Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Creative Wisdom from Pixar's John Lasseter 6 of 7

6. Creative output always reflects the person on top.

“Poor managers harm the creative process.”

John Lasseter knows from personal experience. After landing his dream job as animator at the Disney Animation Studios in the late seventies, his outspoken individuality and creative extravaganzas quickly made him enemies among mediocre middle managers at Disney. Within a few years, Mr Lasseter became a victim of internal politics and got fired. Committed to go his own way, Mr Lasseter became one of the founders of Pixar in 1986. Twenty years later, following Pixar’s acquisition by The Walt Disney Company, Mr Lasseter returned in triumph as chief creative officer of both animation studios.

“Laughter, being crazy, freaking out, behaving in ridiculous manner are hard work. A manager who spreads his bad mood and who forbids his employees to have fun impairs their creativity, and thus harms the enterprise. I would fire him. Animated movies are not least a bang-hard business. I cannot risk so much money, only because a manager indulging in his bad mood harms my business."

Again - because I teach I automatically think of how this applies to the classroom. I've heard of some frightful behavior by teachers and try my very best to avoid those behaviors. I was in one classroom and someone's phone went off and the whole class whipped their heads around looking at me with those "deer in the headlights" eyes. Apparently their last instructor had charged each student whose phone went off $10.00 for taking her time.

Ahem. While in most settings a cell phone going off can be very rude, most of the classes I teach are for fun. They aren't graduate level courses in hallowed halls. Sometimes there are more important things going on in life than what we are doing in class. 

So this is what we do when phones ring in my class.
We do a dance.
 It's called the cell phone fling.

I was in my son's kindergarden class once and the kids were heads down working hard on math, or something. Suddenly the teacher's phone goes off with some wild dance tune. I was a little shocked. Then a huge grin lit up my face as all the kids got up and did the cell phone fling for about three rings then sat right back down and got back to work. It was the teacher's method of letting the kids get a few wiggles out at random times during the day. We all need to get wiggles out once in a while. 

So - what is the worst "diva behavior" you've experienced in class?
What has been the best kind of surprise you've had with a teacher in class?


Jo Vandermey said...

Mine is not a teacher experience as per say but in a local store which served as a quilt store and sewing machine out let I took my then year old very well behaved quiet child (I had others that would not have been so good) and asked to see a sewing machine I was thinking of buying. I was told very snootily (if that is a word) that "I should come back on a Wednesday afternoon and not bring my child." I did not go back and buy a machine there. I also never felt really comfortable taking a class there. And never from the owner who said this to me. This person is a very revered teacher in my area, retired from retail ownership long ago but teaches classes around locally. I just always remember how small I felt.
Another time I took a class or a block of the month... the "teacher" spent half the time telling us how great she was... I could not stand to go to pick up my block.
I go to classes to learn something but also to have an out. If I want grouchy, disorganized behavior I can stay at home with the kids!lol

Sandy said...

I have a tendancy to avoid 'revered' teachers like the plague. If people are already bowing down to them, they don't need me to join up!
But on the other hand, there are teachers - like Rayna Gilman and I suspect you - who athough have been highly recognised for their teaching, are still another artist/teacher doing their best and so encouraging you to do yours. The focus is the art, not the teacher.
Currently I am teaching in a classroom set up for sewing, but due to funding cuts another teacher is having to use the room. He doesn't like it and so leaves the room with all the tables scattered although he has been told they need to be left near the wallsockets. This even after he has been told I am physically unable to shift furniture. Ah well, a half a year in and the manager types are finally trying to sort things. ...after I said I am finishing in July because of my illness.
But then I can go back to focus on the art! :)
Sandy in the UK

Alison Schwabe said...

cipIn a creative embroidery workshop many years ago with a Big Name Australian teacher, we students became increasingly uncomfortable when the teacher and a student who obviously knew several people in common, began discussing one in particular, as the class worked on. We were from all over Australia, and neither of them could possibly know if anyone else knew this person they were gossiping about. A couple of us complained to the organisers and switched to another workshop after lunch. On several levels this was very unprofessional teacher conduct.

Bev said...

the worst experience I've had was a teacher that handed out the instructions and the patterns and as we worked we discovered that the sheets were printed backwards -- the teacher was totally unconcerned with how confusing this was

just because people can create beautiful pieces does not make them good teachers

(and yes, there is a store in town that I refuse to take classes in because I've been treated like a second class citizen when I go in there to buy something)

Anita M said...

I've had my best and my worst class experiences at the same school! As I enjoy process, rather than product, classes, I was thrilled with the encouragement from the teacher who not only made my efforts feel personally worthwhile, but was extremely tactful with the difficult student in the class. A few years later, in another process class, the teacher and her assistant were having so much fun catching up with each other that the class was left pretty much on our own, so there was no encouragement or constructive criticism by which to measure progress.

Karen Newman Fridy said...

Oh gosh I love the cell phone fling!! I do that (get up and dance) every couple of hours when I'm working in my studio. Well, not to my phone. But anyway, what a fun thing to do in class :)

That's my number one rule in class -have fun- whether I'm teaching adults or kids.

On an aside- I had someone's phone go off when I was doing an interiors presentation to a group. Serious presentation and they were embarrassed a bit because they couldn't quickly find the phone in their purse to silence it...so I started dancing just a little to break the tension. Made them feel better. Me too. Life's too short not to have fun!

Lynda said...

Had a teacher complain about the cell phone incessantly ringing and was highly irritated. Turned out it was her phone.

I am chronically ill and disabled and a teacher made a point of telling everyone in the class how unhealthy I looked. She wasn't aware of my health issues. Sorry I don't look well.

Helen Howes said...

When I decided to become a Teacher, I booked classes at my local quilt shop to find out "how it was done". The first class was appalling - the teacher made the lady next to me cry (over a silly small thing that would have taken seconds to teach) and was arrogant, rude, disparaged the shop that was employing her, spent the whole class telling us wher to buy stuff cheaply, taught a project that wasn't her own from a book she hadn't written, and taught about 1/3 of the promised syllabus. I was utterly discouraged, did not think I could teach like this.
the next week, I went into the same classroom with another teacher with deep apprehension. She was utterly brilliant, taught absolutely what she promsed, kept us all working hard, amused, amazed and all the quicker ones got extra bits all through the day. Her demos were exemplary and I learned an astonishing amount about teaching as well as the class project. I won't name the first, but the second teacher was Jennie Rayment
I like to think I'm a good teacher_my classes fill and I get a lot of repeat bookings. If I had paid attention to that first teacher, I would not be doing this now. I always find that I learn from the students, and that if I thank them for this, they are amazed...

Helen Howes

janice pd said...

The very first class I took was with an open mind and really wanted to LEARN something. It was obvious that the instructor had never taught a class before. For the first hour she talked about a book she had coming out and did a trunk show. It was an applique class at Paducah and she didn't demo any techniques and left us on our own. I had been teaching applique in my shop using my handy glue stick, which was not mainstream yet, so I whipped it out and in short order had my applique pieces ready to stitch down. She was horrified. I left at the lunch break as did over half the class.

The other bad experience was a well known art quilter. She refused to do any critiques even when asked. She also spent a large portion of the class time talking about her candidate for president. That isn't what I was there for and I felt a loss at not having constructive critque time for our work. she also had a couple of real class favorites which for a very small workshop class was way too obvious.

Katherine D. Stein said...

One of the worse teachers I encountered was at a Quilt Symposium and she was and still is a big name. She is a wonderful artist but her class bombed. She forbade any pictures to be taken of her samples, not becuase the flash could damage the color but because we might post them on our own blogs....she then went on and on about her new foundation she was starting blagh blagh..bottom line out a full day workshop, she may have actually spent 3 hours teaching and the balance bragging...I heard a couple of years later that she was teaching in Houston and pretty much did the same thing..

Lyric said...

You all are SO right about so many things! I didn't go to one of my local shops for a decade after the owner said something very rude to me when my 2yr old touched the fabric.

Sandy - I don't avoid anyone who is famous - most of them are just regular, albeit talented, people. I don't envy their success - and often go to learn from their success - be it in marketing, teaching, business, or art technique. Every once in a while I find one of them is egotistic - ah well. Most aren't.

It NEVER pays to speak badly of someone. Never. Hurts nobody but yourself. I try to do the opposite in my head, making up back-stories to explain someone's poor behavior. Makes it easier for me to let it go.

Poor hand-outs are a difficulty. I still find little mistakes in mine and think I have the best students. I ask them to write in edits or improvements on their evaluations. I'm continually tweaking them.

In class - only encouraging words. Ever. If I have a criticism it is private and couched in questions to the student to get them to discover the problem and figure out their own solution. Don't complain about a problem, provide a solution. (a household mantra)

I thank people for asking before they take pictures and then ask them to post them anywhere they want to WITH a link to my site. It's all good advertising.

As a teacher - I have much to learn - and am grateful for all of your input!

Lisa Chin said...

So many great comments on what not to do as a teacher and a quilt store employee. I like to think that I haven't done any of these no-no's and that I provide good feedback and lots of encouragement when I teach and work at the quilt store. I've been lucky enough to have only good teachers. I can't recall a bad class. I've heard others stories of terrible experiences with local and national teachers but have had great luck so far. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I LOVE the cell phone fling idea! What a great way to make everyone feel at ease! Thank you for sharing these great ideas!