Sunday, February 19, 2012

Teaching...with preparation

Be yourself
You may remember that my word for 2012 is "preparation." (I wrote: "I want to become a better teacher in 2012. Yes, I'm a good teacher now, and I do get lots of wonderful, positive feedback. But I want to be better. I want to step it up, really give my students their time and money's worth. I want to be more prepared. To be prepared for my classes, to have more hand-outs, more of a structure ( but still with lots of room for creative play!) to really think through each step of the process. Good solid preparation is what I plan to be physically doing for each and every one of my classes and workshops.") And in that blog post, I asked you, dear readers, what you think makes a great teacher and boy, did you respond ~295 really excellent, thoughtful comments. I've complied those comments, as a reminder to myself, and I want to share them with you.

Be warm and genuine, with a smile and laughter. Be yourself, inspire, be sincere, be generous with your time, praise, and honesty. Be engaged with the class the whole time. Love what you’re teaching and pass on the excitement, enthusiasm and passion. Have a sense of humor, to laugh at your mistakes, and help student laugh at theirs. Answer questions like it’s the first time you’ve ever been asked. Be a good listener. Be inclusive. Encourage and motivate. Be patient.

Teachers: laugh at your mistakes
Start with detailed, accurate class descriptions and 
materials list in advance. Accurate and short supply list and use the whole list in class. Have great, complete, precise, detailed handouts with illustrations, solid resources and suppliers (include brands/substitutions) so student can refer to handout months later and complete the unfinished project. Include tips, books, and websites. Handouts can last forever, make it the best. Workshop evaluations at the end of class.
Make sure everyone can see the demo 
Student feelings:
Students may not remember what they were taught, but how they were treated. Recognize students as individuals. Give them one-on-one time with the teacher. Make connections with your students, show interest in them, admiration for their ideas.
Treat each student with respect, kindness and equality. Help every student feel successful. Try and remove  the fear, and help each student step out of their comfort zone. Tell students exactly what they need to change in order to improve 
with delicacy and encouragement to ensure student stays motivated. Enable student to learn. 
Nurture the creativity already present in each student and validate what they do.
Midwife the process rather than product. Encourage student interpretation of the lesson
Allow students to work with their own styles. Never assume your student knows what you mean. Meet the students at their level and encourage them to move them to the next level.

Demo techniques clearly and simply
State agenda and show clear organization. Know the subject inside and out. Have a supportive attitude, with knowledge and competence. Teach it all, hold nothing back. Share your successes and failures. 
Make sure everyone can see demo. Teach techniques in multiple ways: kinesthetic, auditory and visual, Demo techniques clearly and simply. Teach just one or two techniques at a time. Do a demo multiple times. Adapt and redeliver what you teach to each student. Encourage inquisitiveness. 
Explain how activities build on one another…”you’ll use this later in the have 15 minutes to do this.” 
Have plenty of visual examples, and image or actual finished project. Focus on process rather than project. Have extra supplies for the forgetful. Have supplies to use in class 
Be truthful to the student. Don’t tell them it looks great when it doesn’t. Give immediate feedback to the student. 
Try and control the chatty cathy types, so they don’t disrupt the rest of the students 
Have space and time to stretch and breathe. 
Encourage participation and interaction among students 
Time to DO THE ART. Finish or come close to finishing project during class time. 
How techniques apply to other projects. Expand student boundaries. At end of class: describe the next steps. Show and tell. Closure.  

Thanks everyone for your feedback on this important subject. Now I'm off to stitch all this great advice on a sampler. ( I'm joking about the stitching part.) Here's a link to my teaching schedule, hopefully I'll be able to take to heart and put in action all your wonderful advice.


  1. Thank you for sharing this.
    There is some great information here that I can use to improve my own teaching:)

  2. A wonderful summary of the ideal teacher. I'm wondering: What do you do with yourself when students finally sink into the work- when it seems some uninterrupted quiet is what they need?

  3. Beautifully put, Jane! I'm going to bookmark this post, since I'm a fledgling teacher always looking for ways to improve my own performance! Thanks for sharing this...

  4. Linda, when they sink into that quiet, it's a wonderful thing. I continue to move around the room, stopping and remarking on each person's work...and let them keep working.

  5. Excellent advice! All things I try to do with my own classes. Good to hear them confirmed! I insist on quiet in my workshops at the outset - and everyone seems to appreciate that and always comment on it at the end. It helps keep it more of a personal journey than a social gathering. Thanks so much for sharing so freely! I really appreciate you.

  6. Great advice, Jane...I'm relatively new to teaching at bigger retreats and I aspire to be a better teacher as well. I definitely will take your words to heart :)

  7. well stated- love your pix!

  8. Brenda Cregger2/19/2012 7:45 AM

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful information. It will help my teaching as well. I alway tell my students at the beginning. There are three things: It is okay to be at the level you are today, you are to be you, not me. And have fun.
    Thanks again for all you wonderful art, post and smiles.

  9. I really appreciate you organizing all these suggestions....I often arrive at a workshop excited and ready to dig into the topic....only to com away disappointed because the handouts were poor or non-existent, the teacher backed off from much involvement after lunch, and there was no closure or evaluations. Teaching should be more than just presenting that one quilt you have become known for.

  10. This is a great list of how to be a great teacher!!! Thanks for sharing it all with us in one place. Very inspiring! I need to print this out.

    Now how about a list of suggestions on how to be a great student? ;) Sometimes we just show up and expect the teacher to be great without putting any effort into our learning. In a class I've been taking I was reminded that sometimes I need to put some effort into being a great student to have a good experience.

  11. You do all this and more - and I've only taken your online class. I live for the day I can sit in the classroom with you - Live! It's Saturday morning with Jane LaFazio!

    Diane - yarngoddess

  12. Thanks Jane -- this list is wonderful! I'll be printing it out!

  13. That second picture of you at the sewing maching says it all - your warmth and enthusiasm are right there, along with your perfect attitude about it all! We've loved being your students.

    Don and Susan

  14. I love all the comments to your post as well as the post itself. Great thoughts for the new teacher as well as more established ones. For some of us teachers we may tend to forget some of the simplest things. I think "stitching" these is a great idea but I think I'll journal them instead. lol

  15. Excellent...and thanks for paying attention to the comments...always.

  16. Well said, Jane. Teach On!

  17. Jane,
    Thanks so much for sharing your list of what makes a good teacher. It seems so very 'common sense'when written down, but I think we've all been there when this 'sense' wasn't common. Thank you!

  18. THANK YOU, Jane. This is just fabulous. I am sharing it with my readers.

  19. Thank you so much for posting this and for doing all the work that led to you getting so many wonderful comments! I will be taking them to heart when I teach my first ever class at AU this year. I will be happy if I can be half the teacher you are!

  20. This was a great idea Jane. Wonderful feedback on what makes an outstanding teacher. Thanks...

  21. Whew! Is that all? I always knew you were Superwoman!

  22. Hi, Jane. Excellent summary. From my experience in language teaching I would also include the fact that fear (to be put under the category of students' feelings) affects everyone and can be dealt with by the supportive atmosphere of the classroom that the teacher creates.
    best from Tunisia,

  23. I don't know if anyone already said this, but Jane, I believe you exemplify all of those comments! But I know you too so I know you will strive to top your own efforts!

  24. What a terrific post Jane! I just started teaching a couple of years ago... having very little to no background to being a student myself! I had no teaching role-models to emulate. I always wondered if I was on track and how I compare to other teachers. This post was VERY confirming. I love your enthusiasm and how you were able to spell it all out so well. Thank yoU!


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