Adventures in Teaching

Adventures in Teaching

Hello again, reader. As I noted in my last entry, the passage of time feels inexplicably accelerated in the Spring semester, so the mere weeks since I last wrote have been witness to quite a lot–particularly in the area of my teaching. With the semester almost at its midpoint, I am pleased to report that my maiden voyage in teaching undergraduate students seems to be going well for me–and, most importantly, for my students–so far.

My Drawing for Non-Majors classroom in situ, complete with still life, self-portraits, and students.on break.

Week by week, I can see my students opening up gradually more and expressing their successes, struggles, and individual journeys on the road to better understanding and developing within the field of drawing. Though I am the instructor, I make a concerted effort to make our course an ongoing conversation about drawing, encouraging peer-to-peer discourse through informal critiques and class discussions. In those discussions, nothing thrills me more than to hear my students’ independent “discoveries,” from observations in improving the accuracy of their drawings to novel, self-devised applications for tools.

In our last session, I was excited to have fellow student and Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts Graduate Ambassador Colleen McCulla visit my class, showing her own collage work and demonstrating techniques for the incorporation of collage into drawing practice. My students seemed equally excited, asking Colleen questions about both collage in general and her practice without any need for prompting. The subject of collage, in turn, initiated a lot of unexpected, but relevant conversations within the context of drawing. These ranged from the accumulation of a “library” of images to reference and preservation of works on paper to the issue of copyright and attribution when using preexisting images in your work. After Colleen’s presentation, it was enlivening to see my students confidently apply collage elements to their own drawings.

However, all of my joy about my class is not to say that it has been an effortless or seamless endeavor for me. I have encountered moments where an exercise did not unfold as I’d anticipated, but I have not let that deter me from re-imagining how it could be improved for my class and revisiting at a later point, once re-examined. I keep the concurrent pedagogical readings I’m doing in my Graduate Teaching Seminar in my mind during these moments, reminding myself that learning is an individual endeavor and that approach needs to be adapted to the students’ needs. Much of this is founded in empathy and consideration for my students as a student myself, and I feel that it ultimately builds trust that I have their interests in mind.

Teaching this undergraduate class has been transformative for me in many ways; I find myself sometimes contemplating in my day-to-day how some quotidian thing I see or do might be made into a drawing lesson. All things considered, I feel lucky to be teaching this group of students and look forward to continuing our drawing journey together. Oh, and if it even needs saying, they are an amazing group of students!

Merchandise I’m half-jokingly contemplating purchasing right now. Source: