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#21 HappyPots

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 10:34 AM

Can anyone speak to the difference when giving private lessons?

I have been giving private classes (an hour and a half) once a week for quite a few weeks now (for adults). My teaching experience is minimal, as I had one other student for a few weeks (who was keen and enthusiastic), and now this student for several weeks. As she is the only student, and paying more for private classes, I try to let her lead the direction of the class. I know my throwing, and other techniques, so I thought it would be great. But her attitude is defeatist, and her patience is... low. She points to my own work in the studio and says that she wants to make that. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I'm having a hard time getting her to think for herself. And unfortunately, I can't hide everything I've ever made in the studio.

Any suggestions for building her confidence in this environment? I think her self-esteem is very low, and I feel a little bit more like a psychologist than a pottery teacher, at the end of the class! I think she might benefit from a little more structured teacher-student relationship, but I find this hard to maintain in a one-on-one situation. Any advice would be appreciated!

#22 OffCenter

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 01:27 PM

Can anyone speak to the difference when giving private lessons?

I have been giving private classes (an hour and a half) once a week for quite a few weeks now (for adults). My teaching experience is minimal, as I had one other student for a few weeks (who was keen and enthusiastic), and now this student for several weeks. As she is the only student, and paying more for private classes, I try to let her lead the direction of the class. I know my throwing, and other techniques, so I thought it would be great. But her attitude is defeatist, and her patience is... low. She points to my own work in the studio and says that she wants to make that. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I'm having a hard time getting her to think for herself. And unfortunately, I can't hide everything I've ever made in the studio.

Any suggestions for building her confidence in this environment? I think her self-esteem is very low, and I feel a little bit more like a psychologist than a pottery teacher, at the end of the class! I think she might benefit from a little more structured teacher-student relationship, but I find this hard to maintain in a one-on-one situation. Any advice would be appreciated!


You say she's been your student for several weeks but that's only several hours of class time if you only meet 1.5 hrs/week. She has just enough time to forget most of what she has learned by the next class. Copying is one way people learn. Since you don't have any pictures in your profile gallery, I don't know if your pots are worth copying or not, but there is nothing wrong with a beginning potter copying other potters. If she is intelligent and creative she will only use that as a way to grow and find her own way with clay. If she's not then who cares? Surely you aren't worried about people mistaking her pots for yours! Look at the stuff that comes out of Steven Hill workshops. Almost everyone tries to make Steven Hill pots. I assume he doesn't discourage it. After all, they are there to learn his techniques--not only throwing but using slip, spraying his glazes, and once-firing. But, no one who knows anything about pottery would ever mistake anything that comes out of those workshops for a Steven Hill pot.

Jim
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#23 HappyPots

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 12:24 PM


Can anyone speak to the difference when giving private lessons?

I have been giving private classes (an hour and a half) once a week for quite a few weeks now (for adults). My teaching experience is minimal, as I had one other student for a few weeks (who was keen and enthusiastic), and now this student for several weeks. As she is the only student, and paying more for private classes, I try to let her lead the direction of the class. I know my throwing, and other techniques, so I thought it would be great. But her attitude is defeatist, and her patience is... low. She points to my own work in the studio and says that she wants to make that. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I'm having a hard time getting her to think for herself. And unfortunately, I can't hide everything I've ever made in the studio.

Any suggestions for building her confidence in this environment? I think her self-esteem is very low, and I feel a little bit more like a psychologist than a pottery teacher, at the end of the class! I think she might benefit from a little more structured teacher-student relationship, but I find this hard to maintain in a one-on-one situation. Any advice would be appreciated!


You say she's been your student for several weeks but that's only several hours of class time if you only meet 1.5 hrs/week. She has just enough time to forget most of what she has learned by the next class. Copying is one way people learn. Since you don't have any pictures in your profile gallery, I don't know if your pots are worth copying or not, but there is nothing wrong with a beginning potter copying other potters. If she is intelligent and creative she will only use that as a way to grow and find her own way with clay. If she's not then who cares? Surely you aren't worried about people mistaking her pots for yours! Look at the stuff that comes out of Steven Hill workshops. Almost everyone tries to make Steven Hill pots. I assume he doesn't discourage it. After all, they are there to learn his techniques--not only throwing but using slip, spraying his glazes, and once-firing. But, no one who knows anything about pottery would ever mistake anything that comes out of those workshops for a Steven Hill pot.

Jim



Perhaps I didn't explain myself very well. I'm not worried about her copying my work. I was hoping for suggestions on how to boost her confidence when her current skill-set doesn't allow her to make the things that she wants. Because there are no other students in the class, she doesn't get to see that everyone struggles at the start, that it takes tons and tons of practice, and I think she feels discouraged. I wondered if other teachers found a difference in a one-on-one teaching environment, because the student has only the teacher to compare themselves to (despite how many times you remind them that you've been doing it for years). And if this might affect your teaching style, or the type of projects that you did with the student.


But I think I've figured a few things out, just discussing it "out loud." Thanks.

#24 Chantay

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 02:57 PM

My first pottery class, at a local college, was terrible. The class I'm taking now is so much better. In the first class the teacher offered very little instruction and minimal demonstrations. The class I'm taking now, beginning throwing, the teacher has a set schedule. Starts with cylinders, next bowls, etc.. She does several demos in each class. She also repeats, repeats, repeats instructions. The class is all adult, many older. I for one need the repeated instructions. My throwing has improved immensely after just the first two classes. She also allows room for experimentation and creativity. But this is a teacher who can teach good basics. Others in the class must like her. Most of the students are repeats.

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#25 TJR

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 05:18 PM

Happypots;
You have to make the class more structured. As the previous poster said, start with cylinders, then bowls etc. You don't mention whether this is a handbuilding class, or a throwing class.I always started my clay classes out with the basics-coil, pinch, slab. Then, if she gets frustrated on the wheel, she can go back to building by hand. Learning to throw is difficult, as you know. You make a good point about her being the only one in the class, so she doesn't see that others would feel just as frustrated.She cannot make your work until she learns the basics. Hang in there.
TJR.

#26 Idaho Potter

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 10:21 PM

Happypots,

I, like you, have given "private lessons" to adults, with a different take, however. If the student wants to learn ceramics, they start with handbuilding and work their way up. I remind them that getting work fired by someone else (other than in my studio) isn't all that easy. Most places feel more comfortable knowing the student has at least the fundamental basics under their belt. And I try to convince them that the first piece of equipment they need to buy is a kiln--not a wheel.

I have also had students who only wanted to learn wheel throwing techniques. My classes are three hours long (reality check--set up and clean up equal approx. 1/2 hour which is one-third of your alloted class time) plus the student can practice on their own for three hours a week as well. The classes (and the practice time) run for six weeks--no extensions. This is still only 36 hours total (providing they are motivated enough to practice). There are restrictions during class time. They do assigned work--cylinders, bowls, bigger cylinders, shaped cylinders, bigger bowls. If they practice, they can experiment as much as they like, but when they come back to class they do assigned work. Someone who took pottery in high school will advance more rapidly, but tossing a total newbie into wheel throwing without that background is a disservice to your student.

They need structure until they master centering, opening and repeated attempts at drawing up the clay into a viable form. Just as an untrained horse doesn't know what to do with that bit in their mouth, the newbie needs gentle, steady reinforcement so trust and confidence can grow. Rethink your method and maybe the time set aside for classes. When that student actually draws up a slightly wobbly cylinder and it doesn't collapse--their smile will light the whole studio. Once they feel they can throw well, I put more stumbling blocks in their way. They are expected to weigh the clay and make three whatevers of the same size and shape. No, I don't expect the outcome will be exact, but it is something that is important to working with pottery. They are also expected to draw what they intend to produce. No fancy drawing, jut a line drawing showing dimension measurements. These are not "rules" for teaching, they're my methods. I think they need goals--even if I have to set them.

If you are giving group lessons, invite your student in to see the progress of others (or maybe drop in to the community center to take a peek).

#27 Pres

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 10:20 AM

Happypots,

I, like you, have given "private lessons" to adults, with a different take, however. If the student wants to learn ceramics, they start with handbuilding and work their way up. I remind them that getting work fired by someone else (other than in my studio) isn't all that easy. Most places feel more comfortable knowing the student has at least the fundamental basics under their belt. And I try to convince them that the first piece of equipment they need to buy is a kiln--not a wheel.

I have also had students who only wanted to learn wheel throwing techniques. My classes are three hours long (reality check--set up and clean up equal approx. 1/2 hour which is one-third of your alloted class time) plus the student can practice on their own for three hours a week as well. The classes (and the practice time) run for six weeks--no extensions. This is still only 36 hours total (providing they are motivated enough to practice). There are restrictions during class time. They do assigned work--cylinders, bowls, bigger cylinders, shaped cylinders, bigger bowls. If they practice, they can experiment as much as they like, but when they come back to class they do assigned work. Someone who took pottery in high school will advance more rapidly, but tossing a total newbie into wheel throwing without that background is a disservice to your student.

They need structure until they master centering, opening and repeated attempts at drawing up the clay into a viable form. Just as an untrained horse doesn't know what to do with that bit in their mouth, the newbie needs gentle, steady reinforcement so trust and confidence can grow. Rethink your method and maybe the time set aside for classes. When that student actually draws up a slightly wobbly cylinder and it doesn't collapse--their smile will light the whole studio. Once they feel they can throw well, I put more stumbling blocks in their way. They are expected to weigh the clay and make three whatevers of the same size and shape. No, I don't expect the outcome will be exact, but it is something that is important to working with pottery. They are also expected to draw what they intend to produce. No fancy drawing, jut a line drawing showing dimension measurements. These are not "rules" for teaching, they're my methods. I think they need goals--even if I have to set them.

If you are giving group lessons, invite your student in to see the progress of others (or maybe drop in to the community center to take a peek).


Idaho, I like your take on the mixed bag doing the handbuilding and the throwing. I often would have students that had one thing in mind to do. It may have been a handbuilt pasta bowl, or making ceramic molding, or learning to make a teapot, or some other specialized project. I would always have them fill our a little survey 4X7 card with their contact info, their hobbies/interests, their experience with clay, and if there was anything they really wanted to accomplish in the class. This would lead to the types of demonstrations I did, and how the demonstrations would branch to specific types of projects. In the case of the molding the extruder, the handbuilt pasta bowl to hump or slump molds. I a student was interested in throwing, I would have a group that once I started the handbuilders, and had done a throwing demonstration of a cylinder form, would meet at the wheels those just beginning would get the hands on hands treatment. They were always taught to master the clay-pushing up and pushing down, a good preliminary to centering. Pressure with the hands, and bend of wrist/positions were reinforced constantly. More advanced students would often ask what was going wrong, why things weren't light enough, what caused ripples etc. These things I would explain and demonstrate corrections. Many times a student would complete a second plain cylinder after much work, and I would coax/help them shape it into a more interesting form with their input of what they wanted to do with it. Next have them repeat the same with the next cylinder.
I only ran classes the same as you, with no practice time-the studio was used during the week by my HS classes, and most of these folks couldn't/wouldn't come in after school. However, as I was there late most of the time some folks would ask and come in to work. The last class was a glazing day, and then folks would come in to pick up their work the following week. Towards the end, they begged to have an extra day where they picked up their work, got to see everyone's work and could talk about it-and party, I could not turn them down. We had great fun.

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#28 TJR

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Posted 13 February 2013 - 09:38 AM

Hey, there;
I taught Adult Pottery at the local city art gallery for eight years. I also taught kids classes on Saturday mornings. Taught Gifted and Talented drawing from 9-11, half hour break, then taught a clay class to 9,10 years olds, then taught a clay class to 5 and 6 year olds. So that was 5and a half hours of teaching on Saturdays, and 3 hours on Wednesdays. I was able to put myself through the after-degree Bachelor of Education program. I have now been teaching art full time for 27 years.
The thing with clay classes is that you have to have STRUCTURE.The class was 10 weeks. I had 14 students and only eight wheels. We started with hand building. Pinch and coil one week, slab the next.My theory was that if you weren't successful throwing, then you could go back to hand building. When teaching throwing, I would demonstrate, get the students going, and then leave the room for 15 minutes. When I came back, I would demonstrate again.and the students were WAY more attentive for the second demo.
I always had a syllabus -centreing, cylinders, mugs and jugs with handles, lids,bowls, plates, glazing and decorating, and then some catch up time.
The adult classes were three hours, allowing 30 minutes at the end for clean-up. There was a technician to load kilns and mix glazes, which was great for me. We fired to cone 6.
After I started teaching high school, I couldn't do the evening and week-end classes. It was just too much. I really enjoyed my time there.
TJR.

#29 clay lover

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 09:01 PM

I found a planter that I just love the shape of and I'm going to ask the instructor to walk/teach me thru throwing that particular shape. I'm hoping that if I ask, the instruction will be better. Wish me luck and I'm having fun, regardless. Who can't have fun mucking about in mud? LOL! :Dsrc="http://ceramicartsda...t/biggrin.gif">



"fun mucking about in mud" Say that 5 times fast. ::Psrc="http://ceramicartsda...lt/tongue.gif">

#30 AtomicAxe

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 12:18 PM

When I would teach adults I almost never did private classes. Most of the time it would be myself watching them work, and the times I did do some private classes was something really specific like working side by side for a few hours on something like how to sculpt a bust from a live model or something equally as 1-on-1 needed.

Generally I always preferred group settings, and would frequently encourage it with a group of 4 or more taking class time together getting a discount. It would give the adults learning in my studio support from friends who would also let them feed off each others creativity and energy even if they don't have the same proficiency in the medium. I had wheel throwing only classes, never really mixed since it was hard to split teaching time between wheel and handbuilding but would still encourage those wanting to throw on the wheel to learn the basics of hand building often letting them come the next day as well to hand building to get some dedicated time doing it.

I remember one time I did the couples clay class, which was a friday night and would have some wine and snacks for the couples to nosh on while they work. Largely it was hands off and would only be there for a few occasional questions while they hand built. pretty easy night too, they hand built, then would slip paint their wares and I would fire the work for them clear glaze it and it would be ready in a week.

Nothing beats the saturday morning kids class though ... adults sometimes do not appreciate stupid jokes but kids love dumb jokes and a snack time.

#31 derp

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Posted 02 April 2013 - 02:10 AM

Happypots;
You have to make the class more structured. As the previous poster said, start with cylinders, then bowls etc. You don't mention whether this is a handbuilding class, or a throwing class.I always started my clay classes out with the basics-coil, pinch, slab. Then, if she gets frustrated on the wheel, she can go back to building by hand. Learning to throw is difficult, as you know. You make a good point about her being the only one in the class, so she doesn't see that others would feel just as frustrated.She cannot make your work until she learns the basics. Hang in there.
TJR.


Agree with that. I am also a student and young adult student and though not so experienced to say do like that but the idea was quite good so i will like to go with this poster.

#32 Wyndham

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Posted 19 July 2013 - 01:18 PM

I'm a little late for the discussion but thought I'd jump in for a moment

 

I think I see something slightly overlooked in this teaching clay thread. It is something that became very apparant when I took my first classes in clay, some 27 years ago.

It takes time for people who have never worked with clay to get the muscle memory to work with clay. Of the few people that I have assisted in learning to turn, it was obovious they had not spent enough time with the wheel or slab or coil to feel comfortable with the clay. It takes time and a few hours a week is not enough to develop these skills in a quick  mannor.

I remember how sore my muscles were at first, how tired my hands and wrist were.

 

I know that even now after turning some larger pieces I have to work with smaller light pieces because my hands and arms are starting to get tired.

I also know that my hands get tired before my brain knows I'm tired and I messup some pieces before I tell myself to stop and take a break or quit for the day.

 

Youtube is one of the great teaching aids we can have. Youtube allows students to see how other potters work, how they center and how they,position themselves, etc.

This allows the students to absorb visually what is hard to transmitt verbally.

 

As much fun and pleasure clay can bring, the fact is, it's hard work. I think some beginning students and not aware of the physical demands of learning pottery and lose motivation to dig deeper.

 

Just my 2 cents and change

Wyndham



#33 oldlady

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Posted 20 July 2013 - 07:06 PM

and many of them start with clay that is too hard and are constantly frustrated without knowing it is not their fault.  it is too easy to blame yourself.


"putting you down does not raise me up."

#34 ChenowethArts

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 08:55 AM

I am a perpetual student in the clay classes on my college campus...it is a perk for staff to be able to take classes, tuition free, so I have 21+ hours of clay course credit under my belt.  Here are some of my observations (in no particular order):

  1. Advanced (or adult) students will do better work when they begin each semester with a 'Project Proposal' that includes specific goals, milestones, and outcomes.  When the instructor and student agree/negotiate this proposal successfully, both have a better understanding of the direction(s) needed.
  2. Cohort critiques provide learning opportunities beyond that of the instructor-student critique.  Learning how to give and receive constructive criticism deepens the experience.  And, having a critique session over potluck appetizers and a glass of wine is something worth trying!
  3. With most adult learners, the course is not about the final grade, but more about what can be learned.  I have witnessed this 'rubbing off" onto undergraduate clay students when adult learners happen to meet/work at the same time/place as the younger students.
  4. Some of my best experiences in class came from group discussions involving our sketchbooks. I have been in classes where sketching is required and some where sketching is ignored.  I favor the exercise of sketching project ideas and discussing those ideas with a group.  Inevitably, there are things we learn from each other as well as having the benefit of hearing the instructors comments for all.

I'm sure there is more...


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#35 Pres

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 10:41 PM

I taught adult classes for a few of my later years. I would not consider one on one classes, as I believe that most students learn faster/better when surrounded by other folks to feed off of. Discussion during class while working, loading and unloading kilns together talking about what we see as it goes in or comes out is paramount. Seeing other folks working on different ideas helps to build enthusiasm and confidence. At the same time it encourages one to jump out of their comfort zones when they see others on the wheel struggling, and some succeeding. No one stand out, because they all have strengths. No I really would not consider a one on one class situation.


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#36 Stellaria

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Posted 29 March 2014 - 09:21 AM

I've only been working with clay as an adult for about 7 months, starting with an open studio type class in September. I came to that with the experience of three high school ceramics classes taken 20-some years prior.

My expectations of the open studio did not match reality, as I didn't quite realize how much I did know already, how much other beginners DIDN'T know, and how much of the instructor's time would be taken up by the participants with zero experience. I figured we'd be getting more demonstrations each session, but the format was geared more toward just making what you want to make. It was really up to me, being more determined to learn a specific skill (wheel,) to research techniques and just get in and practice.

When I was in high school, I was allowed to "fall back" on hand building when throwing didn't come easily. That kind of makes me mad now. Throwing ISN'T EASY, and I wish someone had pushed me a little harder then. The only part of that experience that I am grateful for now is that it gave me some drive to not just give up and take the easy route this time around. Yeah, I could be making press-molded slab plates like everyone else in my open studio group, but that's not the pieces I want. But I'm the one that has to push myself to get the practice in, because our instructor won't do that.

I do rely on YouTube almost exclusively for learning techniques, troubleshooting, and learning new forms. It's not a bad thing. I watch videos on single subjects from a variety of potters, and play around to see what works best for me. In that way, I was able to set my own "curriculum" while still creating functional ware that I didn't have to just pitch out because I wasn't "getting" everything all at once. For example, I tried trimming a pot the second week of class, and felt WAY too fumbly and unconfident. It ruined an otherwise decent piece, so I was pleased to find a few videos on trimming pieces while still on the bat, and fettling/thumbing off flat-bottomed pieces. I did that while I worked on getting my cylinders decent, and used those pieces to work through glaze experiments, so by the time I was throwing nicer pieces that I *wanted* to trim, I had the confidence to give it a shot and was also not ruining the pieces with ugly glaze combos. But I had to decide all that. If I had just run with the pack of beginners, I'd have had to suffer through the pinch pots and fish-shaped serving trays, and might never have gotten onto the path I wanted to be on.

#37 Pres

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Posted 29 March 2014 - 09:36 AM

I believe that your experience with the "open studio" was the result of a poor or inexperienced teacher. It could also be that it was meant to be an open studio, with the coordinator/teacher there as a resource person for anyone that needed/wanted help.  When I ran my adult classes, it was an open studio style, but I made regular demonstrations at the beginning at each session. I also started the first day off with demonstrations of each type of equipment in the studio and what they would do in relation to making pottery. This would include slab roller for slabs, extruder for extrusions, and the potters wheel. First day not a whole lot got done by the folks there, but by the end of the day everyone had an idea where they wanted to go. I also had set up my demos so that I could quickly assemble a piece showing and discussing the process of assembly, and the characteristics of the type of form. Most everyone worked on the wheel, and I would be going  back and forth between the wheel throwers and handbuilders every day. This made the day very busy, and exhausting, but the folks really had a chance to progress in their skills. In the years that I taught the class it filled up early in the Fall, and the last year I taught a double session, morning and afternoon as I knew I was leaving. Most of the time people that took the first class 10 years earlier were still in it when I left.


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#38 Stellaria

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Posted 29 March 2014 - 09:45 AM

I think it was more that he wasn't prepared for the sheer volume of beginners that happened to be in that session. I'm sure his format works spectacularly when there's a couple beginners and 4-6 more experienced participants....but we had 6 beginners, and about half did not catch on to much of anything very quickly and required constant babysitting. One of the pitfalls of running an "any experience level" group, I suppose.

#39 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 30 March 2014 - 08:45 AM

Learning to throw does take a lot of practise. AN instructor can only do so much. I'd say it takes hours /week of practice to get it. Michael Cardew said it takes 7 years before the level of mastering the skill. It is like playing a musical instrument. It takes focus and practice.

 

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#40 JBaymore

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Posted 30 March 2014 - 09:46 AM

I believe that your experience with the "open studio" was the result of a poor or inexperienced teacher. It could also be that it was meant to be an open studio, with the coordinator/teacher there as a resource person for anyone that needed/wanted help. 

 

When I teach my "Open Studio" Adult Education classes (no beginners allowed), right off the top I ask the students to each give me a plan of exactly what they want to take away from the time spent there by the end of the semester.  Then I try my best to make sure that I've hit each of their individual goals with them.  As Pres mentions... in the Open format, it is exhausting.

 

Mixing people who have no or almost no experience with people who are more intermediate and up in a single class is NOT something that I'd take on.  Poor management of the general curriculum.  Beginners require a LOT of TLC to get them off the ground well.  Short-changes the others in a mixed setting.

 

best,

 

................john


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