In another lifetime, I was a personal growth instructor. I partnered with a male instructor and we facilitated a weekend course . . . creating a better life for yourself. Each student completed an information sheet before the first night of the class. Often, students would walk in to the course room in a ‘state’ - ready to share all and get moving. As instructors, we recognized that the course had begun several days earlier.
As a metal clay arts instructor, I have seen similar moments many times. Sometimes, when a first-time student begins to entertain the idea of taking a class, they will say to me “Do I have to be artsy/an artist/talented/creative?” My first response is, “You are creative everyday! When you prepare meals; pick out your clothes; manage the household; go to work; handle the bills . . . those are all moments when you are being creative with your time and resources. This class will provide you a new medium for your creative energy.”
Students have walked into a class and burst into tears, exclaiming that they “ . . . are not artistic at all.” Recently, a student nearly dropped the class, sharing that they had been up the night before in a state of anxiety about performing well. Let the teaching begin!
As instructors, our job is part technician and part coach, mixed with a heavy dose of love and compassion. Metal clay art is not ‘easy’ for everyone and it is down right scary to some. It serves a student well if I am empathetic to those fears and coach them through those moments. As a result, I take a very experiential and developmental approach to my teaching. I see each artist as an individual and avoid being so committed to my curriculum that I miss someone’s challenges.
As a ‘coach’, technician and person of love and compassion my first responsibility is to set the stage for the best experience as possible. That requires knowing my craft, preparing for class, and being fully present for each student. And with some students, it means noticing all of the creative baggage they carry into my class and helping them shed it – a little teaching begins before the bell rings.
by Delia Marsellos-Traister