Monday, March 19, 2012

New Quarter Prep & Campus Pictures

New Quarter Prep

This week I am getting ready for the new quarter. At minimum this means updating my syllabi to include the correct quarter and classroom (for those classes which are mobile). But this quarter I am teaching a new class, so I need to create a new syllabus.

I am also making plans for the entire first week, since I will be at the NCECA conference in Seattle at the end of March. I have made arrangements for my students to visit Larson Gallery and the library to meet with the gallery director and a reference librarian. The library trip is usual for the end of the first week, but the Larson Gallery trip is a factor of timing. The clay show closes March 31, the end of the first week of classes, and I would like to get the students to the gallery to see as many shows as possible.

Clay Classes

I'm always amazed at how much prep work my classes still need after all this time. I've taught Functional Pottery 17 times at YVCC, but I still find that there are changes I need to make in the syllabus for this 18th rendition of the class. It often seems that some event or problem in class forces the addition of new syllabus language. This time around I adjusted the language referring making up missed critiques and clarified language about showing me projects after a missed critique. I also consolidated some hand-outs into the syllabus so that students have less of an excuse to misplace other pages.

But these were just minor adjustments or clarifications. I also made an addition to the class requirements; I added in a pre-test to address an issue that has been bugging me for a while now. Students in Functional Pottery are primarily learning to throw, but there are quite a few pieces of information they simply must know in order to operate safely and efficiently in the studio. I lecture to them on clay, glazes and firing. I demonstrate kiln loading, glazing and surface decoration as well as throwing techinques, and I test them on basic terminology and concepts. But for next week I have added what I am calling a "pre-test." They will take it while I am away and submit it to me when I return. The test is intentionally open and pretty easy (I hope), but I am serious in its intent. In the test, I ask them to do things like identify what tools we use to throw, how we keep clay pots from drying too quickly and how we clean up in the studio, as well as why we clean up in the studio and what I expect of them as Functional Pottery students.

I have consistently had trouble with students in Functional Pottery being (or pretending to be) unaware of important terminology or concepts relating to the very basics of the studio. I felt very frustrated last quarter when, by week 5 or so, some students seemed unaware that they could look online or in the classroom books or on YouTube for throwing demonstrations or answers to clay questions. I was also annoyed that they didn't seem to understand the why of several class processes like clean-up and recycling clay. Keeping clay dust to a minimum is important for our health, especially since we do not have good ventilation in the studio.

So my objective with this pre-test is to force them, at the very least, to identify and practice (write down) important terminology and explain the reasons behind various studio policies. All of the answers will be covered on the first day of class. Some of the answers are also listed in the syllabus or in the classroom on signs around the studio. The idea is that ALL students will earn full points on the pre-test. But by forcing them to write it down, I will force them to practice and consider seriously what it is I am asking or stressing.

Vill it Vork? Ve shall see. (Maybe I should make the intermediate and independent students do the pre-test too, a few of them could do with a reminder.)

It is my plan to have an excellent studio experience this spring. I plan to have a highly motivated group of students who understand both the techniques and the concepts behind them. I hope that I will be able to build on the energy of last quarter with a bit more discipline and regimentation. (This isn't an unreasonable expectation, is it?)

Campus Pictures
And finally, I have some pretty pictures to share.

It was a gorgeous day today. Around midday, as I was leaving campus, I took some photos of campus buildings, art and recognizable features to be used in some publicity materials for the YVCC college honors program.

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