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Instructors--troubles in class?

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Instructors--troubles in class?

Yes, this thread is for the instructors.

The students I teach are a oft happy, warbling, eager lot--I love 'em all and want to see them succeed..................but...........every once in a while.........they test me.

Oh, I know, we cannot save them all--and we still have to try.
Their education is up to them, not us...........they learn better if its taken, not given...........but there's those that leave me bewildered.

College-level classes mean the student is usually adult, often living alone or away from home and supposedly responsible.
Yet I'll see behaviour that just leaves me..........stumped.

Classic one is the student that is gleefully spending time on the 'Net, rather than paying attention to the lecture. Another is students simply not showing up. Recently I had a class with an 80% absentee rate (5 students, ONE showed up)--which normally would distrub me, but I have another class with a 96% attendance rate ( 25 students, with only one or two NOT showing up) so I'm pretty sure its not me that is the problem.

I've had students absolutely flabbergast asking how to do storyboards a mere TWO days before their graduation.

Its funny and sad and frustrating all at the same time.

My response has been cultivated over the past 7 years I've taught. Its one part Drill instructor, one part cranky boss and one part compassionate human being.
I've reasoned that since the students are usually destined for industry that I try to teach them as if they already were IN the industry--and treat them accordingly. The onus being on them for their behaviour and responsibilty for getting things done.

Really simple things like actually reading............USING the material in a handout. The assignments I see handed in chroncially show that people often do neither and I'm often scratching my head as why they don't.

I've taken to some different methods to try to . One assignment I go through entirely with the class--actually telling precisely what to put down on the page--and I STILL get the same assignment done wrong.
Its sometimes shocking the expectations students have contrasting with the realities of the industry and the work they put out and the level of the work they NEED to put out.
There's a urge to be very blunt at times.........and the awareness that kid-gloves are usually called for.
I cannot count the numbers of times I've wanted to swear out loud, and the numbers of fellow instructors I know that actually have.
Anyone else share these laments?

Ken Davis's picture

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

Not every animation student really wants to be/should be there. Some are just animation fans, others have parents who push them into it (?) and some don't have the maturity...yet.

You have to give them a chance to find out for themselves if they're serious or not (preferably in the first 15 weeks of a full time program). There should be rules in place that identify people who aren't learning. The instructor should talk to them and find out what's wrong and possibly make suggestions.

In our program, students missing 20 percent of a course do not get credit for that course (2 late arrivals = 1 missed class). Also, students who fail any course, do not register in the next semester. This is one of the best rules we brought in and produces a class of professionals that studios have told me "are mature and easy to work with".

Think back to your own days in animation school. Did you have to be "saved"? As for me, I couldn't get enough of animation and was always at school, didn't dream of missing a class...even one taught by a teacher I hated, and dove into every assignment as if it was a new magic trick (which it was). Should we really have to motivate students who "aren't into it"? I don't think so. Not in college.

We do need to be fair though and the applicants should know as early as possible what the program is meant to do and what the rules are.

I hear ya, Ken.
Ha. Just discovered this old post that is now relevant to me.
I've discovered that classes are like a Frankenstien's Monster, not in a negative way necessarily but in that a class has a collective personality made up of the ingredients of personalities who is in the class.
I'm encountering the same kind of things now and the collective personality theory is what I think.
How is it that a class of CG students, whom I instruct in preproduction, can "love" me (Although I'm not teaching 3d but core skills) and classical and Flash students, of which I'm experienced, can be downright dissin'? Collective personality.
It's always a crap shoot.

As for me, I treat them as adults as far as I ain't gonna natter and nag them to do the work. That should be a given. If they hand in something, I can give them a mark. If they don't....I let the marks do the talking.
I am not an academic by nature and figure they've had 5 years of high school and should know the ropes by now.
If they open up and are vulnerable and want to discuss obsatcles they may have, then I can put on the kid gloves. I let them know all the time I am here to facilitate them.

Actually, reviving this post is timely in other ways.

Its signalled the beginning of my end as a teacher, and its literally one year TO THE DAY that my teaching stint ended.


My last two years of it were not happy ones. I was tired ( burnt out actually, from a disheartening experience elsewhere)--my confidence shaken a bit by other things--and I was in a program at a school where.......things were influx so much that, in the end, I realized the school just didn't care.

Oh, the staff did care, for the most part, and most of the students.......but the school was the kind of animal that, if I'd failed every student, they'd have questioned ME, not the students performance.
Let's face it, private insititutions are businesses, and if the customer isn't happy-- goes the business. And if the customer is treated badly or what they see as badly......they are not happy. See the former again.

It was whispered in my ear.......inferred, not outright stated......that keeping the students happier rather than being totally honest with them was the preference. Honesty was to be given lip-service-lest it exact too high a price.

Sadly, and candidly, I stopped giving it my all. I got lazy and the classes suffered. I saw all the above things still happen, but I reached that cliff-edge called "I don't care."
I knew then that it was time to call it quits.

Were I to go back now.......with my current take on it........I don't think I'd be as successful.

Or maybe I would.
I'd be a ruthless bastard.
If the administration cites my job as being one to groom the students for industry, I would.
Grooming though, often calls for snipping off some of the excess. I'd fear for the poor student that was weaker and unmotivated.
Last time around, I let many through, simply on the hope that they'd pick themselves up later on--or that their failings were their own problems.
If I were to return to teaching, I'd be blunt and honest: if I didn't think they had the "stuff", I'd tell them.
It would be a merciful brutality.

Years ago, in another distantly related college study of my own, an instructor did just that with me and my class. I despised the man for it, and vowed I'd never do likewise.
Now I see EXACTLY where he was coming from, and the genuine service his approach provides.
If they would come 1/2 way............just that far..........I'd reach over and grab hold. That'd be my only yardstick--they'd have to abide by that at all times.
If they are not willing to come that far, then fuck 'em.
I'd fail them without blinking an eye and no amount of screaming and fussing would change it.

Animation IS an elite industry. There's many that want to, and few that actually do. To serve the industry AND the talent, we must sow the wheat from the chaff and discard the chaff--to use a metaphor.
The schools will HATE that kind of thing, because once word gets around, a lot fewer kiddies will sign-up for the meat-grinder.

I've no regrets leaving behind teaching. Its probably for the best, for me, the students and the schools. My attitude has evolved ( matured????) to one just leaning towards cynical and that's probably not the right one to have at the front of the classroom.

For those still in those trenches, I tip my pencil to you.

Make them bleed!

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

right there on your tagline, ken

we all grow older, we don't necessarily grow up.

Don't worry.  All shall be well.

Giancarlo Burani

hi Ken,

i was one of you«re students, in 2002, and today i«m a 2d teacher in a 3d school here in Brazil.

I«m on my 6th class, my classes used to be optional, but now i can reprove students by attendeance or by their grades. When it was optional, it started with 15 students and end up with 2 or 3, there where a class wich none of them came on the last day.

Most of my students are between 18 and 25 just a few are older than that, they all start the program very interested, but as the classes goes, they see how hard, technical and complex animation is, they start to loose interests and give up by half of the program, usually earlier. Except for the older ones.

i think you need some life experience to build up the pacience, the love and the will to do animation, you need to know that animation is really what you want to do and be ready to all the troubles, deadlines and heart attacks that an animation job can give you. So, if you«re not happy or uncertain of what you«re doing, there«s 80% chance that you won«t finish it. And with all the options and the pressure of our society on a teenager to decide what they«re gonna be by 18 is what makes them so unsure and unhappy with their choices, and usually rebel against the institution and to the people who«s responsible for they«re sadness, they«re teachers, the boss figure that we all learn to hate since highschool.

So my opinion is that anyone who«s willing to try a carrer in life, specially a difficult one as animation, should understand first that anything you decide to do will need 500% of effort and a lot of love with no doubt, there are gonna be a lot more slaps on the face (brazilian expression) then good things until they can get a good result, or you«re just gonna be another one using a tie and shoes on a sunny summer day!

sorry about the gramatical mistakes... i hope i made myself clear...

thanks for you«re help and knowledge,

Giancarlo T. Burani

Its the students' loss. If they don't listen, then don't worry.... their grade will show this. Teach to those who want to learn... if the other don't care, then you shouldn't either. This isn't high school... this is college!

This isn't high school... this is college!

Amen to that. I always considered college to be the gateway to one's career--hence trying to treat the student like they were on the job.
Highschool, imo, means nothing. Its a place where teens get more of the coddling they got in elementary and primary schools, and none of that really gives a student the right mindset to tackle a career.
I've seen a LOT of kids come into animation schools right from high-school, and more than a few of them were unprepared. Animation is both a technical and artistic discipline and craft--and it requires both passion and focus to be successful at it.

So my opinion is that anyone who«s willing to try a carrer in life, specially a difficult one as animation, should understand first that anything you decide to do will need 500% of effort and a lot of love with no doubt, there are gonna be a lot more slaps on the face (brazilian expression) then good things until they can get a good result, or you«re just gonna be another one using a tie and shoes on a sunny summer day!

And again, amen. Glad to see you carrying on Giancarlo-I wish you all the best in teaching.
The hardest lesson I had in my own personal learning experience as a teacher, was that I cannot "save" all my students.
Some just do not want to be there, despite their lip-service to the contrary.
Those that really do want to be there, show it. They usually prosper and often have the breakthroughs to punch their way through the frustrations they encounter.
Those students are the ones I can, and did, help.
The ones that didn't have at least that kind of passion.........I had to let go.
Man, that hurt a LOT, and it was no different from the first day of feeling that to the last. Yea, I'd often pass a weaker student just to keep the hope alive in them, because SOME of those folks did end up achieving things.
I do recall, and with some joy, some students struggling at first and then excelling later on--and going on to successful careers. Those are the greatest victories in teaching.

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

Not to interrupt, but do you really feel every single one of those students is capable of industry-quality work? Do you think all of them even care enough to produce it?

I would argue that even the best teacher's peak performance could only elicit greatness in moderation, and that there are far fewer people serious and motivated/dedicated enough to achieve anything worth mentioning in the animation world than is regularly believed. I'm not saying anything like "you're either born with it or you're not" but as you already know not everyone in that class really gives a
sh--. That's nothing against you or the course, at all; it's entirely the opposite, that it's their dumb mistake for wasting time and money on a superficial interest.

I respect that you give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them as professionals hoping to get a similar response, and I wish that upon myself as I undergo the next phase of my learning experience. However, I've seen the kind of students you talk about. It's not that they can't read or comprehend...if it mattered to them, if they were truly invested either in emotions or simple enthusiastic interest, they'd do what they could to improve and praise you for passing along the info. But when you walk them through like a science lab and they still butcher, that's either them being lazy or them going "Hey, it's close enough, it works" and blanking their minds. Collegiates might not be minors but does that make them adults? =)

The 3D teacher at this community college near me has software for teachers that on his computer that assigns the roster names to the different comps in the lab. Whenever anyone goes to a program he doesn't want on, like Internet Explorer (he teaches Lightwave, so them opening that wouldn't send up a flag) just a small white pop-up notification tells him who's doing what. It's easier and less messy than banning software from being used plus you can humiliate the kid or at least silently know when he's being dishonest if you ask him about it. At community college it's really bad because nobody save maybe 3 people has a reason to be in a class like that, but for some reason 20 people sign up. The 3 people eat it up, and the other 17 are on Instant Messenger or playing Flash games. I feel bad for him, because the whole thing is so rude.

I have a class that meets once a week. It's 3hrs45mins long. It's met three times, and 1/4 of the class already has one absence. After getting sick before I'm terrified of that stuff so I asked one where he was. "My girlfriend had a basketball game. It went into overtime, didn't get out, 6:45" (My class starts at 5)...

I'm not in a position to even talk. You know what you're doing and you've got the wisdom and experience for the position. I don't have the patience. I'd try pulling a wheat/chaff maneuver and concentrate on the people who make my class a priority and just forget anyone who abuses the privilege of being there. But I can understand that your job won't allow you to do that and you have to treat everyone equally. Kind of thankless when they won't do the same for you.

Can you find out what that software is?? I can think of some folks that would likely find that handy.

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

Can you find out what that software is?? I can think of some folks that would likely find that handy.

Sure thing! I asked him today, and he told me the name was Net-Ops. I looked it up and after a minute or so came up with NetOp School:

Amazing stuff. Its abilities are actually pretty snazzy for how they can -aid- teaching as well, instead of just being RoboCop sans exoskeleton.

Good luck proliferating the power =)

About the same time this thread went up I got an email from an instructor at our local community college. There was a sense that he may work to get me a spot for summer school or nights at some point, which thrilled me to no end. After reading this thread, I was still excited about it, but realized I need to teach the same way there (if I do) as I do at my high school job.

I teach mostly freshmen and sophmores in my two periods of multimedia. The more I push them and demand they take notes and look over their shoulders, the better they perform. Of course, they (theoretically) have their parents on their cases also. However, a number of my instructional management techniques from the high school will come to play there also.

Love to hear more about this.

Cartoon Thunder
There's a little biker in all of us...

my personal nightmare is the inflexible targets we are given.

you are not allowed to fail more than 7 percent of a class. but last year only 2 people chose to specialise in puppeteering and i failed one of them. so i was audited and had produce a lengthly report and go to a whole bunch of quality assessment meetings. when the rules were drawn up no one considered small subjects.

this year only one person has specialised in CG. they are quite good, which is bad news because the computer will flag a 100% attainment at one particular grade. so here we go again, i will have to report why everyone got the same grade, i will have to provide a break down of how the unit is delivered and assessed to try to identify whether it is too easy or not broad enough.

dammit computer....are you stupid!

all you can do as a teacher is provide the best damn experience and knowledge transfer you can.
for more movies and downloads

the fastest polygon in the west!


I agree


I agree with everything that has been said. During my five years teaching here we had 6 chairs- only one was really good...and he did not last long.

I had to substantiate why some one failed or in some cases received a B, a C or a D. In the end I was told I had to make a rubric for every class I taught...with my knowledge that would have been pages and pages of paperwork.

My job was to teach skills and to teach students how to self-critique their work. At least thats what I thought was my job.

I gave EVERY student the opportunity to redo EVERY assignment as many times as they wanted to... to improve their work and improve their long as they handed it in on time.

When I worked at Senior College Ballyfermot in Dublin- that was a great program. A typical two-week assignment dialog assignment with two or more characters included: an animation layout w/ layout poses, a storyboard of their animation, a model sheet, x-sheets (bar sheets if needed) and of course the animation (...and the kids broke down the mag tracks). Plus their other classes like visual communications and life drawing and layout all supported the assignment- an had their own assignments as well.

Yes, folks were put through their paces - but they ALL graduated into feature film work - for 4 years running.

The grades were POSTED on every assignment for ALL to see....

Folks were given a chance to repeat IF they were really trying and not quite getting it.

I miss those days of teaching...