Organized Teaching Notes
Being organized if you are teaching art is so important. There are many situations which undermine your timing. The most common, are students who arrive an hour early and those who trickle in late and later, interrupting the flow of your lesson. In an ideal world, students are on time, eager to work, and highly organized. I think I’ve had about two students in my 40 years of teaching on and off who fit that description. Many more are late than early, but in some ways that is easier. I’m used to them and they are predictable. I usually get the studio opened up a half hour before my students so that I am completely ready as they begin to arrive. The early ones are the hardest, because I feel like I need to entertain them while I prepare myself for the lesson. These issues are inevitable and I try not to let it bother me. I’m not a drill sergeant, and these are adults, so I don’t fuss too much.
Organized time means I usually plan my lessons well in advance. I type them out, insert illustrations and print them out for my students. I like to have them take them home and put them in their binders to keep and refer to any time they like. I have organized my teaching into three basic classes, beginners, advanced, and open studio. I like to give my students lots of exercises to do in our class for advanced students and then we paint. My beginners do a step by step painting with me. My open studio class is designed for painters to work on their own ideas and to bring paintings from their studios to work on in class. Those three kinds of classes offer something for everyone. Each class has a different flow. I change my timing to fit the needs of my students, going slower with beginners and working more as an advisor for my open studio classes.
I have chosen to offer a snack and beverage for my students and paper towels, cups of water for acrylic painters. I do not provide palettes, canvas, paint, brushes or mediums. I charge very little for my classes, so they provide supplies. That makes it easier for all of us. I don’t really like the Paint and Sip format of teaching art. The students aren’t really learning very much. It is a date night activity. I’ve studied for many years to be a good painter and I see no real purpose in those kinds of classes in relationship to learning how to paint. The ideal situation is to have your own space to teach. You can set the space up ready for students all the time. I have taught at Michaels and workshops in art centers as well, but that is more effort and moving supplies around, rearranging tables is harder.
I use a pay as you come system. If you come, you pay a fee, if not, you don’t. I don’t like dealing with a lot of scheduling, prepaying for lessons or the annoyance of arguing with students about paying for classes they can’t come to. Since they bring their own supplies, I am losing nothing if they don’t attend. If I had to make a living teaching art, I would have a different attitude, but teaching is more of a hobby for me. I make more money from my online students and my PDF tutorials than I do with my in person students. My advanced students are my partners in research. Whenever I wish to study something new about painting, I make up exercises about that topic and we do them together. We both learn and grow from the study together. For workshops, I must have deposits in advance, but that is a new topic for another blog post.
To be an organized teacher, you must decide first what you wish to teach and the format you wish to use. Whatever it is, be consistent about it. Make the time management fit into your class, so that your students know they have gotten their money’s worth. Keep control over your students and know when to push them to focus rather than gossip. Make the lessons fit the ability of your students. If they paint well, push them harder. Keep your class a manageable size. I’ve found that 6 to 12 is wonderful. More than that becomes very chaotic.
Be approachable to your students. be a real person and make painting fun but serious too. Be open to suggestions for topics and subjects and use a variety of studies to make it useful and fun. You will not please everyone and you can’t. I have some students who have been with me for five years, others only a month or two. I used to feel depressed about it but I learned that everyone doesn’t like the way I paint or teach. I can only impart what I know and understand myself.
Learn patience and be emotionally ready to teach before your class arrives. Teaching can be very stressful. I used to teach at a well known art center in another state once a year. I had to leave it, due to some students who felt very entitled to misbehave and make the class difficult. The students there are well heeled and some are very difficult. When you teach for another institution you must follow their philosophy. In this case, the students were always right. It is not in my personality to deal with spoiled adult students. You must be patient if you are to be a good teacher. I have all the time in the world for a student who genuinely wants to learn, but I don’t put up with egotists or disruptive adults. A great day of teaching for me is a fun class where everyone feels comfortable, relaxed and is learning something new with friends. Nothing makes me happier that a lively session with students who become froeinds with each other.
Don’t depend on teaching for your livelihood. I never depend on any single income stream to sustain me. It is a nice bonus, but very unreliable in the long term. Include it in your career but remember that being an artist is your real job. There will be many half empty classes when students are traveling or having family issues.
More musings for artists and collectors to come…
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 oz whole baby portabellas, halved
1/2 cup mini sweet peppers, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini (or yellow) squash, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato spread
1 (24- x 12-inch) sheet nonstick aluminum foil
1 cup canned, quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup light Caesar salad dressing
2 tablespoons presliced green onions
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat grill; set butter out to soften.
Halve portabellas. Slice peppers and squash.
Stir tomato spread into butter until blended. Place in center of foil sheet: vegetables (except green onions), butter mixture, salt, and pepper. Bring up foil sides; double-fold top and ends to seal packet.
Place packet on grill over indirect heat; grill 12–15 minutes or until vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork.
Remove packet from grill and drain vegetables, if needed; transfer to serving bowl. Stir in dressing and green onions; sprinkle with cheese. Serve.