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Hobby Potter Teaching Others.


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#1 flowerdry

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 04:21 PM

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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#2 Benzine

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 05:23 PM

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.


"Anything worth believing, is worth questioning"

#3 Stephen Robison

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 07:10 PM

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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#4 JBaymore

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 08:07 PM

After a LONG time teaching (since the 70's) ...... I still learn from my students. And when they get better at something than I am......... it is GREAT! Go for it.

 

best,

 

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


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#5 Pres

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 08:19 PM

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?


Simply retired teacher, not dead, living the dream. on and on and. . . . on. . . .                                                                                 http://picworkspottery.blogspot.com/


#6 Chris Campbell

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 08:47 PM

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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#7 JBaymore

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 09:06 PM

 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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#8 Marcia Selsor

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 11:34 PM

Teaching basics is a great start and nurturing and encouragement will take them as far as their practicing can go.
marcia

#9 Kohaku

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 11:45 PM

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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#10 jrgpots

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 12:21 AM

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 lineā€¦ Teach what you know. Learn what you don't, then share.

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#11 Babs

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 02:14 AM

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



#12 Davidpotter

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 02:41 AM

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. ;)


Practice, practice, practice. Then when you think you've practiced enough, the real practice begins.

#13 Chilly

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 05:15 AM

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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#14 GEP

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 11:26 AM

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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#15 Pres

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 03:20 PM

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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#16 Babs

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 05:23 PM

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.



#17 flowerdry

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 06:24 PM

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.


Doris Hackworth

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#18 Benzine

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 08:30 PM

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.


"Anything worth believing, is worth questioning"

#19 Pres

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 10:04 PM

Colleagues can be so much fun. . . sometimes! :wacko:


Simply retired teacher, not dead, living the dream. on and on and. . . . on. . . .                                                                                 http://picworkspottery.blogspot.com/


#20 ChenowethArts

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Posted 28 January 2014 - 07:36 AM

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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