Day in the Life: Teaching Artist

In my role as an FAO Fellow here at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, I get to enjoy lots of variety in my day-to-day experience. My direct service work in the fellowship is working with Claymobile, our mobile engagement community program. The majority of this work is centered around teaching ceramic classes in schools, but I also get to teach in community centers, libraries, and farms. I began in this role acting as a teaching assistant, which means that I worked with the lead teacher in setting up the materials necessary for the class and supported students in their creative process. More recently, I have begun lead teaching in classrooms; it has been a wonderful process starting from having no knowledge about ceramics, to learning how to assist, then to leading a residency. Last week, I had my first class lead teaching at Steel Elementary. I started my day at the studio packing all of the necessary materials and then driving to the school. On arrival, we bring all of the materials to the classroom and introduce ourselves to students. 

Each day at work is different and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

As a lead teacher, one of the main components is teaching a demonstration of the ceramic project we will be completing. For this particular class, we made coil bowls which are made of small ceramic spirals using a plastic bowl as a mold. During my demonstration, I focused on the feeling of the clay as it was many student’s first experience with it. Teaching how to make a coil, how to smooth the inside of the bowl, and glazing are some of the main focuses for this project. After the demonstration, the rest of the class is spent moving around the classroom, checking in with students and answering any questions that arise. Many students shared ideas of projects they want to make in the future, what they might eat out of their bowls and share information about themselves and their families. The classroom teacher took pictures of each student with their finished bowls and we said goodbye, all in under two hours. 

After a Claymobile class, I’ll switch over to my special project work which is teaching in our new after-school program. The after-school program started last year, and we are now working with four schools in the area. After unpacking and taking lunch, I’ll set up our studio with the tools and demonstrations necessary for our class. Then, I walk to the school that we work with that day to pick up students at dismissal. After all of the students arrive, we walk to the studio together. Once we arrive, we have snacks and homework help which is necessary time for students to relax and connect with each other. Then we switch to studio time. Teaching in the after-school program can be similar to the style of Claymobile teaching, but as it is a smaller group who have had practice in multiple making techniques, it runs more independently. Some days we offer a full demonstration, others are free-making days where students choose what they want to make, but most days fall somewhere in between. This is a long-term program for students, so the curriculum is built particularly for the students from each school. Connecting with students on a weekly basis is one of my favorite parts of my job, and being able to provide a fun and safe space for students to make art and chat with friends. Working within the after-school program lends itself to a stable consistent schedule which is nice for me and Claymobile gives my schedule some flexibility and fun. Each day at work is different and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Picture of Kayla Johnson

Kayla Johnson

Kayla (she/they) is the After-School Program Coordinator & FAO Schwarz Fellow at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia.