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  #16   Report Bad Post  
Old 03-07-2012, 11:23 AM
JayJay365UK JayJay365UK is offline
Nr. Congleton, South Cheshire
Join Date: Feb 2009
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Re: Unrealistic Expectations

It really doesn't matter what you're teaching, if adult learners are involved, they don't want baby steps! Adults come to classes for a variety of reasons - because they have a need to be sociable, to gossip and talk, because 'they should' and any number of other reasons, including....because they think it's going to be easy!

For years I taught writing-related subjects at a major Uni in the UK - journalism in general, writing for magazines, proof-reading and editing... etc. My classes usually had around 20-25 people taking part. Out of them, I reckon I got about a 50% success rate, which I thought was rubbish, but after a talk with the head of dept. it seems that rate was quite high!

I learned to sort of work out over the first few weeks who could take criticism, and who couldn't - some I would treat very gently, knowing that it wouldn't take much for them never to pick up a pen again, and others I was harder on, as I knew they could take it and would improve their skills as a result. Some ppl took two years to get to the stage that others were at after 6 months.

The worst ones were those that had unrealistic expectations, just like those you mention. They wanted it NOW, no practicing, and were crestfallen when I pointed out that it wasn't that easy - either writing or getting that writing published. However, they did learn eventually, mostly by rejection from publishers that I was in fact correct and they needed to practice.

I don't know if this tale will help, but rest assured, over time you will begin to 'feel' subconsciously who will succeed with little extra help -who will fail, for whatever reason, and who you will be able to leave to practice, and who will need extra help. Whoever said 'those who can, do, those who can't, teach' should have been shot! It's extremely hard to teach adults, who come in all shapes and sizes and learning ranges.

Just have patience. Perhaps letting them play with the clay a bit is the way forwards, before they start throwing and centering. We had a session with clay at our art club for a couple of weeks, but there were no wheels there, we just learned to make things with clay, stamping it, shaping it, and generally getting the feel of it, which was them left to air dry or be fired by the teacher and brought back the next week. We all enjoyed the sessions, although most went back to whatever they were doing before, I think only one person out of 20 wanted to learn more about clay and throwing it.

Hope this helps!
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Old 03-18-2012, 05:02 AM
robertsloan2's Avatar
robertsloan2 robertsloan2 is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2005
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Re: Unrealistic Expectations

I think maybe the best thing to do for adults who are frustrated with the baby steps is just "This is the hardest part of the process. There's a reason why it takes years to learn to throw clay. It's because it's hard to center the clay. You can think it looks right and feels right, center it and believe it's perfect and blam - you've got a wobbly mess. It's easier the smaller you do it, so in this class we're focusing on very small projects to give you a chance at finishing something usable."

When it's something like that, it helps to make it clear to students why it works that way. They need to know it's not something simple anyone can do. If they just watch you do it, they think it's easy and overreach. Sometimes knowing why is all it takes.

That student probably needed a bird bath and had too many candlesticks around the house. Was thinking practically and trying to do a project that fits a real need with no idea how much harder it would be. Problems of scale are things most people don't run into in day to day life.

It looks easy when you do it after years of practice. Without telling them "This is that difficult, it only looks easy because I did it ten thousand times," they think a dozen tries will get it right. People forget how long it took for them to learn to read as little kids. Adults are not used to learning curves and there's a psychological barrier with the Talent myth.

If you get it right on the first go and produce a masterpiece every time you work, then you have a Talent and ought to immediately become a master without any effort getting paid ton-lots of money for your superstar level work. If it takes any more effort, you have No Talent and are wasting your time trying to learn because no one can learn anything in art, you ether Have It or you Don't. I have no idea where this got started, but it's toxic and it gets pumped into people from grade school on up.

They also mistake intellectual understanding for being able to do it. I say things like "You need to understand it, that's one thing, then you need to train those dumb little animals at the ends of your arms to do it right. Patiently, as if you were training a dog." I'd skip seeing it because this is pottery. Blind people can learn pottery. It's retraining sighted people to pay attention to what the tips of their fingers sense instead of relying on their eyes because it can look right and be hopelessly off.

I can see how with your particular art, the number of people who stick with it would be lower because of the money and effort involved in getting a kiln. The wheel is a bit costly to start with, the kiln takes major investment and DIY. Most of them if they take home some candlesticks and a bowl with more appreciation of how these things are made and more respect for serious potters are going to be happy. They'll move on to weaving or oil painting or something else that fits their lives better.

It's okay because they will come away with a sense of awe about antique porcelain cups as thin as a piece of paper in fluted perfect shapes. They had a good time. I treat beginner classes as entertainment, most adults are there to learn a new hobby and enjoy themselves. The few who are serious will keep coming back through all the levels of classes and practice a lot at home because they discover a love of the medium.

Once in a while someone comes along who already knows they're serious. Or they discover it somewhere during the course and start practicing like a maniac at home day and night, leaping ahead. It's almost impossible to predict who that'll be. I just encourage them when it happens. But if I teach a beginner anything and they break that Talent myth, come away knowing how hard it is and that they did something cool by doing a simple project, they'll find it easier to get it when they find out what does really grab them for the long term.

Robert A. Sloan, proud member of the Oil Pastel Society
Site owner, artist and writer of http://www.explore-oil-pastels-with-robert-sloan.com
blogs: Rob's Art Lessons and Rob's Daily Painting

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