You might remember Jasmine from a Featured Artist post way back in September of last year. Since that time, Jasmine has kept herself busy graduating from, and subsequently working for Guru Digital Arts College. Since Jasmine is a multi-talented in the areas of both practice (illustration) and theory (Art History), we asked her to share her experience with Guru on the blog. Enjoy!
Exiting six years of university, the last thing on my mind was more school –until I saw an ad for Guru Digital Arts College. I had a gut feeling this place would rock my world - it did. Soon after completing the Digital Illustration and Sequential Art Diploma, I found myself sitting in the faculty office at Guru. The executive director, Owen Brierley, was keen on me teaching art history. An opportunity to directly apply my BA degree? I accepted immediately. Since I was comfortable with the philosophy and culture of the school, the switch from student to teacher was relatively painless!
Illustration by Jasmine Abbey. 2014
An outstanding quality of Guru is that we champion failure. I know this sounds odd. Failure is a good thing? After surviving grade school and attending various post-secondary institutions for my education I was trained, as most people are, to be afraid of mistakes. Not until I came to Guru was I able to loosen my grip on perfectionism and learn to welcome failure, adapt to it, and re-build. I found this quality to be reflected on the faculty side as well. When I began teaching art history, I used the lecturing techniques I was most familiar with. FAIL! I realized that when teaching art history, I can’t strictly focus on the delivery of information - Google can do that. What the internet can’t tell my students is why this information is worth knowing, where they can expect to see it in their professional practice, and how to use it to enrich their work and perspective. That’s what being friendly with failure taught me: I was able to assess my own teaching practice by adapting and improving rather than judging and rejecting.
One of the scariest things about teaching here is that some of the most impactful lessons happen on the fly. I’m all about preparation, so getting used to this is a big, but rewarding, challenge. What do I look forward to every day? The honesty and passionate energy that my students offer in class. Teaching is a two-way street. If I want passion, energy, and honesty from my students, I have to be prepared to offer them the same. Taking risks in the classroom requires spirit and courage. It is scary sometimes, but also exhilarating.
At Guru, teaching is more like coaching (after getting through the basics like the colour wheel and design fundamentals). Teachers take a guiding role, sharing experience. There are no “sages on the stage” here, but rather, “guides on the side,” as Owen says. We provide a safe space for creative minds to take knowledge and practice skills IN the classroom, with mentors to facilitate the process with tips and tricks.
In a faculty training session, I wrote, “I believe we strive to embolden and impress confidence in students to fight for doing what they believe in, what they love.” Additionally, we aim to arm them with an adaptable skill set and compassion to do it takes to live the creative life.
I think the key to the type of teaching at Guru is that every member of the faculty is also actively working in their field - this means class content is always industry-relevant. We have classes running in our four core programs, but also offer classes like Professional Communications (personal branding, writing, pitching, etc.) and yoga to complement. So, we teach core skills like drawing and game strategy, but we also teach students how to write proposals and invoices for their work!
My faculty is passionately involved in what they love, constantly trying new things, and growing. There is intense care present here. Teachers are willing to fall, pick themselves up, try again. I think this trait is mirrored by the students. This school really changes you, in a much deeper way than just being loaded up with new information. During my seven years of post-secondary learning, never have I experienced such a powerfully dedicated group of people; both students and faculty. I am incredibly grateful to be teaching at Guru Digital Arts College, and to take part in the extraordinary innovation in education that is happening here.
More information on Guru Digital Arts College is available on their website here.