Behind the Scenes of Teaching

March 11, 2010


So here it is 1 a.m. and I’m trying to get some kiln shelves coated sufficiently with kiln wash so I can fire my student’s glass pieces tomorrow.   I know most people think that all the work is in the actual classroom but it is *not*.

To be an artist teacher, or any kind of teacher for that matter, there is first the process of building a program or writing curricula.  This takes some thought as to how the information should be sequenced, presented and how much to present at a swack.  Then there is writing up the handouts which always takes me a lot of time to get right.  I have to backtrack quite a few times because I see where the info is getting ahead of some critical basic that needs to be introduced first. That is all building the class though.  There are more times like now when the other work outside of the classroom happens which includes gathering the necessary supplies and tools in enough quantities for your students, getting the handouts all printed, having all the kit materials, etc.

The class I taught last weekend was Glass Fusing for Jewelry.  I have to fire the glass at home and take it back to the venue for the students to pick up.  It sounds so much simpler than it is.  To fire glass you have to kiln shelves that need to be treated with kiln wash so the glass won’t stick to the shelf.  This is the least toxic way to prep for firing.   At least four coats are applied to each shelf and each coat must dry in between.  This will create a non-stick shell on the shelf if it’s done right.  If it’s not done right the glass will stick to the shelf and when you pry it off some of the shelf will come with the glass, (ruining the shelf & they’re expensive) and may need to be filed off with an abrasive stone (time consuming!).  So on goes a coat of kiln wash and then you wait for the shelf to dry…then another coat and so on.  I could dry the shelves in the oven but then I have to wait for them to cool off which would end up taking longer.  The interesting thing about this material is that it really holds the heat.  Tomorrow when the shelves are thoroughly dry I can actually fire the glass.  It will take time to load a shelf carefully, stack another shelf above that one and load it, nothing touching, enough space for spread… The actual firing and cooling will take 5 hours minimum, probably longer and I have to babysit that part so I can change the temps for each stage to keep it under control.

So the actual class was 3 hours long.  The shelf prep takes an hour or two, depending on how many shelves are needed and the firing takes at least 5+ hours and that is not including getting the materials and tools together, packing them, printing handouts, and more.  Glass needs newspaper, glass cutters, oil, straight edges, running pliers, nippers, eye protection, glue, markers…  I’m starting to dream this stuff in my sleep!  OH and I might have to do more than one firing depending on how much stuff I can load into the kiln – or not.  Okay, time to go slap on another coat… and then to bed!

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