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flowerdry

Hobby Potter Teaching Others.

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I would really appreciate some honest opinions from this group.

 

First, I need to give you some background about myself.   In the 80's I had a year of community college ceramics and spent about 2 years potting on my own.  About 5 yrs ago, I rediscovered clay and began to take continuous (wheel) lessons up until about 1 yr ago w/ 1 teacher at a small community based art center. This instructor was very rigid, not a very good teacher, and not a professional potter.   I augmented this training with some classes at a larger, more urban art center with excellent teachers and have done some 2 - 3 day workshops, and a week at John Campbell.  I bought my own wheel, and have a kiln although these have had limited use since I need to set up a studio. I consider myself a fairly good hobby potter with lots yet to learn.   I am not a teacher and have no formal art training other than my pottery.  I do have a fair amount of teaching experience, and have been told throughout my life that I am a natural teacher.

 

There is a fairly new small non-profit art center in the area that has been trying to set up a clay program.  I have stepped up and agreed to partially fund the start up and basically volunteer my services (gas money only) as a beginning wheel teacher.  I'd just like there to be an inexpensive place for people to enjoy themselves and play with clay.  If they discover they like working with clay, then they should go elsewhere to continue training with a "real" potter/teacher, which will be farther to drive and more expensive.

 

I recently had a potter friend tell me that I am doing these (potential) students a disservice because I don't really know how to throw since I had poor instruction from the beginning, and will pass on "bad habits".

 

I haven't figured out how to put images in my gallery so I've attached some examples of my work.

 

Opinions....thoughts?

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It looks like you know how to throw to me.  You have some very nice wares.

 

I had formal educator training.  I got a degree, and got my first teaching job, where Ceramics was one of the main courses I taught.

I love ceramics, which is somewhat obvious, as I am posting here.  But when I started teaching my first Ceramics class, I still had a lot to learn.  I knew coiling, slab building, throwing and how to glaze.  But my experience was limited to the one Ceramics course I took in college.  And the thing is, in order to get my degree, I did not even need to take a Ceramics class.  I needed a couple three-dimensional classes, but Ceramics itself wasn't required. 

But despite my lack of an extensive expertise, I had a passion for teaching the content.  I learned how to use the kiln, including setting up a nice little bisque program.  I made a glaze example tile board, as there wasn't one before.  And most importantly, I encouraged students of all levels to take the class, and many did. 

 

There is the often repeated saying, that teachers like to use, "Teaching, pretending to be an expert on something you learned this morning". 

And honestly, it's half true.  Students of any age, expect that they can look to the instructor for anything.  You have to put on that front, that you do indeed know what you are talking about.  I'm not saying that you should lie to them.  But going into a class/ lesson, you should have enough information to get a good start.  When questions arise, look up the answer when you have a free moment.  Be honest with the students by saying something like, "That's a good question, I've never dealt with that before", or something of the like.  Over time, there will be less and less questions, that you don't know the answer to.

 

It's been a little while since that first class, and I've gotten a lot better at both the skills associated with making ceramics, and those associated for teaching it to others. 

 

If you are passionate about teaching, and willing to put the time in to get better at doing so, you shouldn't let anyone hold you back.

Pres and Stephen like this

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Your work is not that bad that you would do a disservice. That is ridiculous to say, if students under your instruction gets excited and into clay and then pass you up great! You may want to direct them to other places of study or if they can't move from the area or afford workshops and other opportunities for learning then at least they have a place to work. The Archie Bray foundations motto is  "A Good Place to Work".. If a community place can offer any opportunity to work then it is still an opportunity and a service and again certainly not a disservice. I think its great you are volunteering your time and I bet people around you are happy you are a giving person. If they start paying you for teaching and you feel bad about it, tell them to advertise the position and see if someone else wants to step up to bat. Its a team effort building a community program. The cool thing about students passing you up is you are also growing and learning and can grow and learn with them! Its a great path to travel together and not get petty. Keep pushing yourself to learn and grow both on and off the wheel! Have fun!!

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I've always had the attitude that there is something to be learned every day. As to students surpassing their teachers-I would hope that that would happen. If it does, what better tribute to the teacher?

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As long as you don't call everything you do a "Rule" ... Go for it and have fun.

 

Mel Jacobsen, a Minnesota potter, often tells the story of how he was 'volunteered' to coach the Dive team at the high school where he taught Ceramics. Never dove himself, but coached them to several victories! He just had to stay a day ahead of them.

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 As to students surpassing their teachers-I would hope that that would happen. If it does, what better tribute to the teacher?

 

In my studys of the martial art of Iaido, it is talked about that unless the students eventually become at least as good as the master.... then the art is slowly dying.  It will only move backwards.  It is SO very true in just about everything in life.

 

best,

 

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

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Seems to me that throwing is fairly individual, with variations in technique from East to West and region to region. If your skills produce the results I'm seeing here, you should be fine.

 

Funny thing, I read your thread title as 'Hobbit Potter teaching others'. I was about to sign up....

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There is story of a young man who wanted to be wise, so he climbed a mountain to seek the wisdom of the wise man who lived at its top. The wise man took a whip and chased him down the mountain.

 

Beaten, and realizing that he may never find wisdom, he became a hermit in the deep woods, where he grew old.

 

One day a young man knocked on the old man's door asking that the old man tell him the meaning of life, for the young man had heard the old was very wise.

 

The old man picked up a whip and chased the young man out of his woods.

 

 

Bottom line… Teach what you know. Learn what you don't, then share.

 

Jed

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It's amazing how much you learn about your art and yourself when teaching others. Your passion for your art and your willingness to share that with others goes  a long way to successful teaching. Enjoy your time, let the negatives fly past to the slop bucket. You'll get such a buzz from your students' successes. Leave the egos outside the door in the slop bucket.

Good luck.

Babs

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With only 2 years under my belt and a couple hundred youtube videos in my head i am farther from an expert that i like to think. yet i still give instruction on the wheel for new students coming into the clay room. sometimes we gather the freshmen into the room around me for a demonstration on how to make the basic unoriginal bowl. sometimes my class mates ask me to come over and show them how to achieve something. i may not be an expert but i do know how i like to center, how i like to pull and how i like to fail. but these things are always changing, just like they would with anyone wanting to put in the time in effort into clay. i say the best way to learn about clay is to get your hands dirty. my pet peeve is when someone asks me if their clay is centered enough or if its thick enough or too thin. probably from just hearing it day after day as i'm sure you teachers know. i just tell them to push the clay and find it's limits. through that misshapen lump of clay and see if it falls over from it. Try... Fail... Learn... Repeat. ;)

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I agree with everything posted above, but would like to add that it is also how you sell yourself and the class/course/teaching.  Don't lie, but don't put yourself down.

 

I spent twenty odd years teaching IT to adults, both in a training centre then at a large corporate head office.  My very first course someone asked "how long have you been doing this?"  I replied, "I've been here since earlier this year".  No lies, but no way was I going to say this is my first course.  I'd been practising, and in my previous job I'd been the person everyone had come to for help.  Although it wasn't my role, my bosses were happy.

 

Good luck.  Every community needs someone like you.  I too have a place where I can go and do pottery things, even though the class tutor's specialism is ceramic painting, and I'm the only one who gets muddy every week.  The "place" is priceless as the next nearest place for me is an hour's drive away.

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flowerdry, based on your photos and your description of the situation, I think you have more than enough to offer. My only questions are: do you have genuine enthusiasm and good people skills? If yes, then go for it.

 

In my early years of discovering pottery, I had lots of teachers including a college-degree-holding potter with poor people skills, and an enthusiastic self-taught hobbyist with good teaching skills, and I found much more value in the latter. Although I have far surpassed her as a potter, I have a special place in my heart, and regard her with great respect and gratitude for showing me the first steps.

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As has been said above, you will learn an immense amount about your material and yourself through teaching. I always deeply believed that teaching art was a lot about solving problems about materials, technique, and design. I would always try to give the student at least 3 solutions to their problems that would arise in working with the clay, in their hand-building or their throwing, or in the the design of their pieces whether technical or aesthetic. Often times this may mean looking up specific tool modifications for handicaps, learning you to set up something like a fountain pump and hide it, or talking to the student about relationships of spout to form and lid with the addition of a handle-all with options. So learn, grow, and research when you have need of further knowledge. Try to get your students to do the same.

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In a word, respect. For the teacher, the  students, the area, and the work happening. Makes for a safe learning environment and an enjoyable one, one to which everyone wants to return.

Enjoy your time.

Pres likes this

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I thank everyone for their thoughts and taking the time to reply. It has helped a lot.   We're still waiting on final board approval to start the program...the meeting got snowed out last week.  Approval shouldn't be a problem and I'm pretty excited to start getting a studio set up and advertising the first class.  I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

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There's nothing quite like ceramics to teach you how many different "correct" ways something can be done.

 

 

I've found the most haughty are always those who know the least.  They highly value their knowledge highly precisely because they have so little of it.

 

I always tell my students, especially on the potter's wheel, I'm going to show them one or two ways to do things, but if they find another way that works, use it, they can't be wrong.

 

No doubt, when it comes to the "haughty" people Norm.  I've had colleagues like that.  They don't like it, when you show them, that their way isn't the only way either.

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My son completed his MFA a year or so ago and was fortunate enough to land an adjunct teaching position at a university close to home...just starting out, he was nervous about that first class session even though he had taught as a grad assistant  We talk about teaching a great deal and two concepts seem to float to the surface on a regular basis. First, you probably don't understand just how much you already know nor how valuable that knowledge is to someone starting out in clay.  Secondly, from an humble perspective: there is always someone who knows something you don't know, or does it better/differently, or enhances your experience in an unexpected manner...and that person could very well be someone in your class. Don't be threatened by those experiences, they should simply fuel your passion.

 

My suggestion for the passionate hobby potter who is considering teaching: when you take a clay class, make sure that you pay attention to how the instructor performs and not just on the subject matter before you.  I would say the same of even watching a YouTube video where someone is demonstrating a particular technique.

 

Paul

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A little background.... I am a fairly new, 1 year doing clay with 12 weeks of concentrated pottery classes under my belt, potter. I have never done wheel but am taking a class now to learn. That said I have been working with, slab, coil, and pinch techniques. I keep my forms simple and then I decorate the surface, my background is as a painter. I have been painting and doing photography for over 20 years and have been making my living with those for most of that time.

 

What I do with the surface of my pieces nobody else in the area does. I have been asked to teach a class. At first I was no way I haven't been doing it long enough. Then over the months as other potters came to me and asked me how I did this or that technique and if I would help show them where they are going wrong with decorating one of their pieces. I came to realize I am NOT capable of teaching a pottery class that covers all the basics but I AM capable of teaching a surface design class. Once I realized that I agreed to do a class if it could be on surface design and that the criteria for class would be that the students were familiar with clay already. I can help with creating pieces I just don't feel like an expert in that area. I am not an expert in any way and those taking the class will know my credentials, or lack there of, and decide if they feel I know enough to help them on their artistic journey. I am very enthusiastic about what I do and get a kick out of helping someone and seeing the light bulb going on when they "get it".

 

I get asked all the time about how to do something and have to think hmm I've never done this before but if I were going to to this I would do it this way or that way. I always try to give at least 2 different ways to achieve an certain affect and explain to the questioner that I have not done this particular thing before but they could try this or that. Sometimes it's just a matter of getting them thinking outside the pottery box. When they start looking at the problem from a different angle that's all they really need to realize ohhhh I can do it like this and get the look I want! It's very satisfying to see them achieve their goals and the pride they have in their finished piece.

 

The teacher I studied with was a retired school teacher and he was very enthusiastic. I learned a lot from him not only in making pottery but just watching him interact with the other students. He would demonstrate then give us a chance to try it, he would keep an eye on us and gently step in and make suggestions when he would see us struggle. He never said this is how you have to do it, he always asked what are you trying to do here and then suggest a couple ways to get over the hurdle. He was really good about answering all our questions and with me he quickly realized I was there to LEARN. I wanted to know everything about what I was doing and he suggested books to further my knowledge when I asked questions that he did not know the answer to. I was that annoying student that asked WHY a lot, why do you wedge, Why do you tap the mold on the table, why do you scrape the sides of the bucket, why why why. He was great with all that and finally towards the end of my last class handed me one of his college text books to read. THAT was eye opening I spent more time looking up words and terms than reading! But I got a lot of my detailed questions answered and I learned tons. Some of the others were there just to play with clay and he interacted with them totally different than he did with me, that taught me a lot. listen to the student and then give them each what they need. I wanted to know details another student just wanted to make a cool tray for a gift and he gave us both what we needed.

 

If you have passion for what you do and are honest with your students and give them each what they need by not treating them all the same I think THAT makes a great teacher.

 

I always say this forum is my second teacher. There is so much knowledge here with all the varied members just waiting to accessed with the right question and that I think is the most invaluable resource in the world.

 

Sorry it got so long I am just completely obsessed with clay!

 

Terry

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Terry....... good point you hit in there:  When you are teaching a "class" ... you are really teaching X individual lessons.  While there may be some overarching goals and objectives fopr the overall class outcomes...... how you get to those will vary with each person's background, experience, and dominant learning style. 

 

As another note about teaching....... there is a strong tendency for a person to teach to the modality in which they learn best.  A teacher has to actively work at moving his/her own teaching style out of this "comfort zone" to help reach the folks in the class that do not match up with that.

 

best,

 

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

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I suppose this thread diminishes the training a teacher gets during their education. A potter knows how to throw, trim glaze and the rest. Being able to teach it is more than just saying what you are doing in front a group of people. Unfortunately for many early potters this is what they end up getting. A great potter will not always make a great teacher. A great teacher may not be a great potter. We cannot judge your ability to teach by photos of your work. What we should be asking is...   Can you teach? Can you lead?  Here is a great exercise, video yourself giving the lesson you imagine giving day one. Now turn the wheel in the other direction and follow your lesson. Evaluate how you did? Did you say everything you needed to? Did you say so much that you couldn't keep all of the info accessible. I wish you luck but just like throwing takes research and practice so does teaching.

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I suppose this thread diminishes the training a teacher gets during their education. A potter knows how to throw, trim glaze and the rest. Being able to teach it is more than just saying what you are doing in front a group of people. Unfortunately for many early potters this is what they end up getting. A great potter will not always make a great teacher. A great teacher may not be a great potter. We cannot judge your ability to teach by photos of your work. What we should be asking is...   Can you teach? Can you lead?  Here is a great exercise, video yourself giving the lesson you imagine giving day one. Now turn the wheel in the other direction and follow your lesson. Evaluate how you did? Did you say everything you needed to? Did you say so much that you couldn't keep all of the info accessible. I wish you luck but just like throwing takes research and practice so does teaching.

Tim, I've watched lots of your? videos on YouTube, and one of the things I noticed most is your consistency in the words you use.  In every video you use the same expressions, which for me has helped greatly.  After a wet rainy weekend of watching basic centering I finally managed to achieve it next class. 

 

Something I was taught long ago: when someone says "pardon?" think about whether they mean "sorry, I didn't HEAR all of that, could you say it again", or did they mean "sorry, I didn't UNDERSTAND all of that, could you describe it differently".  Most often I beleive "the teacher" should be hearing the first question, but their brain says "uhumm, I didn't explain that very well, have to try it a different way".  For me option 2 will leave me completely confused, as if I only missed hearing a couple of words I've now got to process a something different.  (And I'll probably not hear all of that too, leaving me worse off.)

 

Another tip if someone asks a question, is to repeat the question back to them.  This lets them know you heard the right question, and gives you time to think about the answer, without rushing in with the wrong inappropriate answer. 

 

Teaching gives me more joy than doing.  Nothing beats the smile on a newbies face when they've accomplished something with my guidance.  I wish all new/prospective pottery teachers the same joy.

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One standard teaching tool anyone who has some training in educational methodology knows is to "check for understanding" regularly. Meaning that you have to constantly work to assess if what you are trying to communicate is actually being absorbed and being absorbed in the manner you intended. Having the students 'echo back' in some manner (verbally, visually, etc.) what you were trying to get them to grasp........ is one way. If it is verbal, ask them to put things in their own words, not simply parrot yours.

 

Tim hits the nail on the head about how being a great artist does not necessarily make a great teacher.

 

One of the potential issues in higher ed is that schools typically require an MFA to teach in a given art related subject Iterminal degree in the arts). But they do not typically require specific TEACHER training of any kind. So somtimes you get great artsits... that do not have great teaching skills. Unfortunately they "learn on the job". Or not, in some cases.

 

Same goes for people that teach in craft centers, are masters that take on apprentices, and that present workshops.

 

best,

 

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

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