reason for SCABs.

Before writing a SCAB, the mindful student may think about a range of things that they wish to reflect upon.  They might reflect on more than one thing before writing their SCAB, or they might start to write several SCABs, or they might complete more than one SCAB and send me their favourite.   Reflection begins before the first word is written and continues until long after the SCAB is published.

  1. When the first word of a SCAB is written, sexy things happen in the student’s brain. Chemicals explode and memories are formed.  There are stacks and stacks of research papers written about the power of writing thoughts down and how this affects memory.  This link takes you to an easy-read article that summarises the science.
  2. The super-smart students play with the format of SCABs. They write click-bait headlines and test their powers of creating a response to their work.  The stupid students don’t try this even once in their year at the school.  I make no apologies for calling these students stupid, because they have failed to take advantage of an opportunity to measure the power of their words.  They are stupid if they fail to explore and develop powers that will soon earn them a living.  If they aren’t stupid, then they are naïve or arrogant.  Either way, I wouldn’t give them a job in my agency.

The super-creative student plays with the format of SCABs, making audio-SCABs or graphic novels, or video-SCABs.  Not every time, but from time-to-time.  Whenever they do, so long as the craft is good, I smile out of respect for a creative cat who will almost certainly go further in their career than the student who simply sees SCABs as a chore.

  1. SCABs provide me with an opportunity to create behavioural changes and develop work readiness amongst throughout the cohort. Almost every whippersnapper misses as least one SCAB in their career as an SCA student. This is because most students arrive at SCA disorganised, or because they think that they can get away with missing deadlines.  They soon learn.  My punishments start fairly mild and increase in ferocity during the year.  Halfway through the final term, the consequences of missing a SCAB are fatal to the student’s career.  I will not allow a student who has no respect for deadlines to enter any of the agencies in our network. If a student is unable to meet a deadline that they knew about months ago, to write 500 words, then how can I ever faithfully ask my office to market them to prospective employers as professionals?
  2. Learning from others is an important habit that I want to get my students into. Some students read every SCAB and some don’t read hardly any SCABs. Guess which ones are the smart ones?  I know this, thanks to the power of cookies, and reports offered up by WordPress, where we host our website. If I were a student at SCA, I would quickly spot that everyone in the cohort is intelligent and interesting.  (Note that intelligent does not necessarily equal smart.)  If I were a student, having made that observation, I would deduce that I could learn from my fellow students and that their reflections could help me to become better.  I would see that some SCABs are obviously a waste of my time, such as lists of what vegetable each student would be, and I wouldn’t spend too much of my time reading those posts.  But I would check out every single SCAB.

    (My aunt Helen has read every SCAB published since 2010 and has formed opinions about every student, despite having never met any of them.  She also tells me that some SCABs help her to feel that she was in the room when fantastic masterclasses were shared.)

  3. Some students write SCABs reflecting on the great masterclasses that they have had the good fortune to attend. These students are super-smart.  They use their reflection time to soak in the brilliance of a talk from Alexandra Taylor, Sir John Hegarty, Rosie Arnold, Shekhar Deshpande, Laura Jordan Bambach, Mark Denton, Daryl Fielding, Peter Souter, Kerry Thorpe, Dave Dye, etc.  As explained above, when they write their reflections, the knowledge gleaned from these talks takes stronger root in the students’ long-term memory.  The super-smart student will then share their SCAB with the speaker of the masterclass as a way of showing gratitude, thus forging a connection between the mentor and the mentee.
  4. Another reason why I ask my students to write SCABs is that it builds confidence. Some think that they can’t be writers, because they are dyslexic. Nonsense.  Dyslexia is a super-power.  If they can speak, then they can write.  It might take them a bit longer, or they might need help from a friend or smart technology.  I had a blind student a few years ago who was able to write brilliant SCABs, so I will never accept an excuse from any student.

    Some students say that they want to be art directors, so they don’t need to practice their writing.    Some of the best lines in advertising were written by art directors.  Furthermore, that blind student I just mentioned – he was an art director.

    Writing requires confidence, confidence comes from practice and improvement comes from asking for feedback.

Why do we SCAB?  We SCAB because we are devoted to improving ourselves and our classmates.  We SCAB because we take development seriously.  We SCAB because we want to put great content into the world and we should grab every opportunity to create content with the enthusiasm of a playful child.

That’s why we SCAB.

If ever you hear a former student moan about SCABs, ask them how successful they have been.  If they can’t point to awards or promotions, then you’ve probably found something to reflect upon and SCAB about.

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