Lessons From the Classroom

Within the office, we are proud of our combined 10+ years of teaching on a college campus.  We believed, early on, that having a presence in the class room would allow us to remain current as technology and teaching methods evolved.  What follows are a few of our observations from along the way.

Be prepared to roll with the punches -
It usually doesn’t matter how well you’ve planned. Something can always, + often does, go wrong. Taking these mishaps in stride, + learning to anticipate them, keeps stress levels down + a smile, albeit ironic, on your face. We’ve found the best classes are the ones that remain flexible, not only to the students’ needs, but the teacher’s as well.  

Sometimes an organic, seemingly off-topic discussion is more instructive than the well-thought lesson plan you worked on all weekend -
We’ve all had one of those spaghetti, stream-of-consciousness conversations, where an idea sparks a tangential thought process; the question was about vapor barriers +, before long, you have no idea how you ended up talking about immortal lobsters…Okay, so they’re not always entirely relevant to the class, or even to life, but no new ideas were ever discovered by sticking to the charted course.

You know you’re doing alright when course evaluations come out + the students have more negative things to say about the facilities than they do about your teaching methods –
Computer crashes, software bugs, erratic indoor temperature control, broken plotters, bad lighting, blurry projectors…just a few of the things we put up with all semester long. But if the general consensus is that that was the worst part of the semester with you, then it’s safe to say the class went pretty well.

It’s okay to say you don’t know –
Because who can reasonably expect you to know everything, especially when those tangential conversations mentioned above can lead to unfamiliar territory. More valuable than knowing everything is knowing who to ask or where to look for the answers. A quick text to a colleague or a search through your curated bookmarks, + you’ll have the answer in no time.

By teaching someone to fish, you become a better fisherman –
The best way to learn something is to teach it. A good semester is one where you’ve learned a few lessons yourself. And by the time the next semester rolls around, you’ve probably learned a few more tricks that make the learning process more valuable.

Find a way to relate –
Not just the studio to the world outside, but to the students themselves. They respond better when you show you care, even if the subject matter for the day is tough to get through.

Your attitude sets the mood for the day –
It’s remarkable how perceptive students can be, especially at 8am, + even more remarkable how they can mirror your attitude. Everyone has the occasional bad day but if you let it show in front of a class you’ll soon see it reflected in the behavior of your students.

Above all, it’s important to remember that the classroom is where experimentation occurs –
Especially without the constraints of the proverbial real world, those concerns that architects so often let cramp their style, the classroom is a place where the only limits that exist are the ones self-imposed. It’s important to remember that if we can’t push the boundaries of design in the studio, we stand no chance to as professionals.