Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My thoughts for those who are considering teaching

It's almost 6 am and all I have accomplished is cleaning house and painting Gesso on 10 cigar boxes.....this day is going to fly!

This post is for those of you who have asked me about where to start teaching your hobby and how to go about it and is strictly based on my experience and thoughts. I thought if I posted on my blog, others who may have been wanting to take the next step could benefit. No negative feedback from those wanting to dispute please. If teaching is your job, naturally you need to make money and some of my advice does not apply to you.
Play nice :-)

Frankly, I never thought about the process before. I am no expert on teaching and I only do it because in my area, I am the only one providing info on crazy quilting. We have a huge Art community. Painters, Potters, metal artists, traditional quilters, fiber arts,weavers, etc. Yet crazy quilting hasn't made its way to the local media....until now. I believe the more interest , the more examples to be seen and shared. My hope is, there will at least be one out of ten who want to learn more and continue CQ after taking my classes. That is all I can hope for.
I think CQ is such a relaxing, free, beautiful and fun art that I want people to enjoy it for themselves.

I have to take a moment and thank my pal Wendy for all the publicity she has given my class. Wendy works at the Chesterton Art Center and she has certainly been spreading the word about my class. I've received letters from strangers sending me newspaper clippings that are interested in CQ, and I have to say, it is pretty neat to think this is because I crawled out of my shell, away from my comfort zone to share what I love.
Thank you Wendy for helping me draw interest to CQ, and I hope I didn't break your camera ;-)

Just a few years ago if you would have told me I would be standing in front of artsy,crafty,talented ladies teaching what I love, I would have laughed a full belly laugh. No way! The thought of that would have made my head spin from fright.
I am one to sit in the back of a room, hopefully blending among the crowd and wishfully disappearing. Do not look at me, do not ask me a question, just let me sit in peace. That was me, and pretty much, still is. Believe it or not, and this isn't something teachers would share, but I lack confidence, and I fear people. I like most people, but I am so uncomfortable around strangers that I can make myself sick. However, some kind of magic happens as soon as I start class. Something takes over, and all is well. I think the "something" is the fact that although I lack confidence as a person on the street, I know I can do what I do, and I am there to teach what I know. What I know. Not what you saw in someones book, or what you think I should
know, but what I know. That is all I need to remember. The person signed up because they admired my samples of work and want to learn how to do it themselves. I am there to share everything I know in the time allowed. I do not hold back secrets or tips. I provide the best supplies I can find so they can achieve their goal. I am not one to dangle a carrot and give them an ear of corn. If I don't have it, I give them sources where they can get it. This business about representing the best yet sharing cast offs is not what I do nor do I want to take a class from someone who does. This does happen I'm afraid.

If you supply a kit, or any supplies, use the best you can find.Just because a student is learning, doesn't mean they should use junk supplies. They need to be inspired by beautiful fabrics and embellishments. After seeing gorgeous gowns, would you ever want to wear one if you were only offered a muslin sack with arm holes cut out? Or expecting a vacation to Hawaii and be sent to Alaska? Its the same thing.

I learned from my first lecture that to properly prepare for any presentation, you will spend no less than a week of prep per hour of presentation. I never thought about that before. When you attend a lecture or class, you think the person just grabbed a bag and possibly spent an evening going over everything. If only!
There is research, printing of hand outs, samples to make, class supplies to gather and prep, props to buy,gather or make, and so on. Trust me, I have never questioned a teacher or lecture fee since my first presentation. There is a ton of time put into each presentation, no matter what the subject, not to mention hidden costs. Trust me, your only goal has to be to educate, not to make money. Your time is worth way more than a few cents an hour. Consider this up front.If you are still on board, put your "all" into it.Give big or go home right?

I know my classes are on my mind even before I book them. When I hear a class is filled, I am relieved and nervous. Relieved because you know people actually want to learn this, and nervous because in reality, I am not one to stand in front of people , let alone be the one doing the teaching. It's not my comfort zone. Ellen's encouragement has helped me remove myself from my comfort zone and focus on the art and process, not the people. With that in mind, it is a piece of cake. After all, I am teaching what I know, not what others know. People have seen my work before they sign up, so they know exactly what they will be exploring.

I first taught silk ribbon embroidery /crazy quilt classes in a craft shop class several years ago. I then started teaching small groups of children, then adults. Quilting guilds requested lectures, then classes, and now I teach at my local Art Center here in Chesterton. My next class which is filled, starts Saturday April 25th and will continue the next two Saturdays in May. I have offers to teach in a few quilt shops however at this time I do not want to travel. I prefer to keep this more of a hobby than a job and teaching at my local Art Center allows me to keep class prices down and is offering something to my community.

So my advice would be to:
Keep class size small if possible. If I offer kits, I will take 10 students. Otherwise I will take 8. 6 students is perfect in my opinion. You have more time to spend with each.
Share by examples of your work only.
Provide quality supplies or make them available for purchase.
Spend time with everyone, although a few may need a bit more attention.
Research and find helpful info for hand outs and also supply resources. Keep in mind not everyone has access to the Internet.
Remember you too were a beginner. Don't try to out "SHINE" anyone, you're not the bride!
If possible,depending on if you teach in your local area, make yourself available for future questions.
Try very hard to stay on track so you can teach all you need to finish the project in the sessions allotted. If it is not a project based class, make sure they know the basics to use at home.

My shared tips:
1)Be on time and prepared for any upsets. Always have extra of everything in your bag.

2)Make it fun!I enjoy providing a treat to make everyone relax. I used to provide large lollipops and when I began class I would have everyone open them so there would be no talking because I don't have a loud voice.

3)Bring a couple bottles of water. Talking dries your mouth very quickly and most locations have very dry air.

4)If someone is having a lot of trouble, offer true stories of your mess ups. You know you have some! Laugh and encourage laughter. You are supposed to be sharing something fun.

5) Let the student make the artistic decisions. If they think the purple and green stripe fabric looks fantastic next to the orange polka dot fabric, let them enjoy that. You have taught the basics by giving them direction, the rest is where their muse leads them. If they ask for your opinion, feel free to let them know your muse may make a different decision and it is all about them.

That is all I can offer. I hope something was helpful. Again, I never thought anyone would have interest in what I do, and many people now are enjoying my hobby because I decided to share. So go for it. You may make a difference in someones life. Perhaps even a child. Good luck.


  1. How kind you are to share your experience - best of luck with all your classes. I've never tried quilting but I just might have to!

  2. Your classes are on Saturdays when you have them? CooL! Let me know when you do this again and I will sign up!

  3. What a nice write-up. Would that all teachers had your sharing, selfless attitude!

  4. Thanks for the very thoughtful and comprehensive overview. I also am quite anxious when I get up in front of a group and I've found that it helps me to have written notes (big type) to refer to. Often, just having the notes there is enough and I don't need to refer to them. But if I go blank, I have a safety net.

  5. Pat , I can see that you put a lot of time into this post. I can only imagine all the time you put into preparing for your classes. This was so well written. I used to teach art classes so I know where you are coming from. Thank you Pat. I am off to my garden. Yay! Sharon

  6. As I sit here writing your wonderufl post, I am supposed to be typing up my outline for the class that I will be teaching tonight!!! I ahve done all the prep and writing buyt I find that if I have an outline, for myself and my students, I won't forget things and they have a place eto take notes if they need to. Thiw class is on Techniques for Altered Books and I have found that there are very few around here who even know what an altered book is. I always bring some of my failures- so they can see and hear about the WHat Not To Do's!!!! I did not think that any were going to sign up and then two days ago I got a call from some one wanting to take the class with her daughter. Some people wait till the last minute!!!! It has been a mad scramble to get this all togehter. It is a five week class so things will be added in for each session. THere is always room to learn better ways and I have found that every time that I teach whether to kids or adults, I get just as much from my students as I hope taht they get from me!!!

    Good luck with your classes and keep your fingers crossed for me!!

  7. Sound advice! Good insights! Nice post!

    From a fellow teacher!

  8. Teaching is a gift, Pat. Whenever we share something of ourselves with others, the rewards are immeasurably great for both the recipient and the giver.

    Your students are most fortunate to have someone like you to teach them.

    Some of my best memories have come from the classroom. I know someday you will say the same . . .

    Kathy V in NM

  9. Bravo ... Bravo Pat!
    Having "been there & done that":
    have to agree... it ain't about the money ... it has to be about honestly wanting to share the craft...and that we are all human ... bound to & have made our share of mistakes...which is also part of the learning process that we can share!
    Nuturing the desire is what you are ultimately after...have them leave wanting to explore their own creativity ... by giving the fundamentals that they can expand on!

    You so have it right, my dear!

  10. Pat
    What a great, insightful post on teaching, everyone who reads this should benifit from it. Thank you.

  11. Your classes will always be in demand and filled simply because you are such a wonderful and lovely lady! Your explanation of what it takes to teach classes shows how conscientious caring you are. Thank you for being you and offering so much of yourself.

  12. Excellent post Pat. I spent 8 years teaching decorative painting and your post is right on and true.
    Teaching taught met to be less afraid of people and made it easier for me to find the courage to converse with perfect strangers....besides makiggn new friends from my students.
    I've been wanderign your blog enjoying and sighing over all the luscious eye candy.


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