PHLF Architectural Apprenticeship 2012

As I mentioned last week, I was very honored to have been offered the chance to teach during PHLF’s Architectural Apprenticeship. If PHLF sounds familiar to you, perhaps it’s because I mentioned them in my walking tour post? This apprenticeship program is one of the many great programs that they are involved with in Pittsburgh. I wish I had known about this program when I was in high school. I think that many people in general misunderstand architecture as just creating the drawings for a building. While technical drawing courses are great, they don’t do much to prepare you for the creative process of architecture. Programs like this one start to fill in that gap. For more information about the stated goals of the Architectural Apprenticeship, you can visit the PHLF website.

The apprenticeship as it is now is 5 sessions spaced out over about as many months. In this particular session, I had about 5 hours to explain the design process, how to make a model, how to create drawings, and also cover some green building practices. That’s an ambitious amount of ground to cover, and I’m not sure I hit the sweet spot. I find that high school students are way quiet, which means I end up talking way more than I ought to. It’s unfortunate, because when these kids sketch and talk about their projects, it’s clear that they are understanding at least some of what I’m saying. From what I have heard, though, quiet students just come with the territory, and it’s just something to be dealt with in structuring a lesson. I think in the future it would be good to have more hands-on activities, because they seemed to really enjoy that aspect.

Also in the future it would be good to get some pictures of what actually was going on. I know that there were some cameras floating around there, so if I can get those pictures and get permission to post them here, I’ll update.

The 5 hours really flew by for me, and I think overall I did a perfectly acceptable job. At CMU and other universities with adjunct faculty, having teachers that also have full-time day jobs in their field can be a blessing and a curse. You know that you are getting people who are putting their architectural skills to the test on a daily basis, which is a big advantage in getting an education in a constantly evolving field like architecture. However, since the faculty are not necessarily trained as teachers, they aren’t always able to connect with every student. I’m hoping that in the future I am able to get better at interacting with these students and communicating the design process on their level.

If any of my readers that do any teaching have any insight, I’d love to hear it.

2 thoughts on “PHLF Architectural Apprenticeship 2012

  1. Teaching teenagers can be really tricky – a lot depends on the group. It sounds like this is something they’ve voluntarily signed up for which helps. 😉 Do the kids know each other outside of these sessions? That can help or be a hindrance – they may be feeling each other out and not want to say something “stupid,” or they might be less fearful of speaking up (since they’re not likely to run into each other again.)

    If you’re going to be with the same group multiple times, for instance, I would definitely try and have some kind of activity or group discussion if you can. They’d probably be more comfortable with it towards the end once they have more of the information. Also, don’t be afraid to lecture a little bit – if the topic is something they are interested in, they will probably appreciate your expertise. You are an interesting person to listen to and don’t have a monotonous voice, and you’re not “old” to them, so they are more likely to tolerate a lot of talking.

    I realize I’ve contradicted myself a billion times here, but that’s kind of what teaching is. When I was in the classroom I didn’t stick to any one way of doing things, even if it was the kind of thing I was more comfortable doing. I don’t know if there’s a personality type that can be said to go with architects or not, but different things will appeal to different people on different days. 🙂

    • I am so old! 26 as of yesterday. Way too old to be relevant. I was going to just sing my lecture to the tune of Call Me, Maybe. “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s a building! Draw it, maybe?”

      This is why I asked other people for advice. Thanks!


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