Thoughts on Teaching

Why did I post this photo of a varnish-troubled magnet? Read on…

Tomorrow I will be teaching my second painting class ever. I have been mulling over how the first one went, what I would do differently, how it made me feel, and I want to get it out of my head, onto the blog (mostly so I can attempt to make sense of it, and also to stop thinking about it all the time).  I’m worried this may come out sort of discombobulated. I don’t consider myself much of a writer (as I’ve mentioned before), but I’ll do my best(-ish… I’m not going to try TOO hard. This isn’t English class, after all. I had a huge crush on my Grade 11 English teacher, by the way. But, I digress.).

I should probably mention what brought me to teaching in the first place. To start, the word “teaching” came up during an art/dance/writing exercise during a Core Connexion workshop. I swiftly wrote it off as unimportant, but it kept popping up in my thoughts. Then, a few weeks ago during my coaching session with Nancy, I realized that I want to have more fun. During the process of figuring out what that meant, “teaching” popped into my head again. I tend to allow these “pop-ups” and express them, because in my experience, even if I don’t know what it means, it will lead me somewhere that I need to go. So I said it. After discussing it a bit, Nancy dared me to advertise for a painting class the following week. Meanwhile, my gremlins were “having a feast” (Nancy’s words, and totally appropriate!), giving me all kinds of reasons why this couldn’t and wouldn’t work. I ignored them and took the dare!

Had Nancy not dared me, I probably would have taken about 2 years before even considering teaching. I would have had to read all the books, paint for at least a year to get the experience, take a few workshops – my perfectionist part/gremlin wanted to hold me back, to keep me from having fun!

One of the things that usually keeps me from starting anything is the unknown. Should I invite just kids or just adults, or mix it up? How much do I charge? What kind of supplies do I need? How will I set it up in my home? Should I paint with them? In the past, I would never have started without knowing. I took this on as an experiment, and I have to say, I am enjoying this! I like that I am making mistakes and figuring out how to make the classes better by learning from them. Here are some of the things I have learned so far (in point form, because I make more sense that way):

  • I initially offered the class to parents and children at our school, but I now know that I would like to keep them in separate classes.
  • Starting with dancing was a good idea, but not a fast song! I am not sure why I didn’t think of that, since we would never start that way even at a dance class.
  • Yes, I should be painting with everyone, because then I’ll have more fun!
  • Everyone’s imagery is different, and everyone works at a different pace. I can allow for that and learn to surrender to their process as much as I want them to surrender to it.
  • If I’m not sure what to do at any point (for me last week it was how to encourage people to keep painting, even when they say they are finished), just allow it to pass for the time being until I either think of something, or learn more about it after the class so that I know for next time!
  • Teachers are students! BIG TIME!!

So, back to the magnet. First of all, the message on it is an ongoing affirmation of mine. It underlies everything I do. I want to believe this to my core. Secondly, yes, I made a whole batch of these and the varnish cracked on almost all of them. I’ve had a similar problem in the past, but never that bad. I finally contacted my friend and painting conservator, Bonnie Rimer (we were in the same year at Queen’s University, both in art conservation) for some ideas. She had a crapload (oops, sorry, is that a no-no on blogs? Well, it’s how I talk) of ideas, and it made me realize that I am approaching this painting class the same way I am trying to figure out what caused the cracking of the magnet. I make mistakes, I get frustrated by my mistakes (more or less, usually less these days), I educate myself, and make things even better next time. And I have fun doing it.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Teaching

  1. Monica

    I love that you just jumped into it! I imagine you’re bringing an awesome energy to it this way…open-minded and free! I love your explanation of how you’re dealing with the frustrations too. This will be my inspiration to approach my own frustrations in a much more accepting way!! 🙂

    Reply
  2. Cheryl Arkison

    Your last sentence is key – have fun. I’m on a similar leg of the teaching journey these days. And I love every second of it! I can’t wait to do more. No two classes are the same – because of the students and because of the changes in the teacher every time.

    Reply

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