Last week, I sat down with my former teacher and current chair of the Foundation department, Chloe Briggs.
Unlike many teachers I’ve had in the past, Chloe was disarmingly positive and endlessly encouraging. She’s mastered that elusive balance of being an inspiring educator while also holding you accountable for your work.
During my Foundation year, I could feel how much she loved teaching and watched as her enthusiasm pulled everyone into their projects. As someone who felt slightly behind my peers in the beginning, Chloe was always the type of teacher to meet you where you’re at and make you feel like every drawing, good or not, is a step closer to where you want to be.
When I met with her for this interview, I had completely forgotten it had been almost six months since we’d spoken or seen each other. Unlike last semester when the sudden lockdown and change in conditions forced us to finish the course online, this year’s students and teachers were able to prepare for the challenges and surprises a completely online Foundation course brings.
These unprecedented conditions make an interesting case study, and thus I decided to ask Chloe Briggs for her thoughts on the matter, as well as what her vision of teaching is.
What has been the most challenging part of teaching an online course?
My immediate reaction is that I don’t see any problems and that it’s my responsibility as an educator to make it good. If I thought it was rubbish… (laughs) it’d be terrible. Also time zones.
What has surprised you the most about the online course so far?
How I feel I’ve got to know them actually, it feels like I’ve got to know their personality, we laugh, we have fun dynamic conversations.
What are some advantages of online learning?
They are relaxed in their home environment. They feel comfortable to take risks, it’s more private instead of a classroom with lots of eyes on them.
What do you imagine the future is for online programs?
It has amazing potential for connecting people, it can be cheaper, it can be more accessible to more people, it has more potential to have different kinds of students.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
It’s the most political thing you can do. It has the potential to transform people’s lives, you remember those people. I love discovering who people are, and watching their eyes light up when you help them understand an assignment.
As a teacher, what student habits bother you most?
Using phones during class.
As an artist and teacher, what do you look for in a student and their work?
An openness, a willingness to try basically. The worst thing is an “I’ve already done that” attitude.
How do you strike the balance between pushing students and encouraging them?
Well, I just treat them very seriously. I treat their work as seriously as they take their own.
Do you believe anyone can be an artist? Does anyone have what it takes?
I think it’s a combination of many things, there’s such a spectrum of things you can be. You have personality traits, and everyone has their strengths but then you have to work on the things you’re not very good at.
After talking with Chloe, it was clear that this year’s online Foundation students were in good hands. Even though some students aren’t able to be here in person, they still have all the elements that make a course valuable: the time and space to inspire their work, and dedicated educators who truly want them to succeed.