During the summer I received a call from Jim Campbell on the BA Photography course asking if I would be interested in being part of teaching one of the units for the second-year students.
Teaching is something I have often considered as supplementing my income however I would be lying if I said I thought it would be trying it out this early. It did however fit somehow. During my time on the MA I have found more and more that people come to me for advice and though I don’t believe I know any more than most, I really enjoy solving problems related to photography. It always feels easier solving others’ problems, and this can cycle back, informing your own work. In addition to this with my increasing interest in making work about schools and education it gave me another angle of experience to consider this from.
Starting this was stress inducing! I’m usually fairly confident and although I get the jitters before speaking, I’m able to control it. With teaching there was a new dynamic, probably exacerbated by my thoughts of still being a student myself. After my first session this subsided. I quickly came to realise what I could offer to the students and started picking up on how I would prefer to teach quickly. The unit I was working on was primarily a reading group, a lot of the texts/reading materials given I have read before but made sure to re-listen and make more extended notes than I would have the first time. Coming in to the first session it became apparent that the students were potentially not as engaged with reading what they had been set than I imagined. I had to lead almost all of the conversation, but I did not feel out of my depth at all. Each student had differing interests, but all seemed fairly engaged with their topic despite not reading what they were set. I understand why they may have struggled, at a similar stage I would have looked at some of these texts with a little Sinicism, they are wordy and often not concise. I decided to use the fairly recent experience I had with a similar position to engage them, give them a reason to try and enjoy what was being in front of them. I believe reading is something that you must come to enjoy yourself, otherwise it is plainly just too laborious. From here on in the sessions seems to become easier, it was probably both me settling in and the students being more engaged.
The next challenge was to create a lecture on Documentary Ethics. Jim had asked if I was happy to do this and that I didn’t have to, but I felt if there was a time to throw myself in at the deep end, it is now. What better way to do it than through a topic that directly applies to my questions around the practice of photography. I know my strength lie in playing off conversations of others rather than simply standing in front of other and talking. I had also been told the students were looking for more engagement in lectures. I took previous experience from running the workshop in Denmark and tried to apply a similar idea into this lecture. I gave my spiel about breaking down ethics within the broader sense of epistemology and how I would approach projects making sure to mention that project can be approached in multiple ways amongst other ideas. Talked about my work and where considerations on ethics may be applied to my work. I then created a workshop where the students in groups looked at different books and interrogated these works through the same process I had used to assess my own work. Some students had to be guided but they managed to come up with some incisive questions but were also supportive of the work in other areas. I ended the session with a more obvious ethical debate around the photographer Souvid Datta. The lecture/workshop seemed to be received well.
Moving forward this experience has given me a lot to consider about teaching as something that supports my practice. I enjoy it and feel I would enjoy working with the students on their practical work even more than the theoretical side as this is where my interest lies. I would be willing to do more hours in a part time capacity, but I feel taking a full-time role would negate my work at this stage due to the importance of dedicating time to educating the students when in a position like that.