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Insights from Teaching Adult Ed - Originally posted in the Orchid Forum 08/03/2009
SKU: CWX-CBTS13
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Originally posted in the Orchid Forum 08/03/2009

If you are teaching for the hobbyist at the Adult Ed level, then projects should respond to those student’s needs. Certainly when I took my first jewelry class where I made a little band ring from silver and watched my first slip stream of solder flow, I never thought that making jewelry would become one of my life's ambitions. That little band ring which I made and wore by the third class, which I embellished with some hammer blows to make a decoration, was total magic. I showed that ring to several people who said “nice!” but it was a friend, a Buddhist monk, who looked at it, held the ring in his hand and said "This is your next career." I followed his advice and off I went.

That said, the Beginning Jewelry class at Metalwerx and the Adult Ed classes where I learned and taught, still have the same pace and projects that inspired me. Adults are destination driven. They pay a price for the class and they want to have that ring on their finger by week three, or their friends are asking “What are you doing in that class?” Once the ring is on their finger and they are wearing a piece of jewelry that they made, they begin to relax.

Piercing becomes easier, soldering more fluid and by the end of 8 weeks they have fabricated either a pendant with a set stone or a pair of earrings. We use a bezel because it is easier and just soldering the bezel together is enough to jack their blood pressure and cause heart palpitations because everyone wants to get it right. I would tell people to make two bezels, in case it didn't go right the first time. You have a backup. They would instantly relax.

On the first night of our class, I would take each and every student through lighting the torch and turning the volume of gas up and down. Much scribbling of notes takes place. When I ask who would be first, I see a group of large round eyes staring back at me and at others, trying to sense who would be daring enough to turn on a torch. The torch being the scariest part we tackled the first night. One by one, each student masters igniting the torch, and turns the volume up and down. I make every student do it three times. You can hear the exhale and feel the electricity of "Wow, I just turned on a TORCH!"

The second step is piercing. Adults' eyes are not as good and sharp as young ones are. We would teach loading a saw blade into the frame and yes, that minute packet of metal I just handed you actually has a dozen blades wrapped together. More heart palpitations while unwinding the packet and extracting a blade. Now the interesting part - the teeth need to be pointed downward. Eyebrows would knit together while the ladies would attempt to see the tiny teeth. Loading the saw blade also takes time as we march towards our goal of creating the musical "ping" which means the blade is correctly taut enough to pierce. Piercing begins with a pattern they all use, and much blade snapping ensues. I work with each adult student to relax their hand and help them stop squeezing wood juice out of their handle. Eventually they would all get it and much joy would burst forth from a student who took only four blades to cut out a simple pattern.

After three hours of our first class together, with the newness of so much information and with so many things to remember, I always think their brains will explode. Adults just aren't used to learning so many new things at once, but they all get through it and they all keep coming back for more. Those students that I taught at Metalwerx are now teachers of new students and the cycle continues. Some are now in galleries, some are now selling well on Etsy and some just make jewelry because it is just so much fun.

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