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What to do during a jewelry-making class


Note: This blog post is a part of our series “How to get the most out of a class.”

It’s finally the day that you’ve been waiting for-you’re going to learn that technique that you’ve been wanting to master for years. Here are a few tips for the day of the class:

Arrive early, but not too early! If you rush in just as the classroom doors close, you’ll waste your first 15 minutes and disrupt the class. Arriving a half-hour before the start of class will give you time to sit down, settle yourself, and set up your work space. However, be aware that the instructor may need some undisturbed time to set up the classroom. Take your cues from the situation. Teachers will generally open the door to the room when they’re ready to receive students. It’s in your best interest, after all, that your teacher be as organized and as collected as possible.

Pay attention. Many of the most effective learning strategies are things you learned way back in elementary school. Listen to what the teacher tells you. Watch when they’re demo-ing a technique. You’re paying good money to learn from this person.

“Watching and listening to the demonstrations is often worth the price of admission. A teacher may have a unique method of accomplishing a task that will work for the student.” —Leslee Frumin

Stay in class. You can’t learn what the teacher is teaching if you’re not actually in the classroom. If the class is longer than 2–3 hours, the teacher will most likely plan breaks into the schedule. If you need to take an unscheduled break, time it so that you’re not out of the room during a demonstration. Bring any snacks and beverages with you; the last thing you want is to be distracted by hunger or thirst. (But be considerate and make sure that your snacks aren’t overly fragrant or noisy!)

Take notes. Don’t assume that you’ll remember everything. Bring a pencil and paper, and write down that amazing tip that the teacher mentioned, or the right order of steps. In the age of modern technology, you also have photographic note-taking at your disposal. But be sure to ask your teacher before snapping a picture with your digital camera or your camera phone; this is still new territory and some instructors find it off-putting. And don’t put the class on hold while you get perfect focus and composition; photos taken in this setting should be for reference only.

Ask questions. No one gets everything on the first go-through. When you need further explanation, speak up. Be respectful; don’t interrupt the teacher, and keep to the topic currently being discussed. But don’t be shy. And you can be sure that if you don’t understand something, others in the class probably are confused as well.

“If you are having issues and not getting something, raise your hand, ask for help, and stand up for yourself. Instructors try their best to make sure that everyone is getting it, but we can miss some things sometimes.” —Anne Mitchell

Relax. Taking a jewelry class means investing time and money, neither of which is in great supply these days. Of course you’re going to try to wring every last drop of value out of your class time. But make sure you don’t wring every last drop of enjoyment out of it as well. Sometimes, too tight a focus can interfere with your creativity. Take a deep breath, and relax.

“In an effort to be a good student, some people forget to relax and allow their natural instincts to assist them. They are so busy taking notes that they forget to really listen, or have pages of notes but little pleasure from the experience.” —Tim McCreight

Remember that mistakes are good. There are no points for doing it perfectly the first time. You’re not in the class to impress the teacher with your mastery of the technique. In fact, if you can do the project perfectly out of the gate, it’s probably a sign that the class is below your skill level. Accept your mistakes; you’ll learn more from them than from executing the process flawlessly.

“Problem solving is the best thing you can learn in class. If you make a boo boo, speak up, say it loud and say it proud. Most teachers don’t make house calls, so work through that mistake with them while you have them there. And if your neighbor makes a mistake, follow along as they receive help in case you ever run into that problem later on.” —Lisa Niven Kelly

Keep an open mind. If you’ve done your homework and your research, you’ll know what to expect from your class. But don’t let your expectations straitjacket you. Suspend your skepticism. Your teacher may execute a technique in a different way than you’re used to; don’t assume they’re wrong. Try everything.

“Thinking about what one already knows will inhibit the acquisition of new knowledge and insight. Suspend any preconceptions at the door and allow the mind to be receptive to new information.” —Michael David Sturlin

Don’t let other students throw you off. Let’s be brutally honest: Other people can be annoying. An unprepared, unruly, or unfocused fellow student can disrupt an entire class. (Don’t want to be the one that everyone remembers after class? Check out “Don’t Be the Problem Child.”) When faced with a disruptive influence, the least productive thing you can do for yourself is give up. (The least productive thing you can do for the class as a whole is join in with the disruptive behavior.) Keep your own priorities straight. Let the teacher handle it; that’s part of his or her job, and trying to act as policeman for the class will just escalate matters. If someone is talking to you during a demonstration or when you’re trying to concentrate, excuse yourself politely. “I’m sorry; I’m really trying to pay attention” is usually all you need to say. 

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