Artists who teach often discuss the benefits of teaching techniques vs. projects. Some teachers wonder if teaching a project prevents the student from discovering their own voice, or following their own creative nudges. Overwhelmingly, my students tell me they want….BOTH! They want to learn techniques AND (because life so often seems an eternal list of unfinished To Dos) they love walking out the door wearing something they have actually finished!
For a teacher, it might seem easier to teach a project where students undeviatingly follow a specific path. I think you can be flexible. With a willingness to not always KNOW outcomes, you can give your students wriggle room. You can teach techniques in the context of a project but also teach about other applications. Provide examples, encourage exploration, model creative risk taking. I think that is the role of a good teacher. You often need to sing a few known songs with someone you know before you find your own voice. Hopefully you are teaching songs, making harmonies and inspiring new work!
That metaphor is ironic coming from one who sings like me!
I was thrilled by what happened after a recent class. Local enthusiastic polymer artists wanted to learn about cuff bracelets, extruders and good finishing techniques. I designed a class to bring these things together. Seven ladies participated and as well as making the specific cuff in the project, we talked about variations, the value of mistakes*, and looked at lots of samples. We discussed extruder use in many other contexts. I provide extensive notes. Each lady walked out wearing a gorgeous unique cuff. (One walked out too early to have her photo taken!) They saw for themselves you can all start with similar techniques and end up with something that is them!
KBV went home and, using the techniques she’d learnt in the class, made an entirely different item! A gorgeous bead which she strung on a collar, wore to work and was asked to make by a colleague who loved it so much. Her very fist commission. She had made a project, learnt a technique and sung with her own voice!
*This was in the contexts of Neil Gaiman’s inimitable advice to Make Glorious Mistakes!
I can’t say what the impact of doing Jen Louden’s Teach Now course was on my students* but for me, it was profound. Yup, that good. And let me say right now that I don’t get commission nor am part of any plan when I rave here. This is pure I really loved it raving!
I’ve taught quite a lot in different capacities and love doing it. I teach for months each year in Nepal and am doing more and more teaching here in Australia. Teaching/ sharing is becoming more and more part of what I do and I want to do it as well as I can. As a chronic over provider and an introvert, I also wanted to teach well without feeling very anxious and exhausted afterwards. And without exhausting or overwhelming students with my excitement and passion!
When the 2014 Teach Now course started I was in Nepal with unreliable internet, no hope of being around for phone calls and months of travelling ahead of me. Was the timing right I wondered? And yet, inside me I knew it was and even when Jen Louden sensibly replied with Only you know that to my Is this timing crazy? email, her realistic description of expectations and time required meant I knew I could embrace this.
I’d spent some money previously on some on line training and was very underwhelmed. This made me fearful to spend more but Teach Now was a great investment. It’s worth so much more than you pay and the results far exceeded my expectations. It helped me so much as I prepared for perhaps the most ambitious teaching I have done (the 6 week course) and some of Jen’s thoughtful questions have revolutionised the way I prepare and determine what to include. And…in my case very pertinently…what not to include.
From my perspective, my teaching was so much more joy filled and energising rather than draining. I knew how to replenish myself after a class but did not have that utterly spent feeling I used to get. I came home with more and more ideas and I grew to love using my creativity in preparing classes. I could go on. And on. Suffice it to say, anyone wanting guidance about how to effectively communicate something they are passionate about should have a look at Teach Now.
*I am blessed with cracker students and they all made gorgeous things and humoured me when I did my raves about creativity. The photos are from the most recent one day workshop! Ola and Tracey, you were blurry sorry. So nice to have a bloke there Clem!!!!