How to become a BETTER Student . . .TEACHER: Sylvia Valle

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My meeting with Sylvia Valle completely accidental. We just started selling our Lucite to wholesale applicants and she applied. She wanted Lucite for a project she was teaching and came to us for help. She wanted to pass the savings onto her students and list us as the source in the class... I loved her LOVE of teaching and admired her "chutzpah", "calm", "cool" mannerisms - and - Sylvia is an excellent EDITOR, she's helped me countless times with my project instructions. I can't express my thank you's enough to her...and I am 100% confident she's an amazing instructor, let's see what she has to say:

1. What is your most difficult obstacle to overcome while teaching a class?
SV: I have found teaching several levels of experience at the same time to be challenging but not impossible. The key is to be completely prepared, staying on task/focus and being able to multi-task...but most of all to be relaxed and create a relaxing atmosphere. A minor disturbance is to have a student who whines and is negative. I steer them away from that type of verbiage - always giving a positive slant to whatever is said.

2. What is your most difficult obstacle to overcome while attending a class?
SV: Dealing with a class/teacher groupie(s) seems to be the thorn in my side. These types of students want to monopolize the teacher and want one-on-one attention. Their behavior tends to ostracize the newbies.

3. Why do you teach? (Be very specific here please):
SV: I teach because I love to share my passion. I am self-taught and teach many mediums (paper, art, bookmaking, greeting cards, calligraphy and of course, beading). I am so excited about what I love that I want to share it with like-minded individuals. I get a lot of satisfaction seeing others take something they have learned and run with it. When a student has made it their "own" - I have succeeded! 

4. How do you feel about  beading SKILL levels: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced:
SV: I find if my classes are project oriented the skill levels filter themselves. Most importantly, I welcome all levels to whatever class I am teaching. I try to make sure the Beginner isn't overwhelmed by the more advanced student. I believe most of us look at the end result rather than the baby steps we have to take to get there. I think it helps the more advanced beader (Intermediate and Advanced) to "mentor" the Beginner from time to time - in turn, it may allow the Beginner to be exposed to a different method or approach than what I can offer. I always involve students in helping each other. To clarify, this doesn't mean I hand the class over to the students. I believe "it takes a village" for success and women can be incredible nurturers and cheerleaders.

5. What is the BEST way you can handle a disruptive student?
SV: I'm fortunate I've had very few experiences with this type of student. The real world doesn't stop at the classroom door. First I try humor. If that doesn't work, I ask the student to step aside and ask her if there is a problem I can help with or I will mention possibly the timing isn't right for her to take the class at that time. I have no problem at all asking a student to leave - fortunately, I have not had to make that decision.

6. What is the difference between teaching a TECHNIQUE and a PROJECT?
SV: The difference is like day and night. When teaching, it's imperative the class description states whether it's a technique or a project. Technique classes do not have a project goal - there isn't a finished project. Repetition helps to learn the technique. I may have several small pieces I ask the students to do from the beginning to finishing off until they feel successful at mastering the technique. Project oriented classes are just that. The goal is to finish or accomplish enough during the class time so the student feels confident to complete the project. The project may include a new technique but the goal is to reach completion.

7. What is the importance of using the materials you've listed in your materials list for the specified project (you're teaching)?
SV: I feel it's imperative the teacher be specific about materials and to make it clear if an exchange can be made. If a class is offered by showing a sample, most students want to make the exact same thing. It should be made clear if other materials are used there possibly can be a different outcome. Specifying DELICAS vs Generic seed beads will result in a dissimilar effect as will Swarovski crystals vs glass beads.

8. Which do you find more useful: Written instructions with diagrams or STEP by STEP photographs and instructions (please chose one or the other):
SV: Having written instructions for many years, I find clear concise instructions with a few graphics to be very helpful. I do not read photographs well - most of the time they are not close-up enough or crisp.

9. In your experience, is an average student easier to teach than a student who is taught? 
SV: The act of teaching is only half of what a good teacher does. A good teacher entertains as well as listens. She is aware of each students needs and has become attuned to the "climate" in her class within the first few minutes. Having said that, it shouldn't matter if the student has taught or never taught in a formal setting. I believe if there is a difference it lies in the teachers self-image. Is her confidence thrown off by another teacher or is she comfortable with her own expertise, etc.

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? 
SV: In every class I have short introductions. This gives the students and me a picture of what everyone's abilities are. I give a verbal and global overview of what we are going to do.  This also gives everyone an idea as to what to expect. Intermediate beaders are, in general comfortable with what they are doing and are patient. I let the Beginner/Intermediate know I will personally catch them up or help them get started. I must admit there have been some projects that I feel like a chicken without a head moving from one student to another but like I always tell my students "that's why I get the Big Bucks!" if only....

11. OPTIONAL: Please write specific tips for any student reading this to become a BETTER student:
  • Come prepared with all the materials and equipment listed.
  • Be enthusiastic.
  • Be friendly.
  • Ask questions if you're not sure of anything.
  • Revel in your success.
  • Let the teacher know how much you enjoyed the class.
Like what you've read about Sylvia? Contact her here:  Sylvia E-mail

Next we resume our regularly scheduled programming - 

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