Friday, April 9, 2010

Teaching what you know

  If you be a lover of instruction, you will be well instructed.
       —Isocrates+

When I insisted on attending art school instead of a traditional university, my mother balked.  She kept insisting that I at least study teaching art, so I’d have something to “fall back on.”  However well intentioned and practical her advice was, I determined never to be a teacher.  So — how odd to find myself teaching now that I’m in my 50s and have much less patience than when I was younger.  I tend to be less than organized, to be polite about it, and often can’t see the forest for the trees, but I’m learning.  It never dawned on me that a grown person wouldn’t know you had to rinse your brush periodically, until a student asked me why her entire painting was brown. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Instruction does not prevent waste of time or mistakes; and mistakes themselves are often the best teachers of all.
         — James Anthony Froude

I thought it was lip service when I heard teachers say they learned as much from their students as the students learned from them.  It’s true!  Preparing lessons forces one to really think through their process, and watching others come up with solutions for their ideas can lead you in all kinds of new directions.  Creating ways to teach what you do in a limited time frame is also a great exercise. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I’ve been silk painting for over 20 years and was stumped when Jerry’s Artarama asked me to teach a two-hour class.  After wandering around the store with my hands in my pockets for a while, I came up with a short project idea that would whet students’ appetites.  It came off quite well and each student’s project was completely different from mine or anyone else’s. 

Sharing knowledge does not diminish one’s talent.
— Me

Which leads me to a point often brought up by artists and crafters:  why teach someone else to do the thing you’re trying to make your living at?  Aren’t they just out to steal your ideas?  Am I shooting myself in the foot by sharing my ideas?  No, no and no!  Teaching a person to read doesn’t mean they can write your story, does it?  Teaching someone a skill can often make them appreciate more fully what goes into the making of your art.  Altruism pays!          

+Isocrates the orator, not Socrates the philosopher, in case you were worried about that.

17 comments:

On a Whimsey said...

Wonderful post! And... oh so true. When I was younger (when the arrogance of youth was in full swing!) I always worried about passing on information that might let another person then better me... but then I soon realised (now the senior bit comes in!) that, like you found out, teaching or passing on to others is such a great thing to do. It allows you, the teacher, to expand you own ideas, explore different avenues and find out all sorts of things you might never have come across.
Thank you for sharing!

circleinthesand said...

Wonderful post, Althea!! Sounds like you are enjoying Teaching...that is awesome!! Funny how our ideas about things change as we get older....oh dear, I have become my mother!!
and yes I was wondering about Isocrates, kept looking at the name trying to figure out who he was!!

yankeegirl said...

Great feature and so true. I see the joy my watercolor teacher gets in teaching her talent to her students.

Sixsisters said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ZudaGay said...

I'm so glad you are having a great experience teaching!! I've thought about it...maybe someday. :)

jstinson said...

You speak words of wisdom. Teaching is a marvelous experience. Those who fear it should force themselves to try it. Loved your blog.

heronkate said...

A super blog, Janine. Glad you're enjoying teaching. My parents also balked at the idea of art school when I went, so I got a degree in art education and actually taught 7th grade for a year. I hated it ! !

Judi B said...

A wonderful reminder! I taught for years -- and found the same thing true. Reading your post made me long to teach again.

Julie G. said...

Very great post. I had my first experience teaching pastel art (demo) and although I was very nervous, after I got into, I really enjoyed it. A few stayed behind to get some hands on and vowed they were going to buy a box of pastels! I like your analogy of "if you teach someone to read, they can't write your story". That is awesome. Well done!

Brett Ward said...

Yes! Yes! and Yes! This is a great article Janine, you should submit this to Art Calendar Magazine. AND I am so glad you are enjoying what you're doing. Miss you though!

MagdaleneJewels said...

One of the best gift that God gave us was the ability to learn and grow within ourselves with whatever knowledge we can absorb.
It is what we do with that knowledge once we obtain it. Sharing of what we learn can only help us to grow even more; we should never close our minds to learning new ideas. Such a thoughtful blog!

kimbuktu said...

What a wonderful article. Love the quotes. My favorite is the one you wrote "Sharing knowledge does not diminish one's talent." Spoken like a true teacher.

I totally agree that the more you give, the more you receive. It is rewarding to be generous. Not that that is the reason to be so. One of the sayings in my family is, "You can't out-give God." Same principle I think.

AltheaP said...

I love all these comments! Thanks so much, boomers!

Myfanwy said...

Janine, reading this late, as I'm just back from teaching. I agree with every word. What a great post.

Hands to Work, Hearts to God said...

I enjoy teaching, although it's not really what i do for a living. When I teach, I'm really sharing my joy in creating, and helping others find their creative side!

Chauncey said...

oh great post, Janine. I'm so glad you are enjoying sharing your talent and knowledge.

The Filigree Garden said...

I enjoyed your post. I agree that knowledge is meant to be shared. Thanks for sharing yours.