by Patty Lakinsmith
I've been thinking a lot about classes lately, and what makes or breaks the experience from the student perspective. Bead and jewelry classes, that is. Classes can be very expensive, and sometimes require that you travel to some far away destination, and you want to feel like you've gotten enough from the experience to justify the time and expense.
I've had some really fantastic classes with amazing teachers, and I've had a few where I left feeling somewhat less than satisfied. What makes a learning experience valuable for a student, I'm wondering? I'll offer some of my own thoughts, and then it's your turn.
I like to feel that I've landed in the right class for my skill level, so I'm interested in a little reminder up front about the basic skills required for the class. If it becomes evident that I lack some particular type of experience for the class, I like to feel that the instructor will help guide me through the parts that might be challenging.
I like to feel that the instructor is paying attention to me, what I'm doing, how well I'm following what he or she has explained that I do. In short, I like to feel that there is a creative conversation going on, back and forth, and not just one way communication.
I like to feel that I'm learning some special techniques, like no other I could find on the internet by just googling around. I just love when an instructor shares a breadth of tips with us that transcend the particular bead we happen to be making.
I would like the instructor to ensure that help is given out to each who requests it, and not just to the most vocal students. Once I had a bad experience where I was explaining my specific need for help to the instructor and another (louder?) student completely derailed the instructor to help her, leaving me out in the cold with the problem I had asked for help with. I would like my instructor to be sensitive to that and politely prevent the derailment from occurring, and to deal with one student at a time.
I like leaving class feeling like I have a brand new set of tools that can be applied as I want them, in my own unique work. It's especially cool when an instructor teaches techniques that are so multipurpose that each student could use them and nobody would end up with the same end product. Making that transition from learning how one instructor creates to how you can apply those techniques in your own special way to your work is the very difficult homework that we all take away from our classes.
What about the less tangible side? Do students want to take classes in a vacation-like setting, to just relax? Or do they want to learn as much as possible, foregoing many comforts in their quest to pack in the information? I've definitely leaned toward the latter, although the older I get the more I entertain thoughts of the former. Yeah, a cruise with beads, sounds great!
Now it's your turn. What classes have you taken that live on in your memory as outstanding learning experiences? What made them so special for you? What teacher characteristics are important? What is your biggest class peeve?