Friday, July 8, 2011

So You Want To Be a Teacher. . .

by Linda Kline
Director of Education

Students tell me all the time that they want to teach. I often wonder if that’s because the teachers that I know exude so much joy and derive so much pleasure from their work, that it isn’t work at all. But having a passion for teaching doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, while we may make it look effortless, years of preparation and a big chunk of money have been invested in our classroom readiness.

If you really want to teach, above all else, cultivate your talent and training. Know your stuff -- inside and out. You can’t be a good teacher unless you’ve put time, effort, and a substantial investment into learning everything there is to know about your subject. That means making mistakes, taking risks, and paying your dues. Take classes; lots of classes from lots of different teachers. Become a lifelong student, and read everything you can get your hands on. Remember, there are lots of ways to get a job done. Make sure you’ve tested lots of different methods and can honestly and confidently be prepared when your students ask you about alternatives.

Location, Location, Location

Just like real estate, location can be a make-or- break aspect when choosing the perfect venue for your classes. While your community may offer a variety of facilities, there are plenty of considerations to be weighed before determination if a location will be a winner.
Bead shops, museums, galleries, colleges, adult continuing education centers, glass stores, jewelry schools, and ceramic shops, are all good places to start your search. Bear in mind, however, that each facility may have its own protocol for teacher credentials. Colleges, for instance, may require teachers to have a college degree, while jewelry schools may require a bench jewelers’ certification.

A kiln can be a big consideration. If you plan to teach, own your own. Firing options will be limited if you restrict yourself to firing with a torch. Plus, some students may be intimidated by an open flame – or worse yet, they may melt their creations! Some facilities may provide access to a kiln, but don’t take it for granted. Ask lots of questions about what equipment and tools may be accessible to you and your students. If you do have access to various types of equipment, make sure you know safe operating procedures. And find out the policy on safety, insurance, and liability issues, too!

Know Before You Go
Before you approach a shop owner or department head, have all your ducks in a row and call ahead to schedule an appointment. Act like a professional. This is essentially a sales call or an initial job interview. Show up on time, dress appropriately, and bring your portfolio.

These are just a few of a very long list of questions you should think about before you go:
  1. How much will you charge for your classes?
  2. What will be included in the cost of your class? (Tools, raw materials, gemstones, etc.)
  3. Will you supply all tools for student use? (At the very least, plan to have texture, molds, rolling pins, Badger Balm, paint brushes, adequate work surfaces, cleaning brushes, etc., for each student.)
  4. Do you have adequate financial resources to invest in supplies (silver, bronze, copper) for the appropriate number of students? Be sure to order extra, just in call you have last minute sign-ups.
  5. How will the class be a win-win for you and the facility? What percentage of the cost of the class will the facility earn? Who will handle registrations and deposits?
  6. If they collect the registration, how and when will you be paid?
  7. Have several samples of the project(s) you plan to teach.
  8. Have step-by-step hand-outs prepared for each project.
  9. How will the class be marketed? Will the facility help you by including your classes in their newsletter, blog, catalog, website, bulk mailing, etc.?
  10. Will you (or the facility) accept credit cards for registration? For optional purchases?
  11. How many students will your classroom accommodate?
  12. Are there sufficient electrical outlets to accommodate a kiln, heater(s) or dehydrator, tumbler?
  13. Have you given every consideration to safety?
  14. Will you have optional findings and components available to students? (Chains, ear wires, embeddable bails, bezels, gemstones, etc.)
  15. Does the facility have insurance to protect you and your students in the event of an injury or accident?
  16. Is the classroom well lit?
  17. Is there adequate ventilation for the kiln?
  18. If it is a one-day class is there somewhere to get lunch or should the students’ brown bag it?
This is just a starting point. The more you think about it, the longer your list will be. You can never be overly-prepared.

Creative blessings,

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