Lots of great advice here! This is one of those topics where there are multiple approaches and they all can be correct.
At most of the schools that I’ve either been a student or a teacher at, atmospheric torches (air/acetylene) are what are used in beginning jewelry classes. Those torches work pretty well and because there’s no mixing of oxygen and fuel, they’re easier for most folks to learn on. Students learn mixing of oxygen and fuel torches after they’ve had a bit of experience. Nothing wrong with learning oxygen/fuel torches right from the beginning, but that’s not how most schools that I’ve been part of start their beginning classes.
I make sure that when new students light any torch for the first time that they don’t do it alone and that they get any & all questions answered. If it’s not possible for me to individually mentor someone for their first torch lighting because the class is too big, then after a through demonstration, I put students in teams of three to anneal a square of copper. Then I run back and forth between the teams to make sure that everyone gets it. (I’ve taught many semester length community college jewelry classes with 34 students.)
The other thing that I think is very important is to discuss how torches work. An atmospheric torch and a gas stove top operate with fairly similar technology. It’s just with the torch, you’re holding the fire in your hand. I often joke that if you can fry an egg, you can solder a ring.
I also think that it’s important to talk about fire safety. Long hair always has to be tied back. Sometimes bobby pins are necessary. Safety glasses must be worn. Cotton or wool clothing is preferred. No synthetic fabrics. Cotton or wool smolders and doesn’t ignite easily. Synthetic fabrics not only can ignite, they melt. Absolutely nothing flammable can be in the soldering area. It’s amazing to me how often used paper towels can end up in the soldering area.
We also talk about worst case scenarios. How to turn off the torch in an unlikely emergency. Stop, drop and roll. How to use a fire blanket. Where fire extinguishers and fire alarms are.
If students are wearing cotton clothing, hair is tied back, safety glasses are on, there’s nothing flammable in the soldering area, then the chance of an accident is remote. Not impossible, but improbable.
I can’t count the number of jewelry students that I’ve taught at multiple schools & art centers across the USA over the last 30+ years without a single torch related accident. (knock on my soldering block!)
A teacher should create an atmosphere of respect for torches, not fear. Jo said it well, “So go to class become a bad ass and make a lot of beautiful things.”