Last weekend I spent it back up in Ashland. It was the premier of Jarrod's 'Teachers of Spoon Carving course' and he was kind enough to invite me along. When Jarrod first mentioned his idea for this class I thought it was a genius idea. Knowing how to carve a spoon and knowing how to teach are two very separate skills. With more and more people interested in making things with their hands, there's a growing demand for classes. I know my classes tend to sell out, I even have regular enquiries for one-on-one tuition.
I have a lot of experience teaching. I taught English for two years to primary school children in South Korea. I spent several months teaching adults English in Thailand, and 6 months teaching a range of subjects to students in Iraq. From my time working at Eco-Schools back in the UK I ran hundreds of workshops with students and trained teachers in Education for Sustainability. So when I started teaching people how to carve I was fairly comfortable with the idea. I already knew how to manage a classroom, do basic risk assessment and so forth.
That said, teaching craft is quite different to regular classroom teaching. It's not the best way to teach, but so long as you're at least a chapter ahead of the students, you can pretty much blag it. After all, no one is going to sever a finger if they fail to properly conjugate a verb. Once you start handing out axes and knives, you really need to step up your game.
Jarrod's class was extremely useful. The basic structure was of a regular spoon carving class, but with pauses to comment on why the class is structured that way and to discuss things to consider when teaching different skills. For me it was gratifying to see that Jarrod's class structure wasn't wildly different from mine. Jarrod's structure was more refined and laid out in a way that avoided certain potential problems. Just as you'd expect from someone who's been teaching craft for as long as he has.
I also learned a lot from the other participants. As this was the first time Jarrod was running this class, it was filled with folks he knew. Of the eight of us, just two of the participants were new faces for me. The nature of the class meant that all the participants were either professional or semi-professional craftspeople. This meant that throughout the weekend there were lots of great conversations that had nothing to do with teaching, but offered interesting insights into how we each run our craft businesses.
Right now I'm back in Madison, digesting what I've learned while frantically trying to crank out spoons for the Farmers' Market, having lost a day due to getting snowed in at Ashland.