back to school

Well, I have arrived in Edinburgh and begun my masters programme. The first weeks of the course are being spent unpacking what art education has been in the recent past and could be for us. As an OCA tutor this has proved enormously useful for me and my students. Accessing art education theory and being encouraged to think about it in a structured way has helped me reaffirm my vows as it were with my beliefs about art education, but also introduced me to concepts which I had not considered fully enough before.

I found the first week of being both student and tutor a little unsettling as it was hard to change gear and I think a couple of students may have received rather hard nosed reports!  I am aware that I need to avoid dragging my level 1 students through a vicarious post graduate degree. Overall though I am pretty confident that my being at Edinburgh University will be a very positive thing for my teaching and my students as the energy that comes from being structured in my research will filter down in my writing. I can disseminate anything I feel would be of interest and also have a much better back up if a student query requires me to do any research..

One of the main things to hold in mind as a tutor is that you are just another person, working alongside your student. I do have more experience both practically and theoretically than my students usually, but I am not more creative, or interesting or valid in some way than them. I learn from them as much as they learn from me and that process of respectful symbiosis is vitally important if your goal is to support students to make their own work – not yours.

I am finding now as I struggle to make sense of course requirements and expectations, that I am remembering successful student strategies and borrowing from them.  Time management, self confidence, fearless risk taking, passion; these things I have seen in my students, and now I look to do myself.

Time management is a funny one. It really doesn’t matter how many things you have going on in your life. My most productive student is completing his courses promptly despite working full time and having several children. For others, myself included, it is so easy to get distracted or simply not have enough of a system set up to ensure that things become routine. I’ve heard the expression ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person’ and I think there is probably a lot of truth in that. As I settle into the schedule of full time art production I find that time seems to expand to accommodate what I need to do. Self confidence can be hard to manufacture, but in fact a certain humility gets you to the same point. I am attempting, rather than necessarily faking confidence, to be less selfconscious so that I’m not scared because I don’t have so far to fall. I have seen this time and again come up as an issue, people learning much more slowly because they are scared to mess up. I often have to stop myself from writing in tutor reports ‘please drink at least two whiskies and try this again’. Passion is born from a love of ideas for me, and it was one of my students that reminded me that the best way out of a lull is to follow up on a good idea. I am relishing having given myself the opportunity to dedicate some time to pursue my own ideas with tutor support.

Funnily enough, students on my course are required to maintain an online learning log – so I will be joining in on that too. Perhaps that is my come uppance for always harping on about them.


  1. Catherine 27 September 2012 at 12:15 pm

    I hope you’re going to be giving us a monthly report Emma, plus the link to your learning log! Seriously though your piece does come over with excitement and enthusiasm and I wish you every success.

  2. Noah Waby 27 September 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Very good luck Emma! And I agree with Catherine, it would be lovely to hear your thoughts/reflections now and again, especially about your own art practice.

  3. Cathie 27 September 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Welcome to edinburgh. Itd be lOvely if you could join the oca sketching group – we meet monthly next time in edinburgh. Although you may be a bit too busy settling in?

    1. emma drye 27 September 2012 at 8:56 pm

      Thankyou Cathie – I will follow that up.

    2. Olivia Irvine 28 September 2012 at 10:47 am

      Can tutors join? I quite fancy going out drawing with a group, strictly as a fellow artist though.

  4. Judy 27 September 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Good luck Emma!
    Veering off topic, the painting used here is by E Phillips Fox and can be seen at the Art Gallery NSW ( I was looking at it recently in the context of a conversation on painting textiles, in particular white. Apparently when first exhibited it was considered groundbreaking, unconventional and unfeminine (the subjects). A good fit with the idea of being less selfconscious.

  5. patricia farrar 27 September 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Emma, every good wish from me for this exciting new venture. I am looking forward to the blog…

  6. Olivia Irvine 28 September 2012 at 11:04 am

    That’s a lovely painting you have chosen as an illustration, Emma. I wouldn’t mind a smock like that spotty one- currently I wear an old sheet. You are absolutely right that you can learn from students and also from the course notes. I have always kept a kind of log, but am impressed at the level of commitment many students have when it comes to responding to exhibitions- something I haven’t done of late. I am also doing more drawing now which is a direct result of teaching Drawing 1. You can learn a lot from looking at the forums too- some students have put on interesting links to Chinese art, for example. When a student’s search is made available like that, not only does it save you time, but leads you in directions you wouldn’t otherwise go. Time management, lack of confidence and being scared to mess up effect many tutors too. We could all do with being mentored from time to time. I often talk to myself as if I am my own tutor which helps. The other thing I do is look out of the window when I am on the bus (rather than reading the metro or checking texts). It’s amazing how many serendipidous things happen when I am doing this- things I see, thoughts that come up, ideas hatched. Then it’s a matter of not passing up on the moment and acting on these things. Good luck with your studies.

  7. Jane Ward 30 September 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Lovely to read another of your contributions Emma – always so helpful. As the original scaredy-cat I totally identify with the need for fearless risk-taking! Every good wish for your studies – looking forward to hearing more.


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