Get the most out of your next classroom experience


One of my favorite ways to increase my skill level is to take a class. For me it’s part of my self-directed curriculum, and it gives me the camaraderie of studying the art of decorative finishing with like-minded people.  So, for me there is nothing worse for an excited eager to learn student than walking into a poor learning environment run by a mediocre instructor.  Too much standing around, art projects that fail…
I have wasted lots of time and money in the past by not having a good system for choosing a class, so I sat my butt down and decided to make a list of what exactly does make a good instructor for me.  Not that the list is the magic formula, far from it.  I have still made mistakes when choosing a class, however this does help me narrow down my choices. 

1. Do you like the instructors work?
This is usually the first thing that draws you to a potential instructor/class.  It’s important to like what your teacher does, otherwise why waste your time.
On the other hand, don’t judge an instructor only by his/her work. Teaching is not the same as doing, and some teachers are very good painters but terrible instructors.  


2.  Research the instructor

How long has the instructor been teaching?  Has the instructor applied the finishes he/she is teaching for a job?  Does the instructor work in the field?  If yes, you can easily research this in their area. 

If the instructor has traveled to other studios to teach, contact the host studio and inquire as to any feedback on the class.

3. Set goals for your classes
Choose classes that fit into your artistic goals, focusing on learning what you need to know rather than spending time and money on learning another technique that won’t get you anywhere.
You may need to spend some time to figure out on your own what you want to learn. If you’re not sure whether the workshop will help, study the instructor’s work. Try his/her methods as best you can before the class.
Talk to people who have taken the class.  Don’t just go by remarks or reviews you have seen posted.  Actually talk to people who have taken a class and get lots of opinions.  Even if you hear some bad reviews, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should not take a class with this instructor, it could mean that maybe their were personality differences.   Do your research!

4. Research the products used
 Be sure the instructor is knowledgeable about the products he/she will be teaching with.  If you work with the product(s) after the class you may need some technical help and you want to feel confident you can get ready help when you need it.
Also, research the product.  Just because you saw a great finish with a “new” product don’t run and sign up without checking it out.  Remember that it is not the product that necessarily makes the finish, but the way the artist uses it that makes the finish.  

Ask how long the product(s) has been on the market, look up reviews, is it good for the climate you are in, how much testing has been done with it.

5. Take notes and photos
 Go prepared. Take your notebook so you can take good notes. This is a good rule of thumb even if the instructor provides a handout. Take a camera in order to capture process shots, but ask permission first.  You should also blot colors in your notebook so you have the actual colors to reference when you need to.
Re-read your notes every evening, and note any questions.

Educators know that repetition is an important part of learning, and re-reading class notes frequently and immediately after the class will ensure that it’s embedded in your memory.

There are many apps available that are great for storing class notes.  Most are free or very inexpensive.

6. Practice the techniques after the class
 Set aside some time after you get home from the class to practice. This follow-through time is important for integrating what you’ve just learned into your own practice. Take each new skill and see what you can do to make it uniquely yours.

What do you look for?

After class

Proper etiquette

It may seem daunting sometimes to spend the time and money on a class, but to run a successful business you really need to invest in YOU.  Remember that you can get a tax write off for most classes and you can easily make back the cost of a class selling one of your new finishes.  

Most reputable instructors teach on a full time basis and rely on their teaching income to stay in business.  As tempting as it may be, don't ever share a "recipe" with someone who did not take the class. If you liked the class you can show your appreciation by posting on the social media sites and uploading photos so others can see.  This can also bring you a new client who sees something new you can do and that you value your business enough to further your skill level.  

If I forgot something, let me know!




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