Questions I Ask Myself about Teaching

I’m getting a lot of invitations to teach one-day and even half-day classes and I can’t decide what to do about them. It seems to me that there are plenty of quick project-oriented classes and tutorials around already. I can teach short classes and people enjoy them, but what really satisfies me is helping people fill in gaps in their skills and understanding so that they can become better artists.

I feel this is my real strength as a teacher. I love to develop new techniques and share them with others but when I teach the techniques they are secondary to this broader goal. Similarly, I view projects as a way to put learning into practice, not as objectives in themselves.

There aren’t many opportunities for this kind of teaching in the polymer clay world. It is the kind of teaching one would expect to find in an art school, but art schools have yet to embrace polymer clay in their curricula.  Since each of us has been exposed to a different array of classes, tutorials and workshops in our journeys with polymer clay we lack a common ground of knowledge and skills. As a teacher, my way of dealing with this diversity is to keep my classes small, to try to understand what each student knows and doesn’t know, and to go from there. This takes time.

I believe many polymer clayers would enjoy and benefit from this type of instruction; however, the trend is toward shorter classes, especially at conferences.  My dilemma is whether to go with the trend or use my energies to develop another option, as I’ve done with my 6-day workshops. Right now, I’m trying to do both.

Addendum:  I think it would be great if there were a series of classes that ensured students would have specific knowledge and skills to serve as basis for future learning.  The classes could be taught by different teachers all around the country but they would have a common curriculum.

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