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Writing & research for graphic designers
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82
 
The ABC’s of Being a Twin by Kelly Shami
CASE STUDY:
school Days
GAIL AnDErSOn
Gail Anderson is a designer and professor at the School of Visual Arts, New York.
(Originally published November 16, 2011 on Imprint, http://imprint.printmag.com/design-school/school-days/)
After 20-plus years as adjunct faculty at the School of Visual Arts,
I still get myself all knotted up at the beginning of each semester.
Will everyone drop the class? Will they see me for the fraud that I
am? Standard issue concerns. And perhaps I was even more nervous
this September, since for the first time I was taking on a full course
load as part of my plan to reinvent myself. I was thinking Room
222, but was afraid I’d end up with Welcome Back, Kotter.
I started teaching while I was still in my twenties, and
wasn’t much older than the continuing ed students in my
first class. I arrived for the initial session in the middle of
a torrential downpour, soaking wet, portfolio wrapped in
a black garbage bag. I nervously asked if I was in the right
room, and am guessing the students probably hoped I wasn’t.
I quickly learned that teaching required the ability to
clearly articulate a point of view. You couldn’t just tell a
student that their project “didn’t work.” You had to be able to
tell them WHY a piece didn’t work, and suggest ways to make
it better. It was paramount to both instill confidence and chal-
lenge the students, which could be a tenuous balance when there
was little to be salvaged, or, frankly, if I was in a lousy mood.
I was surprised that I was able to string coherent thoughts
together and then repeat them out loud, and that people took
me somewhat seriously. Teaching was a good dress rehearsal for
dealing with editors and clients, and it forced me to speak up
and not fade into the background. I liked the continuing ed
students, and they seemed to like me. I was hooked.
SVA has become home to a much larger population of
international students than in the olden days when I was
commuting down from my parents’ house in the Bronx, or
living at Sloane House, the very first SVA dorm, a slightly sad
YMCA on West 34th Street. I don’t remember any interna-
tional students in my Foundation Year group, and thought we
were exotic because we hailed from all five boroughs, Long Island,
New Jersey, and even Connecticut. We were decidedly local
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section 2
surveying the diciplines
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83
and mostly came from neighborhoods with adjoining
houses. Today’s SVA students are far more worldly, and
with each new class, I end up meeting students from
truly exotic places (and I say this with all due respect
to my beloved boroughs and tri-state area).
Working with diverse groups hailing from so
many countries can be difficult at first. Other
cultures sometimes teach their students to defer to
instructors, which is diametrically opposed to the
way American students are taught to behave. And
we blustery New Yorkers can be much more asser-
tive than even our Midwestern peers.
Language can be a delicate issue, as are American
pop culture references, and I give students who’ve
come to the States all alone kudos for extreme brav-
ery. I only ventured from the Bronx to Manhattan
and the two worlds could not have been more dif-
ferent. Assimilating into a whole new culture shows
a level of maturity that is to be acknowledged,
particularly when there isn’t even a distant cousin or
cat-loving aunt anywhere nearby.
Teaching a worldlier crowd has also been kind of a
kick, since I’ve gotten to know a little about life on
the other side of the country, as well as the other side
of the globe. I have a fabulous third-year student
named Zipeng, who cocks his head and teases me
with, “What IS that?” when I make a dumb pop
culture reference—particularly about anything that
dates further back than his short lifetime. Zipeng is
a real live wire, and I suddenly find myself want-
ing to go to China, his homeland. I’ve met Turkish
students who were ridiculously talented, includ-
ing a few teenagers who came over to participate
in the SVA Pre-College program last summer. I’m
Teaching keeps you young, exposes you to cultural references
that you may never know about otherwise…
 
The ABC’s of Cussing by Jennifer Sims
 
The ABC’s of What's for Dinner by Lauren Hom
pArT seven : BloG
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