Starting Classes

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Jigsaw Fees

  • If you're charging (and you should charge), make this information easy for people to see.
  • Charging has some benefits - you get money, JR gets funded. Also, puts a value on the time for you and the students, everyone there has agreed that the time has X value and is more likely to act accordingly.

As per the Membership Agreement:

  • Gatherings held by members which gain a profit (beyond covering materials) must either pay Jigsaw Renaissance $15 or 15%, whichever is greater.
  • Gatherings held by non-members which gain a profit must either pay Jigsaw Renaissance $40 or 30%, whichever is greater.

Please ask if you are unsure how to price your class. Jigsaw wants those who share knowledge to be financially supported, and believes strongly in balancing the desire to share knowledge freely and needing to make a living.

So you want to start a class...


We're glad you're thinking about making this important contribution to the community and want to help you and your students have a positive experience at Jigsaw. As part of our ongoing efforts to support the formation of new classes, we have developed the following guide.

Classes are a major part of the Jigsaw ecosystem.

  • Classes help people gain new skills and provide a safety net for exploring new topics (or brushing up on old ones).
  • Classes help you refine your skills and pass along the knowledge you picked up from others (and maybe make some money).
  • Classes draw new people to Jigsaw, and paid classes help support Jigsaw's operating budget so we can keep the doors open and keep helping people do awesome things (like teach classes).

Read on, but don't be afraid to ask questions!

Organizing and promoting your class

First steps

  • Identify a need and refine your topic
  • Talk to other people about your class idea
  • Read this guide and talk to JR about hosting your class


Preparing your lesson plan

  • Identify learning objectives
  • Break down what someone who knows nothing about the topic would need to learn to achieve each goal
  • Run a san check, is this reasonable for one class or better as a series
  • Put everything that's not for the first class aside
  • Develop that into a timeline, make sure ordering and time use makes sense
  • Put some development into additional material in case you run short!
  • Rehearse and refine

Finding Students

But wait, I need some students

  • Your audience response will track how and to whom you promote your class
  • If you can get five students who will absolutely be there, that's awesome for your first session
  • Starting small is good, the difficulty of managing a classroom scales exponentially with population

Promotions / Information

People need to know about your class

  • First, get it on the JR calendar!
  • Compose some info describing the class which can be released on the JR blog, forward it for review to Isa or post it on your own if you have authoring ability.
  • We have a mailing list too, post stuff, talk to potential students
  • Other mailing lists are also cool (e.g. dorkbot-blabber)
  • Do you like social networking? Use Facebook, Twitter, Meetup, etc.
  • Use word of mouth - if you're not talking to people about your class, you're doing it wrong
  • Flyers are cool, put them places (but ask permission). Colleges? Coffee places?

Scheduling your class

You can add things to the calendar by logging in as "guest" at with password fib0nacci and creating an event. Several people have the ability to make it into an actual event. Follow up to make sure that this has happened and to ask any questions you may have prior to the event.

  • The event should not conflict with anything currently on the Jigsaw calendar.
  • Do some thinking about your audience's availability. People are more likely to be available on evenings and weekends and to have other plans on major holidays. If you want to attract college students, don't schedule your class during finals. Public transit becomes more sparse in the late evening (approx. 9PM).
  • Reserve sufficient time for your class, particularly if there is a hands-on component. Plan to stay after to pick up after your class.
  • Don't expect a great response if you didn't give a lot of notice before your class, but don't schedule it in the distant future either.
  • Consider offering several sessions of your class at different times or on different weeks.

Characteristics of a good class

A fair trade is often one where everyone thinks they got a slightly bad deal, while a great trade is one where everyone involved goes home thinking that they made out like a bandit. While we encourage teachers at all levels of experience to hold classes at Jigsaw, there are a few things you can do to make your experience a more positive one for everyone involved.

Good Instruction

Being a good teacher starts with being a good presenter and communicator

  • Make eye contact. Speak clearly and confidently. Watch your audience to gauge their interest and understanding.
  • Use props to make your points concrete. PowerPoint slides should add to or illustrate what you're saying, not act as your note cards. If your class has both presentation and hands-on components, connect the two.
  • Address questions. When possible, add illustrations and applied examples. Confused students will only get more lost if they don't understand your foundational points. It's easy to make the error of assuming students understand an explanation which was clear to you. Always remember that they don't have your familiarity with the subject or the lesson to work from.
  • However, don't get sidetracked with questions which you plan to cover later or which are outside the scope of the day's class. Instead, ask students to wait or to talk to you after class.

Appropriateness / Timeliness

Choose an appropriate topic and make sure your lesson plan fits the time slot

  • In our lives, we acquire a lot of skills. Perhaps you need 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert - but you only need to be competent, organized, and willing in order to teach. Teaching helps us become experts.
  • Jigsaw supports classes on most topics which are not likely to violate our safe space agreement. Ideally, the class should impart a skill or understanding of a topic. Classes which give students hands-on experience are particularly awesome and in keeping with Jigsaw's mission, but this is not a requirement. Classes are not meant to be a soapbox for your personal opinions. A class whose entire curriculum amounts to you expressing your political opinions is unlikely to be appropriate, while a class on ways to become involved in the political system could easily be appropriate.
  • Rehearse your lesson, rehearse your lesson again, then rehearse your lesson to someone else. If possible, rehearse it to someone who doesn't have any experience with the subject. Find out how much they learned. Ask them what parts they didn't understand and what parts they found boring. Use this information to iterate your lesson plan. Rehearse it again.
  • Have a list of teaching objectives and share them with your students. Make statements in the form "by the end of this lesson, you will understand X and be able to do Y." Commit to fulfilling those objectives. Avoid wandering too far away from these objectives during your class.
  • Remember that a lesson plan is like any plan of action. If it's not working, don't be afraid to adapt. Improvise as needed in order to ensure that your teaching objectives are met to the best of your ability.

Fit Your Audience

Know your audience, know your audience, know your audience

  • Jigsaw Renaissance is dedicated to the idea that education is something you do rather than something you are given - and never something that you complete. We strongly support the principle that anyone with interest should be able to work towards learning anything at their own pace, no matter who they are or where they are in life. Holding your class at Jigsaw implicitly makes you part of this tradition, our attempt to make the world a slightly more interesting place.
  • Classes at Jigsaw are often open admission and will attract all sorts of people. Jigsaw routinely sees students of all ages, genders, races, lifestyles, backgrounds, experience levels, and spin states - be respectful of all of them. Students at an Arduino class may have worked with similar electronics and code for decades, or it may be their first encounter with programming and electronics experience. If your class has prerequisite knowledge, make this available and obvious to students in all locations where you promote the class and review it at the start of the class. If you do not present this information up front, you will likely get students with a wide range of experience levels.
  • Classes often start off with low attendance but grow quickly as word spreads. Plan to offer your class more than once if possible (possibly on different days or at different times). Don't be too discouraged if only a few people attend the first session, and don't be too shocked if participation grows rapidly. If the class stays small, find out why. Learn from your earlier classes to make your later classes more awesome.

Jigsaw Policies

Holding the Space Open

There must be a keyed person present to set up, host, and break down after the event.

  • Get to know people!
  • Give lots of advanced notice, know who your keyed person is, and stay in touch with them.

Respecting Space

You are expected to leave the space in the same condition as when you arrived (or better)

  • If you need to take out chairs, fold them and stack them neatly in the back.
  • Clean up any materials used and garbage generated. Make sure you check all areas which may have been impacted (bathroom, kitchen, etc.) and not just the main presentation area. Any dishes used or surfaces dirtied should be washed. Vacuum and take out trash if necessary. This is usually not a lengthy process, but account for it in your scheduling. Students are often willing to help if they have time. However, you are the one who is accountable for your class's use of the space.
  • Spare handouts or other leftover materials may be donated if they are likely to be useful to the membership in keeping with our Acceptable Donations Guidelines. See your keyed person for approval.

Safe Space

At all times, uphold Jigsaw's policy of providing a safe space for everyone

  • Your class is likely to attract people with varying degrees of experience and ability with the subject. Be respectful of the participants who just can't get it as well as of the know-it-alls (and when possible, subvert the second group by getting them to help the first group).
  • If your class involves a hands-on component, ensure that all students are getting adequate attention. If your class is growing too large, consider recruiting an assistant. Keep in mind that while the keyed person present is hosting, they are not your assistant and may not even have experience with the subject.
  • Ensure that your students are maintaining a safe space. Avoid escalation and enlist the help of your keyed person if a problem occurs.

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