The Intuition of an Assistant Teaching Artist

Although I have been teaching at Marwen for years, this spring, I was thrilled to return to the role of assistant. Before leading my own classes, I assisted a dozen different Teaching Artists over the course of a few years. Through witnessing and supporting a variety of teaching styles, I absorbed wisdom that would have taken decades to learn on my own.

This spring, I have been the Assistant Teaching Artist (ATA) for Colin Palombi‘s Experimental Animation class. We are half way through our class, and I am thoroughly enjoying the change of roles.

Screen Shot from Experimental Animation Course at Marwen

Experimental Animation Spring 2013 Course at Marwen: on Vimeo

It might be important to understand that I am the type of teaching artist that takes very seriously the development of a syllabus. Learning objectives are intentional and succinct. Talking points are clearly identified for each and every slide presented. Project parameters are finely tuned such that the entire curriculum elegantly builds to a culminating point that is clear, measurable, and rewarding. I am also naturally a nervous person, and would not consider myself a public speaker. In ways, the role of a teaching artist is not the most natural for me. None the less, I relish the opportunity to teach, as it allows me to share with my community and grow as an individual.

What I have found, returning to the role of ATA, is that by releasing ultimate responsibility for the class, I have gained a lightness that I am not used to. I am better able to deal with the minor setbacks that Murphy’s Law dictates will happen. In other words, I am teaching intuitively and it feels great!

As an ATA, it is difficult to fully understand the arch of a class and how all the pieces fit together, until it is unfolding in front of you. As a lead teacher, this can be difficult, being so close to the material. However, the benefit is that the ATA is not attached to how the class is “supposed to go”. They can better see how it actually is going, and make new impromptu plans in response. As long as the lead teacher is responsive, everyone wins!

So now my task at hand is to figure out how to maintain this sense of calm confidence and perspective when I return to the role of lead Teaching Artist. Perhaps instead of creating the ultimate lesson plan, I can work through a series of scenarios, requiring me to rely on intuition to guide the in-the-moment decisions.

Angee Lennard About Angee Lennard
Angee Lennard is best known as the founder and director of Spudnik Press Cooperative, a community printshop inclusive of art making, writing, and book classes, youth programming, exhibitions, residencies, private studios, publishing, and so much more. Her teaching at Marwen focuses on printmaking, design, and community-based art practices. Her own artistic practices include printmaking, illustration, and drawing, with past clients including Green Lantern Press, WBEZ, and many local musicians.

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