Let's Talk About: self Sabotage- Barriers to Learning

 
 

I strive to be informative. After all, if the info in my Journal isn't useful, what's the point of either of us being here?

But necessary information isn't always a fresh breeze blowing up your bloomers.

Sometimes it makes you feel squidgy in your seat. "Oh my, is she talking to ME?"

Sometimes I have to challenge you, because the growing process is not comfortable. If we only practice the things that are easy, we never improve the things that need improvement.

So buckle your seat belt, we might be gettin' a tad squidgy here...

The number one way...

...that students sabotage the learning process is by coming to class unprepared.

There. I said it.

My dear, sweet grandmother who taught me to always be polite is now rolling over in her grave right now.

And believe me, if this blog post actually gets published instead of deleted, it'll be because I fought the urge to yank it in favor of something more rainbow sparkley.

But that big, bold statement is completely true. The students who need my instruction the most are often the same ones building a gigantic brick wall between their chair and mine.

Frankly, I suck at teaching students who only bring 3 markers to class.

I can not physically teach two lessons at once- one to the students who arrived ready to learn and a second, dumbed-down version to the Lost Soul who wandered in with a Copic, a Crayola, and a paperclip.

It's stressful for me because I can't stop class to help the Lost Souls... and darnitall, I really, really, really want to help them, even if it kills me.

It's disrespectful to my support staff. By the time you walk into my classroom, well over 15 hours of paid support has gone into lesson prep, supply ordering, publicity, promotion, printing, kit assembly, and RSVP tracking... I didn't just wake up that morning and decide to teach.

It's unfair to the rest of the class when half my mind is brainstorming ways to color a skunk with two pink markers instead of demonstrating the real lesson. The entire class gets short-changed in both lesson quality and the level of individualized attention.

It cheats the person sitting next to the Lost Soul; suddenly they feel obliged to loan out their own supplies and to answer questions. This poor person came fully prepared but fate stuck them next to a Lost Soul and now they're pulled underwater too.

In my class last Saturday...

I had several students who were struggling.

But I excel at teaching beginners and I relish the challenge that beginners present. The struggles I saw in class were fixable because we could look at the marks they were producing and determine what was going wrong. They were making progress in class which tells me that they understood the concept even if they were not fully able to duplicate it. All of my beginners will come back next month with noticeably improved technique and they'll be ready to build upon this new skill rather than repeat the lesson. These situations are exactly why I love teaching, I get a big kick out of watching people have light-blub moments.

But I had one Lost Soul.

It was hopeless from the moment she mugged me with me a list of a dozen missing markers, minutes before class.

Seriously, I taught for the next 3 hours with a full bladder because her mile long substitution list robbed me of my take-my-coat-off-and run-to-the-potty time!

With very few of the correct supplies, I could not tell if her struggles were due to her lack of markers or if the problem was in the stroke, in the flow, in the pressure, or due to the full moon... all I could say was "gosh, that sure didn't work out, did it?" About mid class, I had to wash my hands of the situation and let her flounder. 

Here's where I feel really, really bad: I know she left class without learning anything.

Which means I failed. I was there to teach and that didn't happen.

But you know what? I can't assume responsibility for this comedy of errors. It bugs the bejeebus out of me and I really hate that someone left unsatisfied, but I'm not to blame for this.

Here's what I need to get off my chest, for all the Lost Souls out there, because the more I let this happen, the more it keeps happening. This is my primal scream moment-

no teacher can stop you from sabotaging your own education.

Lost Souls blow through every single fail safe I put in place: 

  • I teach in a store that stocks the supplies I use. That essential marker you're missing is about 40 steps away from your chair.
  • I offer free consultations for two weeks before every class. If you can't fill the supply list, I happily offer substitution suggestions for every single color you're missing.
  • I don't expect your marker collection to match mine. If you own 150 markers but karma has you short a dozen markers on the supply list, I will customize a palette based on your collection, up to 48 hours before class.  
  • I often break my own rule and accept substitution questions 2 minutes before class. I seriously resent doing it but I try to be kind.
  • I encourage a friendly classroom atmosphere where we help each other out, loan supplies, and lift each other up with encouragement.
     

One to four missing markers in my class won't kill you. But 10? That's a serious problem.

And this is why I'm speaking out. I'm doing absolutely everything within my power to help Lost Souls. But there's a limit to my magical powers. 

I can work with the unskilled and the un-artistic. Heck, I'm up for the challenge of teaching the color-blind.

What I can't do is teach someone who has no supplies.

I know some of my students reading this are worried that I'm talking about them. Relax.

I am extremely lenient about my supply lists. For every class I have at least 40% of students working with some substitutes. I'm fine with that! 

Reasonable substitutions are good things. For starters, they allow you to take the class despite missing a few supplies. As long as you fully understand that more substitutions = less learning, and you aren't impeding the class setting, you're welcome to join us!  

The second reason I allow some substitutions is that we make pretty awesome discoveries when you use color variations; I learn from the process too. So please don't get the idea that I'm going nuclear over a few missing markers.

What I'm objecting to here are the Lost Souls.

Are you a Lost Soul?

  • Did you consult the supply list more than 24 hours before class?
  • Did you contact the instructor ahead of time to request help making substitutions?
  • Did you make any attempt to purchase missing supplies BEFORE the day of class?
  • Did you come to class last month fully prepared?
  • Did you come to the class 2 months ago, fully prepared?
  • Have you ever come to class fully prepared?

If you answered NO to more than 2 of these questions, you're a Lost Soul who is most likely wasting money on my lessons. That's blunt but it's true. I can't help you to improve your cake baking skills when you have no flour, no milk, no eggs, no bowl, no pan, no oven, and no plans to ever remedy this.

Here's another big clue to your level of Lost Souledness, have you ever sent an instructor this kind of email:

Dear Instructor,

I own lots of markers and I definitely WILL NOT be investing in any more! I am missing 23 markers on your list. Please suggest a solution.

Thanks, and see you tomorrow!

My definition of a Lost Soul is someone who stubbornly insists upon remaining unprepared week after week after ever lovin' week.

So if you're a student who was missing 2 markers on Saturday, relax! Class will be easier if you use the right materials but the world isn't going to end because you came up short for this one class.

But if you're a repeat offender, you need to do some thinking. Are you really ready to take live classes? Is this the best use of my time and your money?

I want to teach you. I've made myself more than available. But my efforts need to be reciprocated.

Until you come to class prepared, we can not have a productive relationship.

Okay, rant over.

This was the big issue on my mind but there are many other ways that students set up road blocks for themselves.

Know how I know? Because I'm a student too. I take classes to improve my own techniques. That makes me a better artist but it also makes me a better teacher.

Sabotage will be a semi-regular series. The next one up will point the rifle squarely at me! I'm terrible at talking myself out of creativity and I'll write about that next month.