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Good Mentoring

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by Dave Fritz, Aug 25, 2020.

  1. Dave Fritz

    Dave Fritz

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    When I was teaching fly casting a woman told me, men teachers take the rod and show you how while women teachers let you cast and make corrections. I'm not sure you can generalize man vs woman but I think the message it true. A good mentor watches, makes corrections and lets the student do the work. On the other hand I've seen too many take the tool make the cut themselves and say, "Just like that". That's like watching a video, only the eyes and ears are in play. We know turning is about feel, finding the sweet spot. I think a lot of really good turners take that last clean cut for granted, their muscle memory is in place while a new person has no idea. Interested in other's thoughts.
     
  2. Curtis Fuller

    Curtis Fuller

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    I think you're absolutely right Dave. Teaching or mentoring is a separate gift that seldom is paired with the skill that's being taught. A good mentor needs to be able to suppress that natural tendency to show off their own skills and get down to the level of their student. Kip Christensen came to our club last fall and gave a demonstration on what he called "The scales and chords of woodturning", comparing learning to turn to learning to play a musical instrument. It was basically repeating the same cut over and over until the wood was gone. Not how to make something, just practicing how to make the cut until it becomes that muscle memory you talk about. The common denominator I see in almost all the questions that get asked by new turners is that the answer is "practice".
     
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2020
  3. Donna Banfield

    Donna Banfield

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    I agree, it takes a special skill set to make a good woodturning teacher or mentor. And they are not necessarily the best or most well-known woodturners. You need to have the ability to take what you know, and convey it to another person, in a language they understand. That requires the ability to adapt YOUR teaching methods, sometimes on the fly, to the student's learning methods coupled with the ability to carefully observe the student's body movements and methods, to help them find a better body movement or tool presentation. When THEY find the sweet spot, they're more likely to search for it again, hence commencement of muscle memory.

    There are only two occasions I will take the tool from the student: if they are taking a video of the cut, or tool presentation on their phone, and want to be able to refresh their recollection when they're alone in their shop (always at their request), or if while turning at any point, they get a catch that sends the blank flying, and it's impossible to remount safely. If the student really needed to go home with a bowl after the session (and I determine that before we begin), I will grab another blank and get them to the point things went astray. They take over and keep going from that point forward.
     
  4. Richard Coers

    Richard Coers

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    I find women to be better students too. I can tell a guy how to make a cut, then I put my hand on the handle of the gouge and even guide him. But as soon as I turn my back he is cutting the way he did in his shop. Just the opposite for women. Maybe I've just taught stubborn guys!
     
    hockenbery likes this.
  5. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    One thing I do frequently when beginning students are having trouble - I grip the end of the tool handle with my thumb and a couple of fingers while they are making the cut.. I can then keep bevel on the wood, roll the tool, and adjust depth of cut while the student makes the cut. When the tool is moving correctly my fingers just go along for the ride. The student gets to feel the cut and one pass with assistance is usually enough and then I watch them repeat the cut several times. It also makes the student relax their grip.
     
  6. Roger Wiegand

    Roger Wiegand

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    I find it really helpful to see 1) what I am supposed to do and 2) what the outcome should look like before I try it. I find it a lot faster and less frustrating than the successive approximation approach with ongoing correction. Good teaches help a lot by telling you what to watch-- eg watch how my hips move not where the tip of the tool is.

    Different people learn very differently and no one-size-fits-all teacher ever becomes a great teacher. I will fess up to being a terrible teacher, so don't do what I do!
     
    Charles Cadenhead likes this.
  7. Tom De Winter

    Tom De Winter

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    I find the same thing teaching pistol and rifle classes.
     
    Rick Miller likes this.
  8. R Henrickson

    R Henrickson

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    Indeed. I've been an assistant for a number of turning classes at the Folk School. The few women who have been in the classes would listen and follow advice, and ask for further advice if they were unsure. Most men in the classes have been responsive students, but there is usually at least one who is back to what he was doing as soon as you turn away from helping them, and may tell you that he is doing what you said.
     
  9. Randy Anderson

    Randy Anderson

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    Being only a few years into this I've recently noticed that I still need to go back to my local experienced expert/friend and ask dumb questions about things I'm sure he told me early on. It's important to have someone that you can feel comfortable asking questions about things you should know but don't. Easy to assume that folks remember ALL the little things they were told or even practiced early on and then forget and then bad habits develop that are hard to undo. I think watching someone else turn helps more only after a lot of hours on your own trying, failing and practicing. I can watch videos now that are much more help than they would have been early on.
     
    Lamar Wright likes this.
  10. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    That is a common phenomenon.

    We all learn things when we are ready to learn them. You have to have the prerequisite to build on as well as being open to moving in that particular direction.

    Every beginning woodturning class I have taught the skills of individual students a so varied and diverse. Most have done some wood working or carving have done some turning. So many have extraordinary knowledge and skills relevant to woodturning.
     
  11. Larry Copas

    Larry Copas

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    Years ago my nephew asked me to teach him how to stick arc weld. I showed him how to strike an arc and maintain it. He is a little slow and was constantly freezing the rod. I was getting frustrated and finally got behind him. Wrapped my arms around his body and grabbed the torch on top of his hands. Struck an arc and we were off to the races.

    Moving on to wood turning I have put my hands on top of the students hands and guide them through the cut. As the cut progresses I tell them what is happening. Seems to work well.
     
  12. Robert D Evans

    Robert D Evans

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    I was taught that the fundamentals of teaching were:
    Tell them how to do it.
    Show them how to do it.
    Let them do it.

    Now figuring out how to get the student to listen, watch and produce is a whole other art form.
     
  13. Emiliano Achaval

    Emiliano Achaval Administrator Staff Member

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    I have told this story before, I love it, so I will tell it again. Bill Jones was asked how he got so good at the lathe. He said: why?! You just stand in front of it! Bill has 2 great books, out of print, a collection of all his articles he wrote for woodturning magazine. I was humbled and nervous when I started working for the magazine, some of the best turners in history have written articles there. The thing is, there are no shortcuts or magic potions, yes a good mentor is essential, but you have to put time on the lathe.
     
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  14. Dean Center

    Dean Center

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    Years ago, I had the opportunity to teach adult learners. In educating myself about the process, I was advised that teaching adults is not like teaching kids. Surprising to me, the first step with adults is to let them know you care. This basically meant getting to know them at least a little, who they are, where they come from, what their interests and goals are. The second step, I learned, is to find out what they already know.
     
  15. RichColvin

    RichColvin

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    I must disagree with Emiliano on one point: It is important to ensure that, as you are building muscle memory, you are doing things correctly. Unlearning muscle memory developed around bad practices is very hard.

    And building muscle memory is key to making great achievements. It is commonly taught in many sports that one must develop such muscle memories so they can ignore thinking about what they are doing, and instead thing of what they want to achieve and what could impact that. Think about golf: the key is to not think about swinging the club, but how the swing should be changed based on wind, grass length, etc.

    The same is true with wood turning. How to use a gouge should be committed to muscle memory. The turner can then focus on the wood’s hardness, the angle to be achieved, etc.

    I think practicing to build that memory is important. But read “Talent is Overrated” (by an unrelated Geoff Colvin). He really iterates that, just as Bill Jones noted, hours in the saddle is important. But it is more important to work on the items which you cannot do well. Not simply rehearsing those items you have already mastered.

    Kind regards,
    Rich
     
  16. robo hippy

    robo hippy

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    I was mostly self taught in my first few years, other than reading the Richard Raffen book, and I think I had his video also. It was a slow steady rise in skill level. Then we had a local club form. My learning curve took a very big swing up... Seeing things being done and being able to ask questions was huge in my learning...

    robo hippy
     

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