Monday, February 13, 2012

What did she say?

by Linda Kline
Director of Education

I just love it when I’m teaching and I hear someone say, “What did she say about ________.” (Fill in the blank.)

Of course, I know I’m the “she” they are talking about and I get tickled that they ask a fellow student instead of asking me. So, I listen intently to hear what the answer will be. And I’ve heard some whoppers!

I’m always curious why they don’t ask me. My theory is that they are embarrassed. Perhaps they weren’t paying attention when I was lecturing. Maybe they were busy talking to someone else. Maybe they were preoccupied with filing or fumbling with the tumbler. Maybe it’s just too overwhelming and too much to take in.

Above: Linda with students at the 2011 PMCC Retreat.

I’ve been teaching at Vero Beach Museum of Art since 2003. My classes are great fun. There’s so much going on in the classroom. In the back row I have students who have been with me for up to eight years, affectionately known as the “old timers.” Most of them hold advanced certifications and are exceptional artists. The middle row has students who haven’t been around quite as long, maybe 3 or 4 years. They haven’t been through certification yet but they are chomping at the bit to try new skills. Their work is amazing, original, and unique. And the front row is reserved for “newbies.” These students are just beginning their metal clay adventure. They are overwhelmed with all the new information, ideas, concepts, and possibilities.

The room is loud, noisy, and busy. There are 12 students, all with different skills and levels of accomplishment. The kiln is cranking; the tumbler churning; and there’s lots of chatter. No wonder some vital information occasionally falls through the cracks.

It’s a complex group to handle. But more often than not, instructors have students of varying experience in a class. More and more, this is the rule and not the exception.

Right: PMCC Sr. Instructor Marlynda Taylor and student.

Here are a few tips for managing a diverse group:

Take the lead, keep control of the group, and set standards and expectations.
First, I require everyone in keep a journal. I want to see images or drawings of designs that inspire them. If they don’t have a plan for their finished piece, they are not designing jewelry – they are making “stuff.” Given the cost of silver, everyone needs to focus on the big picture, the end result, creating with intention.

Give students a class outline so they know what to expect.
Tell them ahead of time what projects will be covered and what supplies they need to bring to class.

Prepare a glossary of terminology.
A bail is not that “sticking up thing.” Paste is not GLUE. Expect them to learn the lingo of the studio.

My personal preference: I insist that everyone take notes.

There are three basic types of learning styles -- visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. To learn, we depend on our senses to process the information around us. Most people tend to use one of their senses more than the others. By watching my demo, listening to my lecture, and then writing down what they have heard, I know students are reinforcing their various styles of processing new information.

Review concepts and engage students
At the beginning of each class, I reinforce what we covered the previous week by doing a quick review. I ask questions and except students to know the answers. If they don’t, I wait while they go back and review their notes and come up with the right information. In time, this process helps students become more self-sufficient. They process the information more completely and have it at their fingertips when they are working on their own, rather than waiting for someone to give them an answer.

What are your favorite teaching tips?

Creative Blessings,

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