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Peer student relationships

Peer/ Student Relationships

Rohese de Fairhurst

This article is going to discuss various aspects of relationships between peers and their students. Generally, knights have squires, laurels have apprentices and pelicans have proteges, but I am just going to lump them all together and call them students.


Firstly, why would you want to enter into a relationship with a peer? You may want to learn from them. You may hope to become a peer yourself someday. You may enjoy the pageantry of a knight going into battle with his squires. You may want the guidance and support that can come from a peer/ student relationship. There is a multitude of reasons, and each person is going to have their own reasons for entering into a relationship.


There are many types of peer/ student relationships. Some are based on friendship- the peer and student are people who enjoy doing stuff and working together. Some peers will take a young teenager as a student- these relationships are often very similar to the Medieval "fostering" system. Some peers will expect their students to camp with them, or fight with them, or to be available to help at events. Being a student to a peer is not necessarily an indenture, as it was in period, although it may suit you and your peer to have a formal agreement.


So how do you get a peer? Some peers will ask you, others will expect you to ask them. If you ask them and they say no, don't take it too personally. They may be unwilling to take on the long-term commitment, or they may feel that they can't help you. They may feel uncertain about what they can offer you. Saying no also doesn't preclude them from teaching you informally.


Before entering into a relationship, both parties should discuss their expectations of the relationship. How much time will the peer spend teaching the student? Will you have regular meetings? What obligations will each party have? Will you swear fealty to each other? Will the peer set the student projects to complete? If you live in different areas, you may be able to maintain a teaching relationship over the phone or email, or the peer may arrange for a peer living closer to the student to train them. This will particularly apply to knights, who may arrange for their squires living in other areas to train with another knight. The student can also be interested in areas that are different to the peer's field of expertise. In fact, you don't have to be working in the same field as your peer, as long as both of you feel that the other has something to offer. Hence, an embroidery laurel could take on a student who was interested in brewing, and teach them skills such as research, setting targets and encouraging them to take on new projects.


Being a student of a peer doesn't automatically make it easier for you to become a peer. Yes, your peer will speak about your progress in peerage council meetings, but your peer is also the one who knows you best, and they have a duty to speak honestly about your progress. They may say that you haven't reached your peak at fighting yet, or that your last piece of work wasn't as good as it could have been. When you are ready to become a peer, then your peer will be delighted to tell the peerage council.


Also, if your peer teaches you everything they know, that doesn't automatically make you the right standard to become a peer. In some fields you are going to have to excel your peer in some way to become a peer. Let's say that Master Brewer spent five years researching brewing from scratch. He looked up period manuscripts, played around with recipes and different ingredients, and finally produced a book of extensively researched recipes. He takes on a student, who learns everything that Master Brewer knows in a period of two years. Is the student ready to become a peer? No, because he didn't have to do as much work to learn everything. He was able to use Master Brewer's book of recipes and accumulated knowledge to reach that standard. If the student really wants to become a peer, he is going to have to do some more research on his own that is different to Master Brewer's research, or in greater depth.


How long will your relationship continue? Until the student becomes a peer? Be aware that for some people this may never happen. Not everyone enters a relationship aiming to become a peer- many people enter a relationship happy to learn or gain friendship and support. What if one of you has an attack of life and can't maintain the relationship due to time constraints or other pressures? What if one of you moves away, or isn't active in the SCA for a while? You may want to discuss your relationship once a year and see if it needs to be changed due to altered circumstances. There is nothing wrong with dissolving a relationship if one of you can no longer make the commitment, just as long as it is done amicably. On the other hand, some people are perfectly happy to remain a student for ever.


In closing, being a student of a peer can be of enormous benefit. You can learn lots, develop a close friendship with your peer, and hopefully become a peer yourself one day. However, you can still do all these things without a formal relationship with a peer- by asking questions, attending workshops, collegia and training sessions, by asking others (not necessarily peers) for guidance, and a great deal of hard work!