Monday, September 12, 2011

What to Teach: Project or Technique

by Linda Kline
Director of Education

My last two posts have explored options for where to hold your classes. Considering many different opportunities -- community centers, colleges and schools, shops, galleries, and even your home -- it comes down to the basic premise that ‘one size does not fit all.’ You have to find the location that feels best and works best for you and your students. The same principle holds true for what to teach.

Some teachers like the approach of teaching a specific project with everyone making essentially, or with limited variation, the same project, i.e., a ring with pearl stem setting, a bezel set cabochon pendant, a multi-textured photopolymer plate bracelet. I think of this as the “clone” approach to teaching, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. There are a lot of pros and cons to this style of teaching.

If you have several students who are on the same proficiency level, this approach works great. You can easily control the group and keep everyone working along at the same pace with a goal of getting the kiln started in time to finish the project by the end of class. If, however, you have students who insist on marching to their own inner artist beat, it can throw the group into chaos. Now everyone wants to deviate from the plan and come up with an original concept – not bad if they have the skill to pull it off, not good if they don’t or if time is an issue, which it generally is.

What the student may fail to appreciate is the prep time we teachers have invested in our class. We step out our projects and have a fair estimation of how much time each step requires. We measure, allot for, and order the required amount of material and findings. We have written out the directions and prepared a project guide. In other words, we’ve done our homework and we’re prepared to teach the project as presented. We know what to anticipate. But we may not be prepared for a student going rouge.

If someone insists on “stepping off the page,” so to speak, encourage them to stick with the program. But if they simply can’t resist the urge to creatively run amuck, gently remind them that time is an issue and you want to see them complete their project and be happy with the results.

Teachers have to be part magician, part juggler, part psychic, and part psychologist. We have to be able to anticipate problems before they occur, and pull a rabbit out of our hat in a nano-second….all with ease, panache, and a smile on our faces. We have to keep the group organized, help anyone who is falling behind, watch the clock, mix up the liver of sulphur, and answer questions. In short, we make the impossible possible.

Next time, we’ll talk about some of the pros and cons associated with teaching techniques. Until then…

Creative blessings,

1 comment:

Roxanne Coffelt said...

I think a lot of people like to take a class for the project. I see a lot of project classes (like at the Bead & Button show, for example) and they are very popular. Personally, I like to take a class to learn a particular sill or technique. There's no reason why a class can't be both - a project that teaches a particular technique.