I have spent many years as a craftsman and then the last seven I have systematically developed a range of woodcarving courses. This has been a very interesting process and I thought it may be useful to others that teach to know how my mind works. So here are my 10 rules for teaching craft, they have been developed from teaching carving with axes and knives but I suspect many of the ideas are the same in pottery, basketmaking weaving or whatever.
Robin Wood's 10 rules for teaching craft
1 Don't run your first course in
anything as a paying course, however good you are that's not fair. Do
one for free for a few mates or neighbours, same length, same venue,
exactly the content you plan and everything. Always the first one you
learn a lot however good you are at your craft, you may find they get
half as much done as you expected or twice as much.
2 If you see
blood, more than an odd nick you as a teacher are doing something
wrong. Do not accept blood as inevitable it's not.
3 If someone
is struggling and after you have tried to help and given them time to
struggle try and find a different way of showing/telling, I always see
it as my problem as the teacher if someone is having a hard time not
4 Look closely at their hand and body positions and look how it
differs from yours. Become aware of your own body.
5 Take regular
breaks, I have found the structure of the days is equally as important
as the content, make sure everyone is warm, dry, comfortable and not too
tired only then can they focus on learning.
6 Only touch a
persons work as a very last resort or if they ask, as soon as it is in
your hands they are not learning. Pick up a similar piece or tool and
show them alongside so they can mirror you.
7 Feedback forms, a
well designed feedback form is helpful when developing courses. You know
the sort that asks questions where you can answer one of 4 options, not
3 or 5 so you can't go in the middle. How good was the food? how useful was the sharpening demonstration?
Then open questions like what did you find most
helpful? What did you find least helpful? can you think of any way of
making the course better? etc be open to suggestions and change.
a couple of years hopefully you will have ironed out all the glitches
and feedback forms just come back all glowing 10/10s at which point I
stopped doing them.
8 Most important be sure what you are
doing and why. Many people say they are teaching but actually what they
are doing is providing holiday experiences. An alternative to pony
trekking or adventure holidays, the punters are here to make a basket or
chair, enjoy their surroundings, enjoy the feeling that they have made
it and could if they wanted to make another but probably never will. If
this is the aim then feel free to dive in and help them whenever they
struggle and make sure they take something home they can be proud of. If
you are aiming at empowering them with skills they will continue to use
and grow then do a little and do it well with lots of repetition to
embed things in muscle memory.
9 Judge yourself not by the work
they do on the course but by the photos they send you of the work they
do at home the week after.
10 Have fun. However serious you are about your craft people learn best when relaxed and having fun. You can take things very seriously and have fun at the same time.
There are other things like get first
aid training and insurance and if you provide any food get food hygiene certificate
but the above is the teaching the craft bit.