How to Teach Jewelry Making and Learn While Teaching

Learn to Teach/Teach to Learn

In 2007, I took bead stringing classes. Then I strung beads for clients and made beaded jewelry for shows. And you can imagine the rest — eventually, I taught bead stringing. Ten years later, I teach pearl carving around the country. First time on the road.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far: I learn from students. I learn from people I talk to. I learn from fellow passengers on airplanes, gem shops owners, mineral wholesalers, volunteers at area rest stops, rock clubs members, miners, museum staffers, other teachers….

Here are some more things I’ve learned:

  • Teach if you like people and are organized.
  • When you teach jewelry making (or other project-based mediums), break your project into steps, like the step-by-step projects you see in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.
  • Before you teach your first class, practice each step. Yup. Out loud. Invite friends over and teach them for free so you can rehearse.
  • Time your class so you know how long each step takes. You want to make sure students can finish their projects within an allotted time.
  • Avoid long-winded introductions, lengthy demos or lectures when class starts. Instead, get your students to work.
  • Keep tool and material lists short. Be specific about what your students need to bring. Don’t make them buy a full set of burs when they only need two of them. Don’t make them buy a foot of tubing when they are only using one inch.
  • As an option, create project kits. Include everything your students will need, except for common hand tools, which they should have.
  • Charge for your kits so that you cover your time and costs profitably.
  • Brings extras of everything.
  • Finally, be prepared for students way, way, way better than you are. While they can be a little tough on your ego, keep your cool. Embrace them, challenge them, and take notes.

Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. This spring, she has taught at Metalwerx, the William Holland School of Lapidary Arts, and the Florida Society of Goldsmiths.

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