There is a very long back-story to how I ended up with a teaching gig at a fancy design school in India. But I do not want to bore those of you who already know it, so that story can be told elsewhere. What I am excited to share is the process we went through – quite an epic journey crammed into just 4 short weeks – so that others who are excited about sharing Beehive methods and popular education techniques can learn from the successes and challenges which we had.
It is, however, important to give a little background about the school. Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology is located in a far suburb of the mega-city of Bangalore. It is a relatively small, exceptionally elite school. It is considered one of the very best in the field of design (which is a very new field in India, so they do not actually have much competition). As a result, Srishti has easily snapped up many of the best design teachers in the country, and a handful of internationals as well. The atmosphere is proud and a little pretentious, but not without reason – the faculty members who I met all seemed exceptional, and the students are mostly brilliant, I was consistently impressed by their skills and creativity.
As would be expected from a school of this nature, virtually all of the students come from very privileged backgrounds. Similar to the US, that means that many of them do not think much about politics, because “it doesn’t affect me,” though many of them love symbols of rebellion, like graffiti, ganja, Pink Floyd, and of course the ubiquitous Che t-shirts.
My task was to take this group of students through a process of collaboration, political awakening, and high-intensity production all rolled into one classroom, or in other words, to replicate the Beehive creative process in miniature.
Here in this report I will detail both the instruction and exercises that I gave, and student’s reactions to that. The 6 hour-a-day course was quite a ride for me as well as for them – much deeper and more intense than any teaching I have done before, and it had many ups and downs as I rolled with the students, making it up day by day.
Before I actually showed up and started class, the general format given to me was this:
Week 1: Immersion in concepts
Week 2: Research & Ideation
Week 3: Production
Week 4: Presentations
That was pretty much it… Before classes officially started I had managed to gather the start date and the end date and the number of students in the class, and nothing else. Not for lack of trying, I certainly asked many questions, but disconnected administrators mostly just evaded my attempts. So, I just had to dive in and figure it out as we went along. Luckily, I had a faculty assistant, Pinak Banik. He was a new teacher, and present only half the time (he also had other tasks, meetings, assessments, etc). But his help with logistical concerns like budget and printing was critical. I was glad to have his encouragement as well, as a talented artist but inexperienced teacher he was also making it up day-by-day and reassured me that the very capable students would come through in the end, no matter what I threw at them.
So this is what I came up with (ps – Days 1-9 have lots of words, go to Days 10+21 if you want lots of pictures) :