Should art teachers take assignments for which they are not well prepared?
I believe that once a person has good basic preparation in at least one art specialty, has good art teaching preparation, is passionate about art, and is passionate about teaching art; the person can learn to teach any art specialty if they have desire, an average intelligence, and at least average creativity.
I have taken on many art teaching assignments for which I was not prepared. In each case I found that it worked well, but I did a lot of work and self-preparation. These are some of the things to PREPARE MYSELF and help my students LEARN FROM many rich SOURCES OTHER THAN ME.
1. I sought out teachers who were experienced specialists in the specialty that I was planning to teach. I asked them for all the help they were willing to give. Some gave me their whole syllabus and all their assignments and so on. Most teachers are very generous in this regard. By just calling on the phone I got things such as how much work to expect from students and the range of student expertise I could expect. I could also ask them about the main problems they faced and the main things they tried to include with regard to the final exam and final skill level goals.
2. Sometimes I took evening or summer classes in the specialty in a nearby university art dept.
3. I bought books, journals, and checked out lots of library books and magazines.
4. I bought art materials and equipment to try things. Sometimes I set up a studio at home where I could experiment and practice in private.
5. In some cases I hired advanced students to give me private tutoring in the technical aspects of the subject. A high school teacher may want to find a college student who has mastered a special skill. The college student will work cheap and be able to use this experience in her own resume. College instructors are willing to name students who are best qualified to do this.
SOURCES OTHER THAN ME for my students to learn:
1. I sought out video programs that covered all the special technical skills that I lacked. I have learned an amazing amount of art skills and very interesting gimmicks and trivia from educational videos that I rented or purchased for my students to watch.
2. I made sure the students had a good textbook covering the special area so that they always had more than just me to find technical help.
3. I had a collection of library books available and I assigned students to always have at least one library book checked out related to the subject we were learning. I brought in piles of back issues of the magazines related to the area I was teaching. I brought in my own books.
4. I assigned student reports. Each student had to research one artist within the specialty or one technique in the specialty and present an illustrated class report with an emphasis on the thinking and feeling behind the work. Why did artists do what they did? What motivated them?
5. I gave assignments for them to find and prepare handouts with a list of annotated Internet resources where other students students could find answers to technical questions.
6. I hired one or more advanced students to come in and assist beginning students overcome difficulties during practice sessions. This was generally very good for both the learners and the teachers, but advanced students need to be told never to do the work for the beginner, and never to give artistic suggestions--only technical oversight. Beginners must make their own artistic and design choices. Tutors are allowed to ask open questions when coaching for artistic ideas and choices.
7. I brought local professionals into the classroom to make presentations about their lives and work. Students were required to prepare questions that they could ask the professional.
8. We took field trips to the studios of professionals. Students were required to prepare questions that they would ask the professional.
9. When students asked me questions that I could not expertly answer, I did not answer them. I tried to ask them how we could experiment to find the answer to the question or where we might go to look for the answer. In general, I do not think I should make many suggestions or answer many student questions even when I am an expert. Even when I know an answer I often to not give it because I think it is better for students to learn to experiment. Mistakes are okay because they can be examined for creative ideas and they are a very memorable form of learning.
I learned that it was a good idea to ask the students for feedback. I ask what they want to learn and what they think would make the class a better learning experience for them. Doing this early during the course and at mid-term tends to result in better student satisfaction at the end of the term. I never push it too hard and I never depend on the students to design the course because they are seldom able to do it very well, but they do appreciate it if I ask for their opinions, and if I make a few improvements based on their ideas (if I can with integrity). It also reminds them to take some responsibility for the quality of their own education.