|Bell and banner on the front porch at Evergreen Cove.|
One of the very cool things Evergreen Cove offers is creativity classes. This is where I took metalsmithing classes, and it's where you can take everything from mosaic making to journaling to knitting and weaving.
This Saturday, I taught a group of women how to make a copper charm bracelet, using free-form techniques as well as standard techniques, like how to make a scroll with wire. I made them each a copper chain via chain maille, gave them three gauges of wire to work with, a four-sided nail file with lots of various grits to file and buff with, and away we went.
When preparing for a class, even one that will largely be free-form, you have to think about what notes the person will need to carry home with them. You don't want your students so busy scrawling things down like an Organic Chemistry major that they lose the fun of the experience. I make up packets with the following information:
* A cover sheet with what we're going to do and all my contact information.
* A pictorial page explaining what tools we'll be using.
* Simple (a key word -- simple!) instructions for the basic things we'll do, like how to make an eye pin, etc.
* A source list -- where can they get that cool hammer I was using?
* Photographic examples.
I felt that pictorials of charms wouldn't really do as the only source for ideas, so I also made up a lot of examples of charms. At the end of class, I drew names out of a hat, and the winner got to take them all home.
At the beginning of the class, I introduce the tools, tell the students what they'll accomplish during their time with me, and above all -- set them at ease. I share with them my own experiences in classes where I've been the furthest behind. I share with them how I've been in a class and found it wasn't for me, but in each class I've taken, I've ALWAYS found something to take away that made it worthwhile. As a teacher, making yourself real is so important, especially in class mixed with veterans and complete beginners.
At the end of class, I do a show and tell. It's always interesting to see how things turned out. Inevitably, students will apologize for their work. I always tell them about my own experiences with making things I didn't think were to my taste, and how they would still sell, and often quicker than things I loved. I remind them this is their first endeavor. I remind them that half the fun is the practice. I remind them that at the beginning of class, they started with a coil of wire, and now look what's in their hands! THEY MADE THIS!
Teaching can be very rewarding. At the end of this class, everyone was hugging, talking about forming a book club, exchanging emails, and carrying all that positive energy home with them.
I won't lie -- teaching (or taking!) a class isn't always like this. You can get a real stinker -- the student who thinks they know more than the teacher; the student who can't be pleased even if you gave them the Hope Diamond to work with; the student who demands so much of our time you despair of being able to help others in the class.
The key to those sorts of students is to know they exist, and have a Plan, a Plan with a capital "P". Know that often it has not a thing to do with you. Help the needy student by giving them a success (and almost everyone can accomplish at least ONE thing in a class) and then praising them to the heavens and sending them to their seat to build upon that success because, "I know you can do this, LOOK what you just DID!"
And you, as a teacher, CAN DO THIS TOO.
Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off. She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.