How to become a BETTER Student . . .TEACHER: Rebecca Starry

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I wanted to figure out a way to begin this blog post with a nervous giggle - but I don't know how to articulate that into typed speech? So I'll say - I had one heck of a time trying to pick photographs for Rebecca's guest spot in our series "How to become a BETTER student." 
While I've seen her work described/called EDGY - I say it's Death Wish meets Ahhotep I meets St. Joan of Arc meets Tim "The Toolman" Taylor. Brash and Bold - like STEAMPUNK got it's butt kicked by Japanese Anime!
With her almost monochromatic color schemes, use of machine components and extremely detailed eye for design  - her work speaks volumes about who she is - best show you what I mean?  To me, she's one of those instructors you'd want to take a class from - just to find out what is in her head...I couldn't even chose which pictures to use? Thanks Rebecca for your time, your art and inspiration.

1. What is your most difficult obstacle to overcome while teaching a class?
RS: Dealing with students whose beading skills do not match those required for the class.

2. What is your most difficult obstacle to overcome while attending a class?
RS: Mechanical failure. A good teacher must be prepared to teach via an alternate method. If there is mechanical failure (computer/overhead projector won't work) be prepared with a (practiced) back up plan.

3. Why do you teach? (Be very specific here please):
RS: I have been beading for a long time and am quite passionate about my beadwork. I love to inspire others to express themselves artistically in this medium. Helping someone to succeed in bringing their creative ideas to fruition is extremely satisfying. Beading asked to teach is one of the greatest compliments.

4. How do you feel about  beading SKILL levels: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced;
RS: I think the class description needs to accurately express the technique(s) to be used and the skill level required to satisfactorily complete the class/project. I also think students need to understand the instructor has listed the skill level required for the class not to exclude certain students, but to remove the frustration/discouragement or lack of success on the part of the student who may not meet the skill level listed.

5. What is the BEST way you can handle a disruptive student?
RS: The teacher should decide ahead of time the rules of conduct for the class. These should be addressed at the start of the class making sure the rules are understood by the class. 
If the student is disrupting the class with questions - Address the class and advise them there will be time for questions soon. Take questions/comments periodically through the class at the end of the the step/concept.
If a talkative student is disrupting the class - Address the class and advise them to share a question or thought about the project. If conversation is not about the class ask them to refrain from talking and extend courtesy to other students are listening to the instructions. If repeated, ask the student(s) to hold the conversation until the break or take the conversation outside the classroom.
If cell phone/texting by a student is disruptive - Address the class and advise them to quiet phones during class time and phone usage can resume during break or after class.
If student is asking other students in the class for instruction - Address the student individually. Answer questions regarding instruction. If skills aren't adequate enough to complete the class, refund the class and direct the student toward a prerequisite class to better enable skills or offer private teaching time (if possible)

6. What is the difference between teaching a TECHNIQUE and a PROJECT?
RS: I think project classes are more linear and more easily outlined into exact steps. While all level students enjoy a beautiful piece of jewelry, I tend to link project classes with more beginner level beaders.
A technique class can be more difficult to teach and can take longer amount of class time. I tend to think more advanced students are interested in exploring the possibilities of a stitch and using it to create their own artistic vision. Advanced students are less likely to be disappointed if they complete the class with a mere handful of tangible samples they know they can incorporate into their own projects, in their own color palette or as inspiration for other concepts. With technique classes, there is more of an opportunity for students to think outside the box and teachers need to be prepared to answer these questions or explore the concepts together.

7. What is the importance of using the materials you've listed in your materials list for the specified project (you're teaching)?
RS: It is important that the materials listed fit the project or technique. While most projects allow for some choices to be made to express personal preference or color palettes, I try to explain some materials have been chosen for structural reason - certain beads are better for Right Angle Weave (RAW) or loom work or that certain materials (like FIRELINE) are necessary to prevent crystals from cutting threads. The instructor may want to include materials such as customized templates if needed for the project or offer (optional or specialized) supplies for purchase. Offering customized materials as part of the class or for purchase helps insure the success of the student, uniform results and can save the time of the student in trying to locate such supplies.

8. Which do you find more useful: Written instructions with diagrams or STEP by STEP photographs and instructions (please chose one or the other):
RS: I think a teacher ought to present multiple ways to teach a concept. I prefer written instructions with good diagrams. It is difficult to present step-by-step photos because I find you can breakdown the process too much for the advanced beaders and wind up with way too many photos. If you cut back on the number of photos, you risk missing an important step for other beaders.

9. In your experience, is an average student easier to teach than a student who is taught? 
RS: Average students can be great students. Certainly a student who has taught may be a more advanced beader and may learn more quickly. However, a beader who has taught (or an advanced beader) might be impatient, may not want to follow all instructions in the belief they know better/alternate way. Conversely, a student who has taught may be more appreciative of the work the instructor has put into teaching the class.

10. If your prerequisite SKILL LEVEL for the class is INTERMEDIATE: How do you divide equal amounts of time between Beginners/Intermediate to Intermediate beaders? 
RS: Ask a few questions at the beginning of the class to get a sense of how many students you have at each skill level. If possible group beaders of similar *skill* level together. Sometimes it's not a matter of spending equal amounts of time with each skill level as it is giving equal amounts of instructional support. So that all of the students get quality learning experience - beginning beaders may get little more instruction time learning a technique and the teacher can offer intermediate or advanced beaders an alternative or advanced step, concept or technique to a more advanced beader.

11. OPTIONAL: Please write specific tips for any student reading this to become a BETTER student:
  • Be prepared by reading the description of the class. Understand the time allowed and the beading skills required.
  • If you have questions, contact the instructor BEFORE the class. You can clear up questions concerning supplies (there may be a reason why certain supplies were chosen), techniques used, time constraints, etc.
  • Come on time and be prepared with the supplies required for the class.
  • Pay attention in class.
  • Be polite, do not talk or distract others in class.
  • Be considerate - there are multiple methods of doing things. There may be a specific reason why the instructor has directed you to do something a specific way. You can always do it your way - later.
  • Be aware everyone does not bead at the same speed. Some will finish the project - some will not. You can talk to the instructor at the end of the class if you think you will need additional instruction to finish.
  • Do not share copies of instructions from classes with others without the permission of the instructor.
  • Do not copy an artist's work to sell without the artists' permission.
  • Do not copy any work that has appeared in a magazine, book or website without the artists' permission.
  • Do not teach a beading project that has appeared in a magazine, book or website without the artists' permission.
  • Do not teach a beading project learned in another teachers' class without the teachers permission.
Like what you've read about Rebecca? Find her here:
Next up we have Sylvia Valle.

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