Teaching my first class

For many years, I have begun each of my classes with a brief talk
on what the class will consist of, a short shop tour, safety

I love it when I get a tour of any well equipped shop. Seeing
different setups, new tools, organizing ideas is invaluable.


  1. Send or hand out a materials list before the class

  2. Review the language of fabrication; it’s all new to most of them
    and thus a foreign language.

  3. Hand out an instruction sheet for each project (this will save
    you time answering questions and help avoid student errors since
    they can refer to the sheet for each step)

  4. Demonstrate each technique; leave your sample out for the
    students to see and refer to.

  5. Remind them that all of these steps take practice, the more you
    do it, the easier and faster it becomes.

Donna in VA

Hi Paul,

Good question! It is wonderful to see so many good answers. For what
it is worth, I’ll add mine from my experience as a student and
teacher and still student because I am forever learning. A good
teacher is a person who serves others. A great teacher is a person
who serves others with passion and love of their craft.

My first project was a simple band ring that our whole class had to
make. It’s actually something I still teach, because for adults in an
"adult education" setting we want progress quickly. When I first
started teaching, it was from my experience as a fresh BFA grad to
adults and I was in for a shock. I learned quickly what the
expectations of my students needs and that allowed for streamlining
my curriculum to fit THEIR schedule and THEIR expectations. Teaching
is really about two things. One is to reduce anxiety and the other is
to fuel passion and excitement.

It’s daunting to teach so much of our industry in such a short
amount of time, but here goes.

  1. Expectations of adults. Have a syllabus or outline of your time
    together. It keeps everyone on the same page. You will have mostly
    women. They spent money and their friends want to see a piece of
    jewelry on their finger within three weeks. That’s why I like the
    band ring project. Every rectangular shaped piece of silver stock
    starts out the same, but they all end up different. Thus, creativity
    comes pouring out and students love the diversity of what everyone
    else makes. They are wearing their ring everywhere as it is a symbol
    of “look what I made!” That was me too.

  2. The torch. For most people this is the scariest part. When I
    teach beginning jewelry, I get this out of the way immediately. I let
    everyone turn on and off the torch and let them control the flame.
    This little step reduces anxiety and allows their brains to relax and
    learn what’s next.

  3. Sawblades. Older students have great difficulty in seeing
    anything. A pack of a dozen blades, let alone one, will have everyone
    screwing their eyes and struggling to focus. Once the blade was
    loaded in the sawframe, and this will take time, the little "ping"
    that the blade makes will be a sound that will lock in their brains
    forever. I make a quick joke to release their tension. "Hey, if you
    grip that handle any tighter, you are going to milk wood juice, LOL."
    They stop and laugh and relax. They will break lots of blades. Be on
    hand with extras and lots and lots of encouragement.

  4. Find a good practice piece for piercing which will allow flow.
    They can pierce something in brass for their keychain. A quick
    functional fun tool which is a reminder of their achievement every
    time students drive their car.

  5. Pierced project with set stone. My first piece from this class
    sits at Metalwerx on the wall. It’s a good one and I learned a lot. I
    took it one step further and hand hammered wire, drilled each side,
    thread jump rings and soldered each one. It was the defining piece
    for my jewelry career and it had everything in it; piercing,
    soldering, hammering and stone setting of a simple round cabochon.

  6. The hard part. Let your students make mistakes. Even more
    important, when you are doing a demo, you the teacher can make a
    mistake. This makes you human and accessible. Demo demons are not
    what we want when we are demonstrating a fussy soldering technique,
    but life is life. The true learning is not when everything goes
    perfectly, but when you screw up and how you creatively problem solve
    your way out of a mess.

  7. Dealing with missed classes. Ooh, this is when you have to play
    the bad cop. A student who misses two or more classes and then wants
    you to catch them up on demos during class time needs to realize that
    they need to pay you extra for YOUR time. Actually I set up four
    sessions at my local adult ed called Studio Saturdays. This solved
    the problem for those who needed to catch up due to illness or
    travel. It gave us six hours of uninterrupted time, created a nice
    community of people and gave me extra income. It was a good solution
    to a problem and is still in place today. The extra time allowed all
    students to join the extra sessions and just hang out and work using
    the tools.

  8. Kits. Have them. You have a short amount of time to work and you
    want everyone to stay on track. It’s a real time waster when you give
    a long list to busy people and expect everyone to come up with
    everything on thier own. There are a few things I encourage students
    to purchase on their own, like a good 6" mill bastard file, or a few
    drill bits or sandpaper. It’s good for them to shop, explore hardware
    stores or large ones (sigh), and they have ownership in the process
    they are about to embark. You can take care of the things they have
    no idea, like sawblades, metal, solder, etc.

  9. Demos. Keep them simple and straightforward. Make everyone bring
    a notebook or start a journal. Get them in the habit of writing
    things down. Handouts are helpful too, but don’t expect people to
    actually READ everything. The best handouts are useful charts like
    drill bit guides to wire width.

  10. Relax. The more relaxed and confident you are, the more it sets
    the tone for the class. Smile. Crack a few jokes. You were a beginner
    yourself and remind them of that fact. You understand where they are
    at now because you were there yourself. We all were. I learn from my
    students all the time.

Good luck. Strive to be a great teacher and you will have great

Karen Christians

Hand out a materials lists and step by step instructions. Have
samples to pass around to each student and invite them to take
pictures of the sample with their camera phone for reference.

I considered a class successful not by the first sample I ever made
in class but the ones I made at home after practicing the
techniques. No matter how good my notes I found my best success was
when the instructor helped with just a few simple basic reference

Have fun teaching and your students will have fun learning.

Maureen Perry

I have taught two classes. Both bootstrap affairs, cheap fees bought
shared tools because I was starting with nothing but my tools I
brought in.

First class like my first class… by rote, here are 4 different
projects. It worked for me long ago. Second class I described
techniques and the potentials. 1/2 an hour or talking about and
showing what a hammer can do and then letting them loose.

First class and everyone took home trinkets Second class of 6 and 2
went on to a real art school, one I believe is still in the business


I also use siiver, not brass or copper so they can wear the

I only use brass, copper, and nickel-silver, and my students (and I)
wear and love the pieces.

Judy Bjorkman

I only use brass, copper, and nickel-silver, and my students (and
I) wear and love the pieces. 

I LOVE to see my high school Art Jewelry students experiment with
metals. They start out being nervous about spending extra money on
something (they may botch?), but create some great pieces. Bit by
bit they become more confident and start adding little silver
embellishments which look great on copper, and then before long,
they often ‘splurge’ and make something they really love in silver.
It’s very rewarding to see them create and they love to see their
pieces on display at school. Copper and brass are beautiful metals.
We use Tarnex to dip oxidized pieces and Renaissance Wax as a
sealer…a little goes a LONG way.

Linda Meraw