Professional Practices – Assistant Teaching – Week 15

This week brings the last class of the semester, and was a nice way to bring my teaching internship to a close. Portfolios were due for all of the students, and Ernie was in charge of organizing these and setting them up for the student show (not just for our class, but for the department). This was going to be a lot of work for him, and he kindly asked if I could step in and run the class for him.
This time around, I had more responsibility than I did in the previous classes that he asked me to run. A couple of times throughout the semester he had me step in for him, but he was still around to start and finish the class. He was also able to pop in every now and then to see how things were going and to make sure everything was going ok. This time, he was busy transporting work from the AMF to the Canzani building, and had to really rely on me to do everything on my own. We met briefly beforehand to make sure I was clear on expectations for the class. Then, he was off to work and it was up to me to run the class solo-style.
It was basically drawing as usual, with the additional responsibility of collecting any student work that had not yet been turned in. Attendance seemed a bit thin at first, but we had some stragglers coming in here and there throughout the class. Most of the students had finished their last drawing of the semester, and didn’t seem very thrilled to have to draw for one more class period. I noticed one student that was sitting against the wall, a few feet back from his drawing, hunched over on his bench and staring blankly into space. I made my way over to him and asked him what was up, and he explained that he didn’t expect to have to draw today. “I thought we were just going to turn our drawings in and leave,” he told me. He went on to say that his final drawing was finished and that he didn’t know what else to do to it. He also mentioned that he hadn’t slept in 3 days and was very tired. So I spoke to him a little about his drawing- what was working, what could be improved. Looking at the work, I could see that he really was done with it. If anything, it was already overworked. So I talked to him about the importance of not overworking a drawing and knowing when to call it finished and move on to the next one. After I had gotten him engaged in conversation and a little more awake, I told him to pick up his pencil and start a new drawing. He hesitated, and obviously didn’t feel much like doing it. “I don’t care what you draw, but you have to draw something,” is basically what I told him. I felt that giving him the option of doing his own thing might help coax him into working, and also didn’t see any point in having him ruining his current drawing by overworking it. And so he picked up his pencil and sketchbook, and started to get into it.
The class went surprisingly smoothly, and I was pleased to find myself much more comfortable and relaxed within the teaching role. Knowing beforehand that I would be in charge of the final class, I had debated giving the students a little speech/pep talk about the importance of all that Ernie had taught them. As class began, I thought better of this, as I decided no one likes to be preached to. However, my opportunity came unexpectedly to say what I wanted to say in a more casual way later in the class. I overheard two students discussing their opinions on art making, and one excitedly proclaimed “if you can draw, you can do anything!” Which was in a nutshell, exactly what I had wanted to impart on them. I told the student that he was exactly right, and went on to explain to the group why. It was important to me to emphasize to the students that the skills Ernie had taught them were the true fundamentals of any kind of art. If they could master those, they would be well equipped to execute whatever they wanted. It went over surprisingly well, and ultimately turned into a dialogue amongst the students and myself. This was a much better approach than my initial idea of preaching to them.
By the end of class, I had helped out a good portion of the class on their drawings. It is remarkable how much more confident I had become in doing this. They seemed to respond well. As the class time came to end, I made sure to collect of the students’ work and organized it for Ernie to pick up. I stressed that they have their names on their portfolios, as it didn’t occur to some of them. Then it was attendance time, and the class dispersed. I also chatted with a couple of students about some of my own work and how the graduate program is going. It seemed like I had finally caught some of their interest.


About AlexEConrad

Fine artist. Freelance designer.
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