AN INSTRUCTOR'S GUIDE
by Seth Apter - An excerpt from his article and interview published in the digital Mixed Media Art Magazine Issue 10 and reprinted here with permission from the author.
From an instructor's perspective:
1) Preparation: A prepared instructor will be a better instructor. A lack of time and effort put into the behind-the-scenes planning of a workshop will be evident to all on the day of the workshop.
2) Workshop Content: There are a lot of workshops being offered these days. Successful workshops will be the ones that are unique, well developed, and truly reflective of the instructor's style as an artist.
3) Venue Selection: Choosing the right workshop for the right venue is an art in and of itself. An instructor will attract more students if she/he tries to match the type of venue being considered to the theme of the workshop.
4) Timing: They say it is all in the timing, and that is true for a successful workshop as well. Avoid scheduling on major holidays, at the same time as another artist is teaching in the same area, and in the period just before, during, or after a major art retreat. Weekends are almost always better than weekdays.
5) Professionalism: Word travels fast in our small community. Always communicate with your contacts at the venue in a professional, personable and timely manner. Actually, make this a matter of course with everybody!
In response to his list, Seth received an email from an artist who shared her own list of tips from the perspective of a student.
From a student's perspective:
1) Avoid extended introductions. Class time is usually limited and it should not be used to "get to know each other." At retreats, people can get to know each other at meals and between workshops. Classes should be primarily for instruction.
2) Avoid padded supply lists. An oversized supply list is a safety net for the teacher but can be a hardship financially and physically for the participants. Try to limit lists, or perhaps provide a "bare bones" list and then some suggestions for additional "niceties." And do not list items by specific manufacturers unless they are absolutely necessary. Instead, provide the item type and then share info about your own likes.
3) Make sure that the workshop content reflects the pre-workshop description.
4) Attitude - The teacher's first job is to generate enthusiasm or excitement for the subject. An enthusiastic teacher with lesser skills can often outshine the skilled teacher who is "just there." On this topic:
- Do not demonstrate boredom.
- Do not use workshop time to work on your own projects.
- Do not present a "live" book or video. In other words, a workshop should be largely a unique entity and not just a "phone it in" presentation of the instructor's videos or books.
- Avoid editing the content/demonstration when there are a number of "regulars" present. Many instructors have faithful followers; they may have heard the basics before, but the newbies deserve the full course.
5) The Delicate Dance - Instructors are charged with a dual task: to present/protect their own style/vision and to foster/nurture individual expression in their students. Not an easy task, but when it is done well, it is a source of creative excitement. It's what we are seeking when we sign up for workshops and retreats.