Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What I've learned about teaching

These last few weeks have been really busy, but exciting! I was given several opportunities to teach, which actually led to my first real art job! It started with my little sis-in-law asking me to do a clay workshop for her BFF's sweet 16 party. I taught 11 teenage girls how to make textured slab mugs/cylinders. After that, I filled in teaching an adult evening class, and then filled in last minute for the kids art camp at Beech Grove with 10 7-9 year olds. All of this led to me being given the Artist in Residence position at Beech Grove. Woohoo!

In my infinite teaching experience (ie. 3 weeks worth), I've learned a few things:

1. Teenage girls will never be satisfied with anything they make. Everything they make looks terrible, but their friend's project looks sooooo great. They will start over 5 or 6 times because they think what they've done looks stupid. The workshop will take at least 3 times longer than you anticipated because of this.

 2. Speaking in front of a group of people is not nearly as scary when you're talking about something you know a lot about. Especially when it's something you kind of geek out over. I have trouble meeting people's eyes and starting conversations, but I was much more comfortable once I started talking ceramic technique.
I taught the night class how to make birds and doll jars. I'm using these guys for glaze test tiles.

3. When you don't know what to do, quote and copy people you thought were great teachers. If something they said or did stuck with you, it's probably worth passing on.

4. In a class full of kids, you will have one kid who will finish in 5 minutes, will insist that their project is perfect as is, and will ask you "What do I do now?" repeatedly until you find something for them to do. (In our class, there were 2 of them.)

5. Kids like being helpers. Put that kid who finished in 5 minutes to work! We had kids helping prep the next project, wiping down tables, and helping other kids with their projects.

6. You will also have one kid who is so meticulous, they will take twice as long as everyone else, possibly painting one tiny section of their project for ages before moving on. Don't stress over it - just let them work at their own pace.

7. Have extra projects prepared! As previously stated, teaching a project never takes the amount of time you planned it to.

They made A LOT of stuff in a week!
8. Making mistakes is ok, because that's how you get better, as long as you learn from them. Don't freak out when things don't go according to plan. Treat every new day like a puzzle to solve, or an experiment. That makes it exciting!

9. If you're excited about what you're teaching, it shows. Show them things you think are cool! At the same time, don't get bummed if they don't always think what you're doing is as cool as you do. You can't please everyone.

10. You may feel like you're not ready to teach, but if you're given the opportunity, jump in with both feet anyway. Don't be afraid. If you think about it, you'll realize that you have experiences you can share with other people, and things you've learned that you can pass on, even if you're not a master at what you do. Just remember what you've learned so far, and share it.

I'm really looking forward to teaching on a regular basis, and hopefully doing another kids class soon as well. I think it's going to push me to try new techniques, so that I have a greater variety of things to teach. Hopefully I'll become a better artist because of it, and a better teacher as well.


Conduit Press said...

Lori Love, what you learned about teaching in those mere three weeks has taken some other people (hint- me) YEARS to learn whilst getting their teaching degree;) You did a great job and it shows both in what you learned and what your kids learned. Can't wait until you do it again- and now you've inspired me;) I've always thought of teaching book-making (English is my degree of course) but always thought 'i'm still learning myself' but you know what, that's the fun;)

15 Painted Cups said...

Talia, I think you should definitely teach book making! I'd take a class for sure. I always wanted to while I was at Herron, but I never got the chance.

Someone once told me that you learn as much from your students as they learn from you, and I love that about teaching. I also love that showing people what you do makes them value your work even more, because they see the hard work that goes into it. I think you should go for it!

Allison Kruskamp said...

I'm so excited for you, Congratulations on your residency!!! Don't you love it when one thing leads to another like that? And thank you for your notes on teaching...it's funny how much of your advice applies to raising kids in general:-)

15 Painted Cups said...

Thanks Allison! Yeah, it is lovely the way things work out sometimes.