They All Called Me "Ma'am"

I was a little apprehensive about what to expect when teaching my workshop at ITM to architecture students. Hearing a variety of things from various people in the academia world, I was hoping everything would go smoothly. The attitude I have about teaching is that, you have to give the students credit. This sounds corny and cliché but you just truly have to believe in them. I have felt that way from the beginning and still do, which is perhaps why I stay in the profession.

 I started with a presentation about my own work and then jumped right in with a timed drawing exercise. From that warm up they had to choose one of the drawings and create a print. The next project was to express an emotion by not using the traditional colors. For instance, no blue for sadness or red for anger. The first day proved to be a success and I was feeling pretty good about everything. I ended the day with a critique, which was probably one of the more interesting things about the first day. I had the students introduce themselves and pick a print they liked and one they disliked. Basically asking what was a successful print and the opposite. They had to articulate why on both accounts. Most of the students didn’t say anything too negative about the prints but some got into it and was refreshing to hear. One student started the debate of how do you determine what a good print even is? That was very thought provoking in itself and one could spend an entire semester talking about that. 

The students were very polite. They would address me by “maam”. Things like “excuse me maam” or “good morning maam”.  They started off a little timid but warmed up pretty quickly. One of my highlights was during the second day. A student said something in Gujarati and I responded because obviously I understood. He exclaimed “Maam, you can understand!!??” I said: “Yes, I can understand everything all of you have been saying! Thankfully, nothing has been said about me!” They all got a good kick out of that one.

The second day was started with another warm up. I did this same warm up with my 7-11 year old sketching class. I must say those 7 year olds used more imagination but some of these architecture students made a good effort nonetheless. The assignment of the day was to make a 5 print narrative. They had to tell some kind of story in 5 frames. They thought about this for a long time and everyone came up with a wide range of stories. Some were deep, some were funny, some were personal, one was a really corny love story, and all ended up thoughtful. They didn’t all finish but we still had a good critique in the end.

Looking back on how the students interpreted everything, I came to realize they are not given the change to grow an imagination. After 8th standard the whole focus is on the exams. I was comparing the creativity to some of my younger students in America. In America, children are encouraged to express themselves and be unique. That is not completely the case in India. That is the fault of the Indian education system, not the students. Still, these students proved my thinking wrong a little. They took risks and experimented the entire time. They even made a range of abstract prints! All in all everything went smoothly and I think everyone had a good time. I must say this was much much easier than teaching two year olds!