Jul 4, 2010

Teachers Room


Having been an art teacher for over 25 years I developed many tools that helped me teach. I will be sharing some tips for teachers in the Teachers Room a new section of the magazine.


When I first started to teach I had a lot to learn and as the years went on I found ways that helped me and my students. Here is a hand-out that I gave to my new students. This was a good way to get them to feel more relaxed and comfortable so they could learn.

Guidelines for new and returning students.

1. There are no "stupid" questions!

2. If you don't understand something I say...ask me to explain it again.

3. RELAX...in all the years I have been teaching I have never seen something a student painted that couldn't be fixed if necessary!

4. Remember that your biggest mistakes will teach you the most!

5. Work at your own speed; never try to keep up with your neighbor.

6. Do not offer advice to other students.

7. If you get frustrated get up and walk away, take a break when you come back to your canvas or project you will have a fresh perspective.

8. Don't be too hard on yourself, lower you expectations a bit and relax!

9. Learn to work from your heart and not your head....stop the negative thoughts and enjoy what you are painting.

10. Talk to yourself as much as you want but make sure what you are saying is positive!

11. Remember that negative remarks have a way of spreading...one remark that is negative can move through the classroom like wildfire affecting all the students!

12. Remember that your neighbor is not here to help you, she is here to learn!

13. Keep discussions light...please no politics or religion or personal problems!

14. Be on time, if possible get here a little early and get set up.

15. Place all of your paint carriers under your chair or easel so they are not in the way of me or other students walking around.

16. Accept the fact that you will eventually have a "bad art day", no one will escape this so just take it in its stride and it will go away.

17. Please be responsible for bringing all the supplies you need to each class.

18. Remember that each student is paying the same as you are and want to have a turn with me at their easel, so be patient and I will make the rounds faster if you don't call me to your easel when it is not your turn.

List of Don'ts

Don't feel guilty about the time you are taking for yourself, don't put yourself down, don't say I can't do that, don’t call out to me when I am with another student, don't set unrealistic goals for yourself, don't focus on your past mistakes, don't try to be the teacher, there is only one in this class and it is me.

Don't be afraid to try something new; don't be stingy with your paints put out enough so you don't have to keep re-doing it. Don’t compare your work with your neighbors!

List of Do's

Do realize that you have a right to take time for yourself, do pat yourself of the back if you have done something you are proud of, do try to learn from your mistakes, do ask questions when I am with you, do take a break and grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, everyone need to take a small break! Do relax, and enjoy this class and know that each and everyone of you are unique, special talented people!

So with that being said I would like to share a story with you. During my early years of teaching I had a rather small studio in my basement. I had 12 students in that small room but we had so much fun that it didn't seem to be so small...

Well one day I had a new student come to class, at first she seemed like a real pleasant lady.....after a few classes we noticed that she was the sort of person who would say the glass is half empty. Always negative and complaining. At that time I had no set up rules and I was just getting the classes organized so I didn't really know what to say to her or what to do. I was in a quandary as to how to handle her constant negative remarks and I didn't want to embarrass her by calling her on it, so I was actually mulling it out in my mind as to how to handle her when she showed the worst side of her and made it easy for me...Thank you God!

We had a workshop where we all painted along with me instead of doing individual paintings which I usually did but they wanted to paint a certain subject so I decided to teach that subject to everyone. Everyone did a great job, they all seemed so pleased with what they had painted and learned, at the end of the class I was truly exhausted from hearing this lady complain the whole class about how awful her work looked and how she just could not do this blah blah blah.......................

I told everyone to stand up in a line so I could take a photo of them holding their canvas because they had done such good work.

This lady stood there looking at the person on her right and said, “My painting looks like Shi!!!!! and so does yours!” Needless to say the student she said this to was just devastated. She got tears in her eyes and what had been a happy moment for her turned into a embarrassing one that I am sure she will never forget, but what is really sad is that her work was really nice…..

I had reached my limit and knew something had to be done, I could not let one bad apple spoil my class. I decided to call her and tell her that I could no longer teach her as she just didn’t seem to have the right attitude that I wanted in my class…..well you can guess what happened. Not a pretty sight, her Husband called my husband and actually threatened him, “we had better keep her in the class or else….” I think he wanted to get rid of her for a while!

Of course this did not change my decision. From that point on we had a very peaceful and supportive class. I never heard from her again.

As I look back on it now I often wonder why she was so miserable. I guess we all have our cross to bear and hers must have been a heavy one. It is just so much better to have a positive, happy attitude….anything less is such a waste of the precious life we have been given.

If you are a teacher and would like to submit an article about teaching please send it to: sforiginals@comcast.net

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