July 15, 2016
How to be an excellent teacher
I've been lucky, I've had some excellent teachers in my life. Specifically, I'm thinking of my Graphic Design teachers at ASU. They knew their stuff, and they shared what they knew. Most of them had no idea on how to present in an organized way, how to explain grading policies, or attendance, or the percentage that you would need to get a weighted grade if you missed 7/10ths of the minimal absences. But they knew Graphic Design, Illustration, and Typography. And when I started teaching, in the 1990s, I wanted to be like them.
And I was. Students in my classes got everything that I could give about my enthusiasm for my profession. Graphic Design is the only thing I've ever done, and I knew it, and I wanted to share it. I wanted to introduce my students to kerning, to Paul Rand, to the Pantone Matching System. Every trick I knew in Quark, Illustrator, and Photoshop, I shared. I created the types of interesting projects that I remembered my teachers at ASU created - no step-by-step stuff, always with an eye towards a portfolio piece.
If you were a student the Art Institute of Phoenix from 1995 to 2001, or Glendale Community College from 2001 to 2007, you should remember classes that you had with me. The very best students shined like diamonds. If that was you, I'd be willing to bet you still have some of those final projects, which were your portfolio pieces that got you some killer jobs. And you may also remember that I worked very hard trying to answer questions like "how many classes can I miss and still get a passing grade?" (I was never very good at that, but I tried!).
No, I never got a "teacher of the year" award, or anything like that. I guess that stuff went to teachers who did a better job explaining the attendance policy, that sort of thing, and I was pretty lousy at that. Probably because I never really cared about that stuff. I cared about the artwork. And I saw some great work created by the students. I saw faces shining with joy at the thought that they knew that they were in the right place, getting the right education, seeing a bright future.
My expectations of myself were set by myself, and inspired by the excellent teachers that I had. And hopefully there's someone out there who will want to do the same thing some day. That's where excellent teachers come from. It could be you.
Posted by Brad Hall