For those of you who aspire to teach, or are visual artists without much teaching experience I recommend a few things in order for your class to run smoothly…
1) Edit down your ideas! You need to have very specific things to accomplish in a class in order for your students and yourself to feel successful. Of course, sometimes these objectives will change in the moment, but it will help you organize everyone if you have some specific goals in mind. This will also help with #2 below
2) If you are a traveling teaching artist like I was, you will be required to wheel in your own supplies, so make sure you have edited your supplies, too, so you don’t have to bring 8 million bags and buckets of supplies for all of your awesome ideas each time you have a class.
3) Often kids will feel like they are done with projects before the end of the class session. Try to draw them out with new levels to the project by offering a new technique, a challenging question or two to answer (visually). You should also have some standard ideas and supplies to hand out when kids get done early, or are getting too irritated with the first project. (see below for more ideas). One other technique I used that helped a lot was to have one long-term project and one short-term project going on at the same time. That way, children could switch back and forth between the two and you, as the teacher, are not spread too thin since you have initiated both projects and can be involved with both.
4) Elementary students like experimenting with new materials and messy things. Some air dry clay can work (only if you have some designated storage at the location since it is very heavy to lug around). Middle School kids LOVE cartooning, block letters, graffiti lettering and talking about/creating about themselves. Have some markers and papers at ALL time, so they can draw symbols and letters and cartoons. They will like you better for it. High School kids are better at entertaining themselves, but sometimes need a nudge in the right direction. Incorporating movement, or music (think a visual rhythm project using hip hop beats, etc…) can help everyone feel interested in your project.
5) When working with kids spend some time at the very first class making a poster of the rules of the classroom. Ask them what the rules should be. They know what good behavior is. If they make the rules, they are more likely to follow them most of the time. Make sure to include the rule that the teacher can always override a rule and make new rules.
6) When teaching do not hesitate to tell your students you don’t know the answer to something they ask. Tell them you will get back to them with an answer, if you can. And then follow up during the next class.
I’ll post more helpful hints soon!