Saturday, March 10, 2012

End of Quarter Student Firings

We are once again nearing the end of the quarter. Right now I am taking a break from loading the final glaze kiln because I do not have enough finished, quality work to finish load the kiln. There are two students in the studio this afternoon and I am hoping they will finish their work in the next hour but I suspect they will do this more efficiently without me standing behind them huffing and sighing for them to get me the work.

I suppose it is inevitable at this point in the quarter to feel disappointment in those students who have not managed to complete their assignments, those student who have stopped coming to class or simply disappeared. At the end of the quarter, I am always concerned with the progress and efforts of my students. I don't think the students and their performance this quarter is far beyond the normal range. I always have a few students who disappear and a few who flake out near the end of the quarter.

The other day my work study students in the clay studio were discussing tattoos and piercings. They were suggesting that students get tattoos and piercings done at the end of the quarter when they are stressed out about finals. I have limited data but it seems to be more or less true for the two of them.

From an instructor's perspective, the students who tend to get themselves in trouble at the end of the quarter are usually the ones who start preparing themselves to be in trouble at the start of the quarter. I'm not sure if the stress relief tattoos are reserved for the students who get themselves in trouble. I remember classmates in college who would stress like crazy over tests and regularly earn As. Stressing was a part of their process. I suspect as a teacher I either see less of this stressed behavior or I don't pay as much attention because I know they will be fine.

It is the clay students this quarter who have me riled up. I have several this quarter who have simply stopped showing up. The last day for students to drop was almost 3 weeks ago, but I have 4 students who haven't come to class a day this week.  One of these students was in the studio in the afternoons last week but hasn't made it to class for three full weeks!

I was writing this yesterday, and took a break when my computer started freezing. I went back to the studio to finish loading only to discover the students were far from ready. I went home and returned to the studio at 6:30 and discovered two more students had joined the ones I left. One hadn't been in class all week. There she was, finishing a piece I wanted finished a week ago, or Monday, at least.

As I started to load the kiln, I realized that I had plenty of work to fill the kiln, but much of the short stuff was wide. I voiced my frustration that the wide stuff would have been easier and more efficient to load with the short narrow stuff I had loaded earlier that day or the day before. This is why I had been bugging them for two weeks to get their work glazed. One student responded, "Why don't you unload the kiln and re-load it."

Makes you wonder what they think you do all day (and all night).

Needless to say, I did not reload the entire kiln. I spent only about 30-45 minutes loading the top 1/3 of the kiln. And to her credit, the student above helped. It generally takes me several hours to load the kiln. The next day I fire it, starting before 8am and ending around 7:30pm. This makes for a long day for me, but it is part of the job. What frustrates me is how hard it is for students to understand the process. I pester them to get their work done early Thursday so I can finish loading Thursday and fire all day Friday. I don't want to fire all day Saturday because I would have to come to the studio every hour between 8 and 12 and then again at 4 and again at 7pm. All this so that the work can be out of the kiln Monday at 10am for their Final Critique.

I suppose I need to work on some different strategies for getting students to understand the firing process and the timing of drying, firing, glazing, loading, firing and cooling. I'm too tired and worn out now, I will ponder it for next quarter.

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