Monday, April 07, 2008

Monday Morons--You're a teacher?

Okay, so I was at the ceramic supply place, and I had ordered some clay and some casting slip and paid for it, and I was just sort of looking around the store to see if I should get something else before I had the supplies loaded into my car. And this woman comes in and talks to the cashier, and the store part of the place is small and I heard what they were saying without really trying.

It started out normal enough. The woman came in and said that she was a teacher and that she had spoken to someone on the phone. So I'm thinking that she's already ordered stuff and that the cashier will ask if she has a tax number and then ring up whatever the woman ordered and send her around to the back. But that isn't what happened at all.

The woman says that she needs to buy some stuff for her students. And she says that they are using some red clay that I'd never heard of. But the cashier knew what she was talking about, and I've only used maybe six clays so far and I'm sure there are a lot of clays that I've never heard of. But I was thinking red stoneware, which is a cone 6 clay and uses high fire glazes. But the woman wasn't using red stoneware, and the cashier took the woman over to the low fire glazes. And the woman says that she needs a few colors and probably some clear. And the cashier says that the low-fire glazes are all on this wall.

And the woman says, "What's low fire? What does that mean?"


So the cashier says something like the red clay that the woman is using is fired at the lower temperature ranges and that these are the glazes used with that kind of clay. And then the cashier shows her where the low-fire underglazes are and tells her that the underglazes also come in pint sizes, but those are kept in the back and she would go and get them if the woman needed that size instead.

So then the woman says that she'll probably need to see the pint sizes and wants to know how much they cost. The woman hasn't picked out any colors, and the cashier can't just be expected to go and get all of them in the pint size. The cashier tells the woman that the price depends on the color, but the average is about twelve dollars.
The woman seems to know nothing about ceramics. She doesn't know what low fire means. She doesn't know that colors all have different prices depending on what minerals are used to make the glazes and underglazes.

What is this woman a teacher of anyway?

The woman says that whoever she talked to on the phone had said that something was eight dollars. She wanted to see the eight dollar stuff. Some of the low fire glazes are eight dollars.

The woman then goes on that she has about six students and that they have been using this red clay because they were studying Greek pottery with the black figures on red clay. So the woman ends up buying only black glaze. She didn't even buy any clear glaze to go over the parts of the clay that are to be left red. You'd think that she'd at least have bought the black underglaze and then the clear glaze to go over it.

Anyway, it all sounded very odd to me. So I'm wondering what this woman is teaching that she has to go and buy supplies for an art that she seems to know nothing about. And I'm just imagining all sorts of problems that her students are going to have with their artwork if they don't know more about ceramics than she does. And who is going to fire the ceramics? If they are studying Greek pottery, do they intend to go out and have an open pit firing too? I can picture this woman just starting a fire out in the middle of a field somewhere, or worse, next to a school or someone's house. And does she know not to glaze the bottom of the pots or they will stick to the kiln? And if she's having someone else fire this stuff for her students, will the know that they are using a lowfire red clay, or will it look like red stoneware and get melted in a cone 6 firing? The woman didn't even know what lowfire meant, so I doubt that she will think to mention it.

The best that I can hope for is that this woman teaches an art history class and that she got this idea to have some of her students make pots for extra credit. Hopefully someone else at the school who actually knows about ceramics told her to use this low fire red clay and will know exactly what to do with it once the student finish their projects.


dmarks said...

I had a university teaching assistant who was so incompetant that one of the students who had some leadership sort of took over the class so we could get through it. The teaching assistant sort of sat at his desk, bewildered, as it happened. But it worked out.

The Absurdist said...

You know, I know EVERYTHING about clay and I am not even a potter.

Um, not. But you are right; an art teacher (which is probably what she is) surely would know SOMETHING about clay. I am surprised she didn't say, "what's firing? What's a kiln"?

Craze said...

I sure hope she's not a ceramics teacher!

laughingattheslut said...

I'm always surprised when a second semester student doesn't know something really basic. It's just unreal that a teacher wouldn't know that stuff.

Supposedly, there is no such thing as a dumb question. But really, how can you have students and be working on a ceramic project and not know about low-fire and high-fire and such?