TYROS

Melencolia I (B. 74; M., HOLL. 75) *engraving  *24 x 18.8 cm *1514A recent article in the New York Times points out the youth and inexperience of many teachers in today’s charter schools. In a related Slate piece, Sarah Mosle observes of her three years as a young Teach for America grade school teacher: “I was single, childless, and clueless about even the most basic aspects of child-rearing. My students’ parents seemed like creatures from another planet, remote and distant from the job I thought I was doing. To the extent I understood family dynamics, it was solely from the perspective of the teenager I’d been just a few years before.” There is a parallel here with teaching architecture. It has become increasingly common to hire young graduates, newly minted and fresh out of school, as part-time teachers in design studios. The advantages are obvious: young teachers are motivated, enthusiastic, energetic, and willing to spend long hours in the studio. And since the architect job-market is over-supplied, they are willing to work for less than full-time professors. Having been students themselves recently, young teachers are able to establish an easy rapport with their charges. I remember when I taught my first studio–I was three years out of school and I had exactly one commission under my belt, a summer cottage for my parents. The problem is that the unseasoned teacher tends to perpetuate the fictive atmosphere of the studio: clients and budgets are unimportant, practical concerns can be dispensed with, all that matters is design, the more imaginative the better. Of course, this makes the studio much more fun than dealing with the harsh and unglamorous matters that make up a large part of architectural practice. No wonder that young graduates are shocked–and often discouraged–by the exigencies of the real world. Nobody prepared them for it.

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