How To Transition From Student To Instructor

instructor
Nicole Tinkham

Stepping outside your comfort zone (as a student) and becoming an instructor is a scary thing! But the best way to grow as an artist is to do something totally new. Just think about all the art instructors out there who must have started somewhere. They got started right where you’re at now. We bet that at some point in your art career, an art instructor changed everything for you. They opened your eyes to the creative possibilities and inspired you to do something incredible with your life. Now it’s time you paid it forward by teaching your own skills to others and help them before they make some of the mistakes you made when first starting out. Read on for how to find your niche, learning how to teach, understanding the various ways people learn, different ways to practice teaching a class before you actually do one, how to be in control of the class, and the perfect time to get started.

1.    Become knowledgeable in a specific area

It’s nice to dabble in a bunch of different areas and expand your skills. But when it comes to teaching others, it’s highly important that you know exactly what you’re doing and can answer any questions that come up (to the best of your ability, anyway). Pick an area that you’re passionate about, that you know a lot about, that you’ve been doing for awhile, and that you’ve learned and grown in.  You should feel the most confident in this area. If you’re unsure what that thing is for you, think about what you get the most compliments on. What techniques do artists continuously ask you how to do? Where do you feel your strongest abilities lie?

2.    Take a course on teaching

Just because you’re an expert in a certain area in the art world doesn’t mean you’re ready to go off teaching it just yet. Some of us were born teachers and can explain things well while others don’t naturally have that skill. Like anything, you can learn and grow as a teacher and that’s where books, videos, and classes come in. Taking speech classes may also help if you’re uncomfortable speaking in front of others.

3.    Understand the ways of learning

Everyone learns in their own unique way. Some people prefer to read instructions while others rather see it in action. Some people even learn best by actually doing it. Keep this in mind when structuring your art workshops and don’t become impatient with a student if they just aren’t getting it. Try a different method with them and see if it helps them pick it up.

4.    Practice makes perfect

When you’re doing something totally new and out of your comfort zone, remember that you will get better with time. All it takes is lots and lots of practice! To practice instructing your workshop, you can record yourself going through the class to see where you need to make improvements. You can also go through a trial run with your friends or just a small group and see what types of questions or confusion arises. Or you can just jump right into it and start your workshops with a full class. People are forgiving so no worries if you mess up! Just do your best and strive to get better each time.

5.    Get organized

Half the artists we talk to struggle with organization and the other half are very good at it. We’re all different and that’s ok! But when it comes to instructing workshops there has to be some level of organization. Plan out when each class will be, how long it will be, and exactly what will be accomplished in each one. With instructing, you have to lead in a step by step process so your students can easily understand the instructions. The key is to be very clear. Of course you’ll also want to be on time and do the things you say you’ll do. This will build trust with your students and they’ll want to come back for more.

6.    Don’t wait for perfection

So many people never try anything new because they’re afraid to start! There will never be the right timing and you will never be perfect. As we mentioned in #4, you will get better the more you do it. So just get started. If you don’t take the opportunity in front of you, it may never come around again. Now is the time to start!

Teaching art workshops isn’t for everyone so don’t feel pressured to transition from student to instructor. It doesn’t hurt to try it out and see if it’s for you though. You can always start small and work your way up to larger and more frequent classes. It really doesn’t have to be that scary! You will learn and improve as you go so don’t sweat a bad class if they come up. Remember to choose the topic you’re passionate about, get really good at teaching others, understand how they learn, never stop getting better, get yourself organized, and get started right away. You can do this!

Have you ever instructed an art class? If so, what advice would you give someone just starting out?

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