Monday, 18 November 2013

Bad teachers

In contrast to this post, sometimes in life you will come across them.

A consequence of my past working life that I hadn't reckoned on is that every time I'm in some kind of classroom/learning situation now, my inner teacher sits in judgement.  This is usually fine because the tutors at the City Lit are uniformly excellent.

Today I came across one (not at the City Lit) who was DOING IT ALL WRONG. Luckily now I'm an adult with teaching experience behind me I can look at this dispassionately and not be affected. It made me cross though, as it was in a class of mainly young teenage students. I so remember being that age and how very easy it is to damage their confidence and self esteem, just when they need it to be boosted.

It is not an auspicious place for me. It is an art college set up by HRH in Shoreditch. I got rejected for a job there before, and it's also around the corner from another book arts class that I dropped out of because the class was way too crowded and I thought they'd booked too many students out of greed.  I kept dragging myself out to this class in the freezing cold after work last winter until I realised that I really wasn't enjoying it and nobody said I had to go anyway...

Tonight was a drop in life drawing session, free for art students. A boy in the lift is chatting to me, he came last week.
"Do they give you guidance...?"  (They often don't at drop in sessions.)
"Sure, if he thinks you can do better, he'll let you know..." Hmm, I think. That's not teaching.
"Where do you study?"
"City Lit."
"Oh, fair play." he says.
"How about you?"
"St Martin's".
"Well done!" I say, thinking, holy shit, I'm out of my depth already. 

 It's a different tutor this week, an older woman. She is relentlessly negative.  She starts off moaning about people turning up late and moans at every latecomer. There is an easy solution to this, I think. Tell the receptionist downstairs that people can't come in late. Or position yourself at the studio door and don't let them in.

Then there is a stream of critical, negative comments as she circumnavigates the studio.  This isn't helpful, I haven't done any life drawing in about 2 years and have forgotten everything I ever knew, and am surrounded by young kids studying art full time.

"If you're not finishing the pose, you must ask yourself why...? What are you doing so that you can't complete it?"

"It's interesting to me, looking at people who perhaps  haven't had much drawing experience... You can tell because they can't tell the difference between illustration and art..."

"Why are you here? You're not here just to add another drawing to your portfolio. Find something in the drawing, maybe the structure or the mood, find an angle. Otherwise, why not just take a photo? What makes it a drawing?" 

This is not teaching. It's as if I'd stood over my 5 year olds, mocking them for not being able to read fluently without giving them the tools or helping them to do it.

Most of the students are here to practice their life drawing skills. Maybe, like me, they don't have the opportunity to do it on their courses. Either bloody teach them or shut the fuck up, I think (but don't say.)

After the first half hour of short poses, I make a run for it at break time. I can't stand the hour and a half of the long pose to go by with her nag, nag, nagging and stream of negativity.

St Martin's boy is outside having a fag. "Are you going already?"
"Yes, she's awful. She's doing my head in."
"Yeah, it's not great. Aw, that's a shame. Can't you just tune her out...?"
"Can't concentrate."
"Come back next week, there'll be a different tutor then."
"Yeah, I'll give it a try. See you next week."

I'll peep around the studio door next week, and make a run for it if I see her. I wish I'd caught her name as some of the classes there look great.

short poses (1 or 3 minutes) trying to tune out nagging harpy woman. 

Most women don't like their big bums but when you are life drawing you can see their appeal.


  1. Bum at about seven o'clock. I like that one. Oh yes.

    Sorry, that's not the sort of constructive criticism you want, is it?

  2. It is a bit unlikely steatopygous, but if it pleases you that's good enough for me, Tim.

  3. Er that was my fave as well! And the upper arm at bottom-right

  4. Thanks my dear. We will pass over the fact that she has two different size legs.

    *note to self - people like bums*