Are You Ready to Teach Beading?

Feb 23, 2009

Ready to Teach?

If you've been beading for awhile, chances are someone has asked you to teach.  You might hate the idea, or maybe you're like me--intrigued, but clueless.  How do you make that leap from student to teacher?  Luckily, the generous instructors at Bead Fest Santa Fe offered to share their tips and advice about teaching jewelry making.  Click on the instructors' names in this newsletter to learn more about their backgrounds and current classes.

Getting Started

Start small by teaching family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  Or trying contacting your local bead shop.  Over and over, many nationally recognized beading and jewelry making instructors told me how grateful they were to get their start at their own local bead shops.  Gail Crosman Moore, for example, raved about how much she learned about the richness that bead shops add to the community when she was invited to teach at Beads and Beyond.  Bead societies or guilds also are another place to start your teaching career.  

Making the Leap to National Shows

Are you ready to teach at the national level?  Karen Keegan, Event Manager for Bead Fest advises, "The class proposals with the best chance of being accepted showcase an original project taught by someone with some previous teaching experience. Also, the photograph that is submitted should be of excellent quality, showing the piece up close, in focus, and with good color. This is the photo that potential students will see to decide if they want to take the class or not."

Information about class proposals for Bead Fest's 2010 shows will be available on the Bead Fest website in mid-March.

Practical Advice from the Pros

I asked the instructors to share the best teaching advice they ever received--or that they wished they had received.

  • Charlene Abrams: "Before my first ever class, I wish I'd known just how much the finish on seed beads affect the ability of a newbie to see what's going on. Now I suggest to less advanced beaders that they steer clear of iridescent transparent beads, and choose high contrast colors when learning a new technique."
  • Janice Berkebile:  "The project needs to have intrigue, to get interest in the class.  Keep projects simple though. Getting a project done in class leaves students feeling very satisfied.  My propensity is to overdo things. Teaching for me is a lesson to keep it simple!"
  • Joan Babcock:  "Communication and preparation are key. Everyone should be working on the same project.  Too many choices (colors, sizes, etc.) can make it confusing and take up valuable class time."
  • Sally Stevens:  "The best advice I ever got was 'to give your all' to your students and not to hold anything back. It can be threatening to share all that you have learned over the years but I have found that the rewards have been astounding."
  • Dale "Cougar" Armstrong:  "Sometimes people choose a class by looking at the picture and disregard the skill levels, so an instructor has to be ready to teach the specified project to anyone, regardless of the advertised skill level.  Therefore, teach projects you can make in your sleep!"  
  • Melinda Barta:  "If you are new to teaching, learn from the best and volunteer as a teacher’s assistant. Even if you’ve been teaching for years, don’t forget the value of being a student and take a class once a year. Seeing a true teaching pro in action is priceless, plus you’ll make some great connections."
  • Judy Walker:  "I've learned a lot from wonderful teachers.  More than just the class projects, I learned about teaching methods, how to write effective instructions, and visual aids.  And I've learned to let go of perfectionism.  Perfection is something you approach, not something you ever achieve.  Learn to find the satisfaction in that."
  • Tina Koyama:  "When I first started beading, I took a class from Nancy Eha and learned by example what a good beading instructor does. She used illustrations, well-written instructions, orally spoken instructions, demonstrations, scribbles on the board, one-on-one and group discussions.  In short, she used every method possible to explain the steps. It made me realize that different students need different teaching methods, so the same information has to be presented in as many different ways as possible."

Don't Forget the Students!

Enthusiastic, hard-working, enterprising students keep many instructors motivated to continue teaching.  As Maggie Meister said, "I am grateful for the input from students and watching them interpret my designs to make them their own." 

And then there are the students who touch your heart.  Larkin Jean Van Horn shared this story:  "I've had a number of mother/daughter teams sign up for my classes, but the most memorable was the woman in the early stages of Alzheimer's who was there with her daughter.  The daughter professed to have no interest in beading and was only there to help her mother get through the class.  At the end of the day, the mother, who had stayed clear and untroubled all day, told me proudly that between us we had made the daughter a convert, and she would be doing a lot of beading from then on.  The daughter wanted advice on what other classes she could sign up for.  That was a win/win/win day if ever there was one!"

Michelle Mach shares beading news, contests, reader galleries, and other beady stuff every Monday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Michelle, please post them on the website.

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ChrisO@11 wrote
on Feb 23, 2009 1:45 PM
I taught a spiral net bracelet to my needlework guild last fall, with several members wanting to do more bracelets on their own for holidays. Now they are asking me to teach some more intense projects, which I will do in smaller groups. Two beadstores are putting me on their April & May calendars for another kind of class!!! I am excited, and feeling my way along to be sure my class gets the very best instruction possible for a successful outcome. Thanks for today's tips - so helpful. Chris in Dallas
MarieL@28 wrote
on Feb 23, 2009 2:46 PM
Michelle, this is a divine coincidence if ever there was one. Tomorrow I teach my very first beading workshop at my local bead shop! Going through the advice I realise that I have actually prepared well which adds confidence. Some tips will be very useful in the class itself. But the advice that really got to me was that of Judy Walker's "Perfection is something you approach, not something you ever achieve. Learn to find the satisfaction in that." Being a perfectionist and therefore always with a feeling of failure, I realise I am probably my own worse enemy! So I am going to relax, go teach and have fun! Thanks for your timely article! Marie Edinburgh
dirt wrote
on Feb 23, 2009 2:46 PM
I believe that the uncredited photo at the bottom is glass artist Chad Trent of Cosmo Glassworks, :o)
BabetteB wrote
on Feb 23, 2009 8:33 PM
Michellle- I appreciated today's topic. I already have taught a few classes, but I could teach a lot more & maybe even sell some directions if I had software that let me illustrate my instructions. (I've been taking pictures as I make a piece to illustrate & editing them in PhotoShop 7) but that only goes so far. What do designers use to make drawings for their directions? The only design software I know if does flat peyote. I understand you can use Power Point, but I don't drw real well on the computer. Help please!!! Babette B
maypa02 wrote
on Feb 24, 2009 9:51 AM
Is there going to be a Bead Fest Class in the South?
NancyB@5597 wrote
on Feb 26, 2009 4:39 PM
I love teaching. What I do is to have several of the items made up so that the students can look at them, and there's not just one for the whole class, there are several. Also, if there are steps in the item, I'll make up several (again) to the various steps, so it can be seen. I handwrite up my directions. That way, I can make the illustrations really big. It is well worth it to buy a set of Maggie Meister's instructions just to see how she does it (to say nothing of her beautiful designs!) Writing up instructions can be very difficult, so I have a beading buddy test my directions, first. And, I often have the faster students jumping ahead (I will be making the item along with the class), and that's pretty hard for me to deal with, so I just tell them that everything is in the instructions if they want to work ahead, but that the rest of us are at point B or whatever.
preston740 wrote
on Jul 15, 2014 6:38 PM

hi guys,can some please send me on ,bead teaching schools and their tuition. i would be very grateful

thank you

Sidonia P wrote
on Feb 13, 2015 11:09 AM

Lovely post, I have really enjoyed it. The teaching advices are soo great!

Although I started beading only in 2012 I would love to teach, so I'm looking/searching for infos on how a class should be and what a teacher should do. I live in Gallipoli - Italy and unfortunaly there are no bead stores near by. I have never took a beading class, I learnt everything online or from beading magazines, but I would love to take a few and learn how it works.

All the advices above are really great, especially the one given by Tina Koyama on Nancy Eha's way of teaching: I totaly agree, I think it's the best and thoughtful way of teaching.

Thank you very much for this wonderful post!

Szidonia Petki