My Experience as a Calligraphy Teacher... (why's it so hard!?)

Remember those New Year Resolution thingies? Yeah, those!

At the end of 2018, I taught my first Introduction to Modern Calligraphy class with Wonderpens. It’s been a great partnership as they hire me for the 2.5 hour class and provide the space, materials, and take care of registration. So… I made it a 2019 goal to regularly teach. It was a great set-up for me and I wanted to overcome my fear of teaching calligraphy. Weird, eh? I feel comfortable speaking and engaging with people in tons of other ways but when it comes to sharing my calligraphy process, I feel totally exposed and illegitimate. Imposter syndrome? Maybe?

Anyway… I’m learning more about myself and actually, more about calligraphy! This past Saturday, I wrapped up my fifth class and feel like it’s time to reflect on some early learnings…

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  1. Teaching calligraphy is HARD. It’s taking me a while to figure out the right language to explain the “how” of calligraphy. Many concepts that I am trying to explain feel a bit abstract and so articulating them in a way that is easy to understand (using analogies, metaphors, comparisons) has been the hardest part. Kudos to all the teachers out there, f’reals…

  2. Passion is soooo contagious. The best part of these workshops is meeting people who want to learn calligraphy!! Hey, it’s really not often that I come face-to-face with 12 complete strangers who wanna nerd out about this stuff. Meeting other adults to want to try something “they’ve always wanted to do” makes me excited. We nerd out about inks, the perfect paper, the best way to cross that “t”… Everyone I’ve met through these Wonderpens workshops have been amazing. Sometimes we feel like really good buds after a gruelling 2.5 hours together ;)

  3. I’m scared to teach an intermediate class. I’ve had students ask me to bolt on an intermediate class to follow up with this beginner one and the thought of this TERRIFIES me! I feel inept to delve into the technicalities and application of all this and I feel much more comfortable staying in the abc’s of it all (literally, I teach how to write the alphabet in beginner’s hehe). I wonder what this means… time to invest in my own creative development? Time to sit down and take inventory of what I actually do know? Not sure.

  4. But… I would love to foster some sort of continuous calligraphy community. I love seeing new faces every class but continuity would be nice to grow relationships, see progress, and make friends :) The rewarding part of teaching (to me) seems to be seeing improvement in your students and being able to journey together… but I don’t really get a sense of that in a one-day, 2.5-hour class :( Following each other on Instagram after the class ain’t enough!

  5. Teaching earlier on in my “career” might have been easier. Honestly, I’ve been practicing calligraphy for 4-5 years now and despite my growing experience, I think I would’ve made a better teacher in the early days ;) Over the past five classes, I’ve realized that a lot of what feels second nature to me is the precise stumbling block for beginners. Pinpointing the tips and tricks of what helped me overcome the little things has been a walk down memory lane. Actually, it’s made me very grateful for my experiences.

  6. Calligraphy courses require a good mix of “focus” and “fun.” Trust me when I say this, I try really hard to crack jokes for the full 2.5 hour class… but making calligraphy drills “exciting” and engaging is quite the challenge. It really does require so much focus and attention to learn this new skill and yet I know there’s a secret sauce out there to kinda mix the fun with the focus. So far I’ve been trying to share tons of stories and commentary to make the time flow by (maybe it’s annoying? Do some people seek a meditative environment?) but it’s a lot of pressure. I’ve been inhaling pizza after every class to unwind… :P

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Truth be told, I feel anxious for 1-2 days prior to a workshop. It makes me not want to advertise it on my social media and I need pep talks (poor Alex) for the entire drive to the studio. (TRUST ME, it’s not you - IT’S ME </3). But once I’m there and settled in, I love it. I love talking to new people, sharing my process, nerding out… and I’m trying to figure out why it takes such a toll on me to get myself there. It’s possibly a mix of fears… fear of rejection, fear of being boring (live for laughs), and fear of not being able to deliver people’s “money’s worth.”

Anyway y’all, I’m taking a break until June from this workshoppin’! I know I haven’t even been doing a lot of it but I think I just need to find refreshment in it and find a really, really good reason to continue. I need to be confident in the value I’m bringing and in the way I’m delivering it. This blog post really is for myself (external processing!) so sorry if this has felt like a pity party or a complaint :) Not intended.

If anyone out there (anyone? Is anyone even reading this :P) is learning or teaching, I’d love to hear some good tips or feedback. I’ll keep y’all updated on my calligraphy-teachin’ journey!