This past Saturday, I stepped into a new kind of class–one I’ve wanted to teach for a long time. Immediate disclaimer: you may not want to teach this kind of class or take it. That’s fine. I’m not trying to persuade anyone; I’m just happy I found the way I want to teach.
Concept: I want to teach explorers and experimenters. People who want to try, discover, mess up and learn, without needing to walk away with a finished project.
Instead of: Many classes today are based on the American business model of “follow an example, do it just like the sample, and do it before close of business.” in other words, emphasis on perfection and speed.
There are advantages to doing this–the instructor brings in a kit or pieces already cut out and bagged. Participants follow instructions and walk away with a piece they can give as a gift.
The problem with this is that it has nothing to do with creativity. It has to do with following instructions and small motor control in assembly. The other problem, of course, is that when the confused student, thinking the project is original art, submits it to a show. The instructor is angry. After all, it’s the instructor’s design, concept, and “all the student did was put it together.” I’ve seen that complaint on many instructors’ websites.
Nothing of that is interesting to me. And I know most classes today are taught that way. And many people enjoy it.
Advantage of Experimental Classes: Participants have permission to play, to create (in the best sense of the world) and to really learn. Because I’m there to demo techniques, make suggestions, and help on the discovery step when something goes wrong, the participants learns a skill, along with problem solving and self-confidence. The resulting curiosity and joy in discovery is the basis of a living a creative life.
Disadvantages of Experimental Classes: Participants don’t walk away with a completed project. Participants have to ask for help; I don’t pace the classroom looking to give advice.
Why It’s Important: I believe in creativity and living a creative life. I don’t believe in fixing people or giving advice. I think the joy of discovery is a vital part of creativity, and the accidental discovery is magical. I want to create a classroom where that is possible. And probable.
The risk: It’s not for everyone. It’s for people who are curious about living a creative life as a soul growing processes. My classes may not make, I may teach a lot of small classes. And discovery classes are harder to prepare for. I have to bring a lot more equipment, tools, and paper to share. It is easier to bring a sample and kits, which is why so many people default to a project class.
As a creativity coach, I believe that everything in life is connected in some way, and that a big part of creativity is pattern recognition that helps us change our life and re-invent ourselves. Through creative exploration. In order to be authentically me–coach, writer, instructor, creative soul–I’m best suited to teach the way I live.
The class I taught this past weekend really fueled my delight in this way of teaching. Experiments were inventive, a few mistakes taught something more important (paper is cheap!), and anyone who asked a question got an answer. A participant was also a teacher and artist, and did an inventive demo I described. Everyone learned as much as they wanted. I think everyone left excited to try out more.
My wish is that the creative soul and exploration movement is just beginning. I’m ready for it. Want to join in?
Quinn McDonald is teaching experimental classes in Tucson (November 17), at the Minnealpolis Book Arts Center (April 2014) and at Madeline Island (June, 2014) Her book comes out in December. It’s going to be a busy 2014!