Monday, February 16, 2015

7 habits of highly successful instructors

Thinking about my occasional disappointing experiences with instructors teaching fiber art skills got me thinking about what I expect from teacher. Please note that these thoughts relate only to paid coursework, not to study groups and other unpaid venues.

Instructors first. From my perspective as a student, the best teachers share their passion. They are experts who love to share through teaching others. Although it is impossible to quantify and itemize what exactly makes a good teacher, this is my short list of best practices.

Excellent instructors:
1.    arrive early enough to greet arriving students and start at the scheduled start time;
2.    are well-organized with a lesson plan, but also plan for the unexpected;
3.    demonstrate knowledge by freely sharing any and all relevant information 
·      Unreserved sharing opens windows to new ideas. This applies to just about every aspect of life;
4.    adhere to the course description and fulfill promises made
·      For example, if the description states that each student will get a pattern, they do,
·      Sometimes, a teacher adds value and enhances the perception of 'time-well-spent.' This might be a free give-away, unexpected handout, etc. It isn't necessary, but it adds fun to the event;
5.    effectively manage group dynamics
·      acknowledge and interact with all students equally. 
·      actively manage those who compete for center stage;
6.    downplay sales during the scheduled course time 
·      if offering anything for sale, complete the transactions after the class ends;
7.    stay a short time after the scheduled end of class to tie up loose ends (other than sales).

For the most part, the instructor takes overall responsibility for a successful class. After all, students pay to be there, but students have responsibilities, too. After recently observing two classmates vie for knitting and personal one-upmanship throughout an entire afternoon, I was reminded of the importance of self awareness and courteous behavior. So it's only fair to consider students' responsibilities from a teacher's perspective:

Now class attendees
Whether there are two or twenty (hopefully, not more), most adages are related to courtesy. While sharing can be a wonderful source of ideas and inspiration, some students come to preen. I find attendees who come to show off their knowledge and accomplishments especially tiresome.

Do's and don'ts for students:
1. do arrive on time;
2. do come prepared with supplies and equipment, when requested;
3. do give the teacher some space before the class begins unless otherwise indicated;
4. do follow directions;
5. do remember that the class is a business for the teacher. If he or she wanted to donate time, they would volunteer;
6. don't expect the instructor's undivided attention unless this is a one-on-one class; 
7. don't use the class as a forum to impress others. Resist the urge to dominate the class by sharing your proficiency and/or many projects.

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