Not everyone can teach, we know that. Being brilliant at a subject does not guarantee brilliant delivery and the facilitation of understanding. However, would a better artist within a discipline be more inspiring than an artistic 'all-rounder'?

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I'd say this is quite a sore subject for some. Not every artist can teach that is true, but surely it would be better if every art teacher is a successful (whatever 'successful' means to them as an individual) contemporary practitioner? When I was doing the Foundation in Art, one of the tutors asked me what I wanted to do career-wise. I answered that I either wanted to be a teacher or an artist, or even better-both. She screamed at the top of her lungs that not all teachers are failed artists. She totally got the wrong end of the stick, but it did get me thinking and interested in my tutors and how they practice art outside of their teaching careers. Are they up-to-date, creative and accurate? Or are they just repeating the same material year after year?

My belief is that if you have the experience of being an artist on top of whatever training you may have (being involved in exhibitions, liaising with curators, researching, collaborating with fellow artists or clients etc ) surely you have that additional knowledge and advice to pass on to your students. We may also have more confidence in what we are teaching, as we know that it is directly linkable to practice and 'real life'? In lifelong learning students need to know what the point of it all is- how does it benefit them.

Going back to your question- Teachers should not lean toward their own discipline, they should be broad and allow their learners to specialise in whatever interests them as individuals. However, as learners develop their skills in their chosen discipline, they may require more specialist assistance. Teachers can then point students in the right direction.

Hi Hannah,

Thank you for your considered reply.  I am amazed at some of the stuff that has been written about my very simple question!!  I particularly like your point (with which I agree) about how up-to-date a non-practising art teacher may be.  We are constantly told "it's who you know", which is totally true in the arts, so students are more likely to benefit from an 'industry' fresh teacher, who is fully involved and can apply real-life names and notions...

Alex, thank you for your reply.  You are so right!! If you are great at facilitating learning, your students will benefit a lot more than if they are being taught by an Oscar winner who can't string two words together!!!

Hi Colin,

When I am teaching numeracy, it can be a real advantage to a teacher if he/she has found a particular subject challenging in the past. When I was at school, I was totally baffled by algebra for quite some time before the 'lightbulb' moment. I can remember how frustrating and confusing I found the subject until I finally figured it out. I believe this really helps me as a teacher since I can empathise with the learners.

So, in answer to your question, I think being brilliant at the subject doesn't necessarily make a great teacher. Having an appreciation of a students struggles, mistakes and misgivings can help a teacher to create a positive learning experience.

Hi Theresa,

Interesting point you made about the lightbulb moment.  Unfortunately, those moments do not happen the same way in an arts based environment.  Of course, when we produce a piece of work and it is successful (liked!!), that is great, but the next day, its time to start all over again, only this time, there is more pressure to make it better than the first.  No time to rest...

This can be an advantage, as you've said, to teach the student about persistence, hard work and failure!!!

Hi Colin

Having finished my degree last year I was lucky enough to have some inspirational tutors. Because my tutors had worked in industry for some time and had good knowledge of the subject. Because of this there was instant respect given and you as a student valued there opinions and comments about your work.

You've got it Jo.  With something like graphics, there is a huge link with industry, the 'real world' and being up to date.  Unlike other subjects (geography, maths, woodwork etc.), there is a strong element of 'fashion' in graphics, indeed in most of the arts, therefore, to have teachers who are in touch with the world a student is working hard to inhabit makes it so much more likely it will happen...

I don't think a more successful artist would necessarily be a better arts teacher. This is because they may think the work is beneath them if they are very successful. They may also expect too much from the students or think that all of them will want to go on to be successful artists. However a really successful artist would be fantastic for work shops but perhaps not full time teaching. All-round art teachers will know a bit about everything rather than just focussing on just one subject. However they could lack detail that the students need. Its a tough one as both types of artists would have something valuable to offer.

Hi Melissa,

Lovely thoughts in your reply, thank you.  Teaching is sometimes seen as a default position, in that if an artist cannot make a living from their work, then they teach to supplement their income.  It's a good way of doing both too, with loads of part-time positions within FE and HE.  Just as long as they are NOT bitter and twisted!!!

Hi Colin,

I do not think a more successful artist would be a better teacher. Yes they maybe excellent at art but how good a facilitator are they? Just because someone has a lot of experience they are not guaranteed to be the best teacher. Within performing arts I have had teaching from an amazing performer who has had a lot of success in the industry and I have also had a teacher who did a performing arts degree and hasn't had much professional work. I found that the standard of teaching was better from the 2nd teacher. They were able to explain better and help myself and other students improve and understand our struggles with the work. However, like Jo said, everyone did have a lot more respect for the teacher who had a lot of industry experience as we all wanted to be like this person. I guess the best scenario would be in your area of work an artist who is brilliant at art but is also a great facilitator :-)

Oh to be in that ideal world Aimee!!!  I can see exactly where your'e coming from with your comments. It's a balance between having/wanting a great communicator OR a person who simply ooooouuuses with personality and fame, but cannot remember your name after six months of teaching, OR doesn't turn up because of 'outside' commitments!!! 

Hi Colin,

Personally, I feel that as long as the teacher has a passion for the subject they are teaching, their level of 'success' is irrelevant.

In regards to 'working' teachers, I have to say a few concerns of mine would be...Will a teacher who is working 'successfully' in the industry care more for their own success than that of their learners?  

I was once taught by a teacher who constantly reminded the class that they were not a teacher, they just worked professionally and could share their experiences with us. This was a great connection to have and I did learn a lot from them, however, it was evident that the teacher felt this way and as soon as the class was over it was just another session done and dusted.

Throughout my education I have been taught by a variety of teachers, all offered strengths and weaknesses so perhaps it is more about having a variety of teachers on a team rather than one being better than the other.

As Alex said, a teacher can call upon others to give talks and work experience to their learners, they don't have to be everything to everyone. Sometimes information and interaction from an outsider can seem incredibly exciting and useful, even if it is simply reiterating something that the teacher has been discussing all along.

Therefore, I think variety and passion are the most important aspects of a 'better' arts teacher.

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