More on Teaching

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Another “gift” from students is how they respond to your way of teaching. The woman who sent the lovely book from Australia asked if she had my permission to teach it to someone else. That is a very considerate and thoughtful thing to ask. Some students will take whatever is being taught and offer it to their own students the following week as if they had worked it all out over several attempts in as many years and filled waste bins in the process of getting it down.

I don’t get many of those types in my classes because I try to stay away from product and technique based workshops. There are times when that can’t be helped, when it is a specific technique that needs to be learned to take it to the next and more interpretive level. I will introduce them to the tools, materials and steps that they need to be familiar with and how to use them. And in so doing I also show students the tricks that I learned along the way to help in the process. It is how I learned what I am showing them. First I took an introductory workshop, read a book, went online, made something up, then spent copious hours in the studio perfecting and personalizing and practicing. All of that time goes into what I am teaching, how I am going to answer their questions, make suggestions, give encouragement and share ideas.

Quite often I begin a class by asking what they want to do. What do they really want to do in this particular class. How do they want to spend their time. Then I tell them it is my job to get them to those goals or at least on a focused path toward them. The more varied the goals are, the more exciting the class is for all of us. The more everyone is going to learn and remember.

There are many students that require easily read handouts and only goal is seeing similar end results for everyone. If I do get asked to teach something like that, I suggest that the potential student go on the internet and find what they are looking for and save their money. There is so much out there in the way of instruction toward mastering a technique or making something that not only will give them the desired product but the pleasure of learning how to do it. No instructor need be present or paid.

I received this “gift” last week as well:

“Hi Sandy,
I hope you’ve been well, and continuing to wow your students with your wonderful teaching style.
Already so much time has flown since the 4 lovely days I spent doing your workshop, but you’ll be happy to know that I have frequently used one of the two field kits I made. It’s the one with the handles, and the cover made from a charming old map of the Grampians. Got the picture?  I made it specifically for the pen and wash class I started last month, and it works a treat. It’s so compact and lightweight, it’s easy to pop it into my backpack whenever I go out, “just in case”. As a consequence, I’ve done lots more sketching and painting than I’ve ever done. Thanks to you and your encouragement, and not being prescriptive in your teaching.”
Isn’t that a lovely thing to have happen? And wasn’t she kind to take the time to let me know.
That letter arrived last week in the middle of teaching another four day class where I was teaching a workshop on “marking place” with a group of students who shared stories, enthusiasm, poetry and new ways of seeing. They have helped immensely on how to add to the experience the next time I teach this class. I come away learning so much more than I teach and thank those students for that.