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Poor Instruction And The Cost


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#1 Chantay

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 04:42 AM

My developing skill in pottery has inspired a friend to take a class with me at the local pottery studio.  My past instructor left the studio so we took a class with an older woman who is said to have great skill and knowledge.  The woman is unstable, weird, and sometimes out right mean.  I feel very badly for my friend who spent near $400 for the class and supplies. I will give the instructor credit for being very knowledgable but she is unpleasant and my friend is not getting what she paid for.  I want to speak to the stafff running the organization about this issue. (nonprofit) I'm just not sure what to say.  Many in the class feel the same way but do not want to speak out.  I feel being a lone voice on the issue will look as if I'm just whinning.  We don't plan to take another class with this woman but I hate to see others waste their money. Advice would be greatly appreciated.

 

 


- chantay

#2 wiesel

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 07:43 AM

I would speak to your friend and see if you can submit a written complaint together.

 

Sorry you all had bad experience. But I would voice your concerns to prevent others wasting their money too.



#3 Pres

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 10:39 AM

I agree that a joint complaint may hold more weight in the decision of the admins on future classes. Unfortunately, great skill and knowledge do not always mean a great or good teacher. It does take a special type to teach, one who can organize well, speak well to groups in a coherent manner, be able to complete successful demonstrations in reasonable time and so much more. However, without a special ingredient some might call heart, or soul, or caring, or something I can't really describe the others mean nothing.


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#4 Arnold Howard

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 11:23 AM

If your friend is learning a lot, maybe he or she should continue to take classes and ignore the instructor's poor people skills. Try to learn as much as possible for the $400. Ask questions. I went through a similar situation many years ago. One of my karate instructors yelled and treated students like they were in Army boot camp. He was quite unpopular. Later he was killed while on duty as a policeman.

 

Looking back, I realize that the teacher did his best to create tough students who could defend themselves and their loved ones. His people skills were lacking, but perhaps he had good intentions. Maybe the pottery teacher is doing her best to share information in spite of her people skills.

 

Sincerely,

 

Arnold Howard

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#5 S. Dean

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 11:28 AM

The studio should have a vested interest in receiving feedback about your experience with the teacher.  After all, their programs will suffer if they continue to offer poor instruction (both from having students drop out/not advance to continuing courses or from getting a reputation of providing poor instruction/value).  Good for you for being willing to voice your concerns and making sure that others don't have the same experience.  

 

The difference between appearing to be a whiner and someone offering constructive feedback is often a matter of presentation/word choice.  Information that is presented in an objective, neutral and fact based manner tends to be well received.  Information that uses subjective emotionally charged conclusions is not really helpful and can be easily disregarded as "whining", which is something you admittedly want to avoid.  Complaining that the new instructor is "weird" or "unstable" or "mean" (or even not like my prior teacher) doesn't give the studio useful information to assess what's going on in the classroom.  If you provide examples of specific instances of the teacher's behavior and the effect that it had on you, your friend and other students, it takes your comments out of the personal realm and lays the foundation for the studio to agree with your concerns that this teacher creates a bad classroom environment for beginning students.  

 

In your feedback, it would be good to acknowledge her strong points (knowledge and skills).  Again, this makes it seem like you are neutral and not making it a personal attack on the teacher.  If you think it's appropriate, suggest that this teacher would be a better match for advanced students.  You could then, if true and appropriate, slide in that students who are more confident in their skills and abilities are in a better position to handle a "more unstructured" (instead of "unstable") and "critical" (instead of "mean") classroom environment of this teacher and benefit from her skills and knowledge. While reinforcing your concerns about the teacher, you have offered the studio a possible solution.

 

There was a good suggestion to put this in writing.  Write down your concerns and then have a neutral third party make sure you are conveying the information in a helpful tone and manner. By doing so, it allows you to consider the message, control the content and remove any emotionally charged terms or unsupported conclusions. 

 

 

Lastly (although it is really the first thing you should do), determine whether this is a battle worth fighting.  If this studio is truly disinterested in receiving feedback, then it does't matter how well you explain your concerns.   If they keep poor instructors despite historically bad reviews/are known for disregarding constructive criticism, then don't waste your time.  However, when in doubt, err on the side of assuming that they want they want to hear from you.

 

Good luck, this is never fun. 

 

-SD



#6 Chris Campbell

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 11:31 AM

You seem to feel guilty about your friend wasting her money, but you don't mention anything about the friend wanting to complain.
It would be quite normal for beginning students to feel discouraged in their first session with a grumpy yet knowledgeable teacher. But the reverse is terrible too ... A really nice teacher who passes on false info. If I had to pick, I'd take the grump who knows what they are talking about.

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#7 jolieo

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 12:32 PM

Hi,
I would like to put my two cents in. I believe that even colleges offer reimbursement if one cancels early enough. That being said , this class is not credit situation, but a learning for pleasure situation . Which puts it squarely in the commercial sector . I believe that if one pays for something one should be happy with the quality of the experience or be able to return it. Places of business that do not follow this policy end up with very little return business, especially in the current economic climate.
If your friend is truly dissatisfied , and not you being overly sensitive, she could try expressing her unhappiness without putting to fine a point on it. If they are concerned about what made her unhappy , they could inquire. I would not try to warn off futur student or the staff. I would only talk about myself or in your friends case , herself.
I feel that the point is not necessarily about the teacher , but more about an expensive class. If I spent that kind of money on a beginner's class, I would want to feel comfortable and encouraged. If I didn't I would ask for my money back or at least a credit. If I was in a more advanced class I might tolerate a certain amount of abuse in return for a larger knowledge base. I might not get on with the teacher, but I would be able to recognize the teacher's insights. As a beginner , I would not have the judgement to see over my conflicting discomfort so a teacher who was apathetic or hostile would be at cross purposes.
Jolie

#8 mregecko

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 02:36 PM

On a personal level, I do not respond well to teachers / professors (or anyone for that matter) that are pointlessly mean, rude, belittling, un-encouraging, or whatever.

 

I had one in college. He was rude and abusive of the students. I stood up to him. Not belligerently, but I just wouldn't stand being yelled at or called stupid by anyone. The administration decided it was better for both of us if I just took the class from someone else.

 

I guess my point is... As adults, especially ones who are paying for a service, we have the right to be treated with respect. Standing up for yourself and demanding that the antagonist stop is 100% within your rights. Regardless of prestige, knowledge, skill, experience, or whatever.

 

So the next time something happens, confront the instructor. You don't have to be aggressive or rude, but it's fine to say "You shouldn't treat people this way."

 

If the instructor objects, what's the worst that happens? They ask you to leave and refund your money? They certainly won't just kick you out without a refund.

 

The best that happens is the instructor realizes they're being a ########, apologizes, and tries to do better.

 

My $0.02.

-- M

 

Edit: Really? J-E-R_K is censored?



#9 Mart

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 03:16 PM

What stops you asking her to "dial down the crazy?" I bet you 2 get along a lot better after that.

#10 GEP

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 04:08 PM

chantay, one question I'd ask you .... this instructor was said to have "great skill and knowledge," is her class meant for beginners? If her class is not for beginners, she might be feeling stressed about having to cover beginner topics, while the rest of her students are expecting something more advanced.

My advice for you (being a teacher of adults myself) ... the first thing you should do is talk to the teacher, like adults.
Mea Rhee
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#11 Chantay

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 07:45 PM

Thanks to everyone that responded here.  The suggestions were really just what I needed.  I don't translate thoughts into words well and am afraid of saying the wrong thing in this situation.  I see now where I need to use more concrete issues when discussing the problems with this instructor and class. (thanks SD)  My friend is also not happy with the class but we both want to continue taking classes at the studio with another instructor.  The class is labled as beginner though my friend is the only true beginner.  I thought that would translate into my friend recieving some individual attention.  NOT.  The woman did one demo on centering, opening, and pulling up.  My friend says thank goodness for you tube.  Other than the lack of instruction for my friend the woman becomes rude and arrogant if she does not recieve 100% of everyones attention everytime she opens her mouth.  If your in the middle of something you must stop or she litteraly has a hissy fit.  She also acts very passive-aggressive by offering what are suppose to be helpful comments.  "don't you think that handle is to big?" - this after the item is made and fired and she watched you the whole time.  If I could just ignore her and sit and throw clay I wouldn't be bothered but she demands attention three and four times during the class to "show" everyone something.  The less she likes someone, the more "attention" you get.  So I will write a carefully worded letter.  I don't think the studio realizes the situation.  I cautiously spoke with several other students to see if they would be taking her class again.  The comment that her's was the only day they had available was the common answer. 

 

Thanks again for the advice.


- chantay

#12 Chris Campbell

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 10:25 PM

"Other than the lack of instruction for my friend the woman becomes rude and arrogant if she does not recieve 100% of everyones attention everytime she opens her mouth. If your in the middle of something you must stop or she litteraly has a hissy fit."

You cannot complain about 'lack of instruction' and her wanting your attention every time she speaks in the same sentence. How else can she instruct other than by speaking to people who are listening?

"She also acts very passive-aggressive by offering what are suppose to be helpful comments. "don't you think that handle is to big?"

This is called a critique ... Asking you to look at your form to see if it was successful. If you take the time to look at it and ask her questions your next one will be better.

It is very frustrating to try to teach people who are too busy to listen ... Then they will flat out tell you that you never taught it.
Been there.

Chris Campbell
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#13 yedrow

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 12:38 AM

Sadly, teaching is both a talent and a skill. Without sufficient amounts of both it will be done poorly. Some people seriously have weird ideas about teaching. One of the most common of the weird ideas I've encountered is the idea that bullying is a teaching style. Don't let her bully you. Bullies often depend upon convincing others that they themselves will suffer if they are called out about their behavior. This is just a deception. If this woman is bullying you and your classmates you should inform her superiors. Bullying an artist is flat out one of the dumbest things I've experienced people doing. The worst bullying that I've experienced outside of high school has been done by potters. I just don't get this. It's like they think we live in the fifteenth century.

 

Joel.



#14 GEP

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 10:26 AM

I want to add some more thoughts from a teacher's point of view. Although my experience with teaching adults was mostly positive, I am leaving my teaching job in a few weeks because it strains my schedule too much. And the amount of pay does not justify the time spent. And I know several former pottery teachers who did not enjoy the experience at all. "The art center was very bureaucratic" and "I hated the students" are the common conclusions. I believe many of these jobs are not very rewarding.

As much as I enjoyed my students, they tried my patience plenty of times. When people talk while I'm trying to give a demo, it is really exasperating. My students are mostly NOT prone to doing that, but it still bugs me when it happens. (I once had a student who WAS prone to that ... ugh!) In other words, I can relate to a teacher who throws a hissy fit about this, especially if it happens to her a lot.

There were a few students along the way who I disliked intensely. Most if them only took my class once, and probably think I was an unreasonable person.

When it comes to teaching adults, no pottery teacher can be the "right" teacher for everyone. Teachers have the right to their own style, opinions, personality. If you meet one who doesn't fit yours, just move on. There's no tenure or union for these teachers, if their classes don't fill up, they get cancelled. Just vote with your dollars.
Mea Rhee
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#15 oldlady

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 01:34 PM

never having been a teacher but often a student, have you considered just a few things that have not been mentioned?

 

you mention the age of the teacher being different from yours.  her idea of respect for teachers was formed years ago when students were less distracted and were expected to focus on what is being taught.  she may feel that you students do not respect her so her annoyance turns to what you call hissy fit.  

 

are the students talking to each other during the class and trying to "help" one another, contradicting what she has said?  is there constant murmuring going on in the background so she cannot even concentrate?  what younger students consider normal sounds in the background are called noise and inattention by those older people who may even have a hearing problem you do not understand.

 

there is a trend today that seems to be everywhere, ads on tv, written stuff in the papers, movies all seem to show older people as unnecessary and useless.  is that attitude something your teacher feels from the class?

 

a little empathy might help.


"putting you down does not raise me up."

#16 clay lover

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 01:54 PM

in my classes, if you are on a cell phone doing ANYTHING, you get your money back and shown the door. It is clearly stated before you make payment, and there are no exceptions. REALLY PISSES ME OFF that someone can't give me the courtesy of their attention for the duration of class, not to mention how disrespectful it is of others in class.
I'm wondering what the hissy fit entails? Describe what she says.

#17 Babs

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Posted 26 November 2013 - 08:10 PM

Reading all of these posts, I feel that you had expectations for you and your friend which may have been at odds with the outcomes of the programme offered.

Thinking that a beginner would automatically be given more one to one attention is not a given.

Pulling the group together 3-4 times a session is efficient time use by the teacher, and waiting for the whole group to assemble, some at their leisure, is an ineffiicient use of class time. It is not unreasonable to have a hissy if people are wasting group time be it fininshing a conversation or piece of work, important only to you..

Perhaps trying, as adult students, to understand the complexities of teaching a group of students with different needs and expectations may ease some of your unrest.

Dialogue with your teacher is the starting place. Otherwise she may never know of your disquiet or needs not met.

Is it a general pottery class or a class with a defined programme? 

Content good, delivery not quite what you expected, take what you can from her experience and knowledge and leave the rest in her head.

Blaming the teacher is too common practice



#18 jrgpots

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 03:05 AM

I have been told I am a blunt doctor that gives patients what they need, not what they want. People get very grumpy when they don't get what they want.

Make sure you know what you need in a teacher as compared to what you want. If you are able to separate the "need" from the "want", you can better articulate what needs are not being met in the instruction. The "wants" are just the frosting on the cake.

Jed

#19 Wyndham

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 10:48 AM

Ok, here's the course of study, throwing hand grenades. If you pay attention and do as I instruct, you will not only learn to throw a hand grenade but live through this experience(army 101).

 

What about marathon runners, is it a commitment or a social thing?

 

Most potters are intensely committed to their craft and expect others that want to learn to have that commitment.

This is my livelihood, my passion and joy. If you don't understand that this is a real profession, then form a knitting circle and have a social life.

From time to time I have people come into my shop and comment to one another, "What a nice hobby", without considering what I or any potter puts in to make the simplest of forms appear effortlessly made and at a modest price.

 

When I teach, it's a one to one situation and I expect 100% attention and respect. Since each person who teaches, teaches differently, the  people that have done the best in learning pottery, are taught from potters that expected outstanding results from every student.

 

The student needs to become the clay to be formed into the potter they aspire to be. If the clay has to be wedged, why shouldn't you.

Just 2 cents and change.

Wyndham



#20 Mudslinger Ceramics

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Posted 27 November 2013 - 06:36 PM

 I have pottery experience but took social classes with a friend, at a community college because I had no studio at the time......I did not need the teacher's attention other than some questions about glaze or firings so that I could fit my making into the accepted practices, I focussed on hand building at the time.

 

By the end of the first 3 or so classes I did not like this man at all......although an excellent thrower he only ever sat at the wheel 'demonstrating', he smelled of old red wine at 11am, told stories and dropped 'names' at every instance, sleazed at the younger women while re-enacting pottery scenes from 'Ghost' and avoided giving time or attention to other students including the quadraplegia disability student whose marvelous carer built her forms for her as she instructed him.....I knew this because I was at the same table as these students and helped out ocaissionally with their questions after he told them he would speak to them 'later'.

 

There were many quietly spoken comments and complaints in the room about the behaviour but nobody complained because they were 'frightened' of the possible outcomes or didn't want to be seen as complainers. My friend, a male and interested in learning to throw, acknowleged the behaviour but was the one of the teacher's favourites because of his eagerness to learn throwing. I was looking around for my own studio at the time so I so was not going to 'get involved' but was very unimpressed.

 

During session 11 while walking back into the building I saw a small sign at the top corner of the notice board outlining the centre's complaints and quality improvement policies......without a moment's pause I took down the sign and walked with it into the administration office and had that 'neutral' conversation that S. Dean outlined above.....came back to the table and told the others that if they were not satisfied then step up and speak up.....2 got up immediately heading for admin.  Sometimes it just takes one person to act first.....

 

By the end of session 12 the teacher was announcing to the class that someone had complained about him (while looking at me) and that he was being transferred to the advanced throwers class and a new teacher would start the next 12 week term......which in truth was a good outcome for us and him really!!

 

Chantay.....you are the person in that class seeing and hearing the teacher, we are not, if you think she is genuinely 'unstable, weird, and sometimes out right mean' then step up and speak up ......sometimes it just takes one person to act first....

 

Let us know how it goes

 

Irene


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It will stick with you and show up for better or for worse in spite of all you or anyone else can do.'

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