[flickr id=”12970772443″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”] I just wrapped up my sixth week of teaching an undergraduate class in papermaking. I am absolutely loving it. When I started teaching at the beginning of the semester, I won’t lie, I was REALLY nervous. I didn’t know what kind of group I was going to get, had doubts about my abilities to teach them a medium that I’ve been involved with for a minority of my artist practice, etc. As it turns out, all of those worries were mostly unfounded.
The group of students in my class are actually pretty cool. I have a few members of Columbia’s baseball club (apparently there is one) and a wide range of majors from fine arts to marketing to fashion design.
Yesterday we had our first critique together. Once again, I was a little nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. My students had been consistently showing up to class and putting in a good effort at trying out the techniques I was showing them in demos, but I had not really seen a lot of progress toward their projects. I had assigned them to do a self portrait as the first assignment. At first, I got the usual groans over such a typical first assignment, but I assured them that I was more than willing to work with them on the concept, and that non-traditional self portraits were more than acceptable.
When they showed up, I had them pin their projects on the wall. The level of work that I saw blew me away. Not a single one of the projects was like the other and they were all very well thought out. Each one was in a way a self portrait, but ended up taking on greater meaning than I think they each realized. There were projects that began a conversation about global capitalism, a project that was about gender, another about cultural heritage as learned through a student’s father, and another about being homesick for the coasts of California.
The craziest thing is that there was not a single straight forward self portrait in the group. Nobody took the straight forward easy way to tackle this assignment. I would have been happy to see one of their faces up there, but I am so impressed, dare I say proud, that they took the hard way.
Next week we hit the halfway point of the semester…right?! I know it is too soon to be hitting midterm, but here we are. Then the avalanche of business comes down on the semester. I’ll be presenting at Chicago Zine Fest, the following week is the monumental task that is Critique Week. Then we get a week “off” for spring break. These next couple of weeks are going to be crazy, but I am so happy that my Wednesday mornings have become the highlight of my week. Who would have ever thought that I would say that.