My First Teaching Experience with Adults – GASP!

Our school has a a few days (actually weeks) in which we have no kids, but we have to work.  They are called Gold Days, and we have to be here for them.  Some of these days are filled with moving classrooms, cleaning, committee meetings, or catching up on planning.  Last year, another school and our school decided to get together to have a “Teachers Teaching Teachers” day.  In the morning we have child-centered educational learning opportunities like how to do Lucy Calkins’s reading/writing workshop.  In the afternoon, we dedicate time to more adult personal endeavors, like bicycle repair or cooking.

I got together with my friend, Melissa, to do printmaking for this year’s personal learning class time.  She and I have a bond over gelli plates.  If you use gelli plates, you understand. They are addicting and SO MUCH FUN! We are proud hoarders of anything that contains texture, and love to play with all the different stencils we’ve collected/made in our free time.

We decided to do a class on basic printmaking using markers (see post for First Grade), scratchfoam printing, and gelli plates.  The only problem was that we don’t have gelli plates. I found a recipe online, which is great, but then I didn’t have access to the materials, glycerin and gelatin, so I had to send the school’s driver out for a quest of sorts.  We got the materials, made the plates, put our trash, I mean textures, in a pile, and got our paints ready.

I was nervous about teaching this class.  I wanted to make sure all of the materials were ready so everyone could enjoy the afternoon.  Melissa and I divided up responsibilities.  I would teach printmaking with markers and scratchfoam printing. She would teach gelli plate printing.

Everything was set.  We had about 15 people in the class, some of whom brought their own materials.  We did a brief introduction of printmaking and then I called everyone to the art table.

When I sat down, I realized I was completely out of my comfort zone.  I know what I am doing.  I really do.  When I’m with kids.  They are great to teach because everything is magical.  It’s like rock star glitter time, every day.  But adults are trickier.  They are harder to read.  They crowded around me, and they were so tall.  I began to feel very self-conscious and I second-guessed myself. We’re they excited? Were they thinking, “Why am I here?” Did they know more than I did and just wanted to sit down and get to it?  Because of my questions, I forgot to teach.  And I proceeded to rush along and try to get out of being in the hotseat as quickly as possible.

Melissa was more astute than I in teaching these kind folks and I learned a lot from her that day.  She slowed it way down and correctly demonstrated how to print using a gelli plate. She was very relaxed, but very knowledgeable.  By the time she was done, I was back to in my zone.  I was ready to teach.

Turns out my adult students didn’t know that much about printmaking after all. They were just like my kiddos when they start working with me. They were concerned about making a mistake, about making a mess on the table. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the room and doing a lot of one-on-one instruction.  They gained confidence as I assured them we had plenty of paint, plenty of cards to go through.  We are expected to get messy in here, it is part of the fun. As the afternoon rolled along, my confidence and comfort grew.  We were learning from each other.  Teachers teaching teachers.

Overall, people really enjoyed the time.  One person said that it was the most relaxed she had felt in weeks.  Wow.  That’s great feedback.

One thing I learned that day is to really put a lot of paint on these fish when using them for prints.


Gelli plates and silicone stamp letters.

This person loved to work with the metallic paints.  All the work she did was amazing and we think it’s because of the added shimmer.


I just love all the experimenting that happened that day.

I learned the importance of preparation. I prepared all the materials, but I did not prepare my lesson. I took for granted that although I knew my material, my audience was different and I needed to change my teaching to fit my audience.  Kids and adults are indeed different, but they are the same too.  A class of beginners is a class of beginners no matter what age.  Also, I learned the importance of taking it slow and not stressing so much about the supplies. The supplies are actually secondary compared to all the other stuff.  I don’t need 20 different kinds of paint!

Melissa and I will teach another class next fall, this time working with the Arts and Crafts Group in our community.  We plan on teaching a card making class in time for the holidays.  I’m super glad we got our feet wet with our peers first.  They are a lovely group of people and I’m glad I got to work with them for my first day of adult art teacherin’.

And, last but not least, I have yet to find a good gelli plate recipe. The one I used was for 2 cups of glycerin and 8 packages of gelatin. The plates worked, overall, but they are temporary.  They are now yellowed, dry in corners, and didn’t hold up well under pressure.  I know I can melt the materials down and start over so all of them are stuffed in a ziploc bag. Gelli plates, though expensive, are well worth the investment for my purposes.

Author: Sonia Chapman

I am an art teacher, living in the Middle East, following my passion for art, teaching little children about the finer things in life, and loving every bit of it.

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