Interview with Anne Butcher, Head of Studio and Teaching
1st May, 2020
Anne Butcher, Head of Studio and Teaching, joined the RSN as an Apprentice in 1982 and has seen the School expand, move locations and develop hugely over the years. As Head of Teaching at the RSN, Anne oversees the Future Tutors Programme, Certificate & Diploma in Technical Hand Embroidery, Tours & Bespoke Classes and Day Class departments.
Here, Anne tells us about how the RSN Education Team have had to adapt quickly to our current global situation, to maintain the standard of teaching that our students require.
How has the RSN Education team adapted to the current global Coronavirus outbreak, working and teaching from home?
As you can imagine, the Education team has had to quickly adjust to the current situation, both with our students and with our Tutors. Fortunately, helped hugely in today’s digital age, we have had a fluid dialogue in order to discuss how we can continue teaching in our Certificate & Diploma (C&D) students’ homes. Work started on this a few weeks ago, working closely with our IT Manager and Tutors to see how we could best offer the same high standards of teaching excellence.
The first students to receive online tuition were our Future Tutors and, from the outcomes, we reviewed and evaluated putting together a process for our C&D Students. Firstly, we trialled the C&D students online tuition with a few national and international students learning from Tutors. We then listened to their feedback, which will be an ongoing process, making appropriate adaptations to the experience from both sides of the screen as it were!
We are still feeling our way and it will depend on the student and the technique that they are doing, as it may not suit everyone and there are techniques and stitches that might not work effectively being taught remotely. As more students and Tutors take these sessions we will be able to evaluate from the feedback we receive in order develop the virtual teaching process further.
I am of course extremely grateful to our students, Tutors and my colleagues for their enthusiasm and understanding at this unprecedented time and hope that we can continue to deliver the C&D programme successfully until we can reopen the ‘School Gates’!
How does the booking system work?
The students contact us with a request for online tuition. I look at their availability, the Tutors they have learnt from in the past and the technique they are currently working on. I then match the most appropriate Tutor to the student and, in some cases, they have worked together before. Finally, we introduce the student to their Tutor, giving them their date and time allocation, and leave it to them to link up from their homes.
What format are these one-to-one tuition session taking?
The initial online session is for 90 minutes, which is split into one hour in the morning with a follow up in the afternoon, to check what the student has learnt and how they have advanced with their work since the morning. Then the student is taught another stitch/technique and their homework is set for their next session.
In advance of each learning session, the Tutor will request images of the piece, particularly of any areas that the student is finding tricky. The images sent to the Tutor will also assist the Assessors during the marking stage so that they can differentiate between the ‘on-site classroom’ and the ‘virtual classroom’. Each Tutor will complete an individual learning plan and we are aiming to keep the same students and Tutors together, in order to have continuity throughout the online learning process.
For our international students, we are working around the time differences. They are having their online session at different times, for instance, an afternoon followed by an early evening session, or, in some cases, we have to arrange that the second session is on a consecutive day.
Once a student has completed the first session of C&D virtual tuition, it is possible to book follow-on sessions of one hour in order for them to progress with their piece, which are booked through the Education department.
Do they count as the equivalent of one C&D class?
These sessions will count towards the eight days however this is a new process for us and, although we have successfully trialled them, it may not work for all of our students. If we had to put a comparative time frame then a one-to-one session could be seen to equate to half a day in the on-site classroom.
It is important to remember that these are very different times and the online tuition is to enable C&D students to keep the momentum on their pieces not necessarily replace them in full. It might not be for you and it will never replace being in the classroom environment with support and encouragement from your peers.
Do you have plans for Online Teaching and Online Day Classes?
I am delighted to announce to you today that the RSN is launching Online Lessons as well as a colourful Online Day Class, which we have brought forward as the class had originally been timetabled for the autumn term. We are also in the process of planning and developing more Day Classes with our Tutors which we will share with you through our social media platforms.
To take a positive from these uncertain times, it is very exciting to be able to concentrate on an area that we had hardly broken into and we hope that it will allow the RSN to reach even further across the world!
Feedback from Amanda, in Greater London, who has already experienced Online C&D tuition:
“I can imagine there was much debate about whether C&D digital sessions could run at the RSN, especially when I know you rigorously protect the quality of your teaching and with embroidery being such a tactile skill and art. I couldn’t let the opportunity pass without letting you all know how invaluable I have found the session to be.
Of course we all can’t wait to return to HCP, to share such a creative space, to see the work of others, to touch the fabrics and yarns of a new project and have that physical tuition and demonstration that cannot be replicated elsewhere. I also miss the never ending supply of tea and biscuits! However, I think you would do yourselves a disservice if you didn’t also credit how much can be imparted digitally in these challenging times.
Becky has given the same high quality RSN teaching of process, technique and design that she has always brilliantly given. However, she has also been able to fully share her experience, ideas and solutions to the questions I needed to raise with only a very little shuffling of camera angles and the use of a zoom lens. In doing so, I cannot tell you how incredible the reassurance has been in these isolating times for my project and the immense motivation and focus it has given me today and I’m sure over the coming week.
Anyway, I just wanted to share my thoughts on the experience as the feedback might be useful on these newly offered sessions. I hope you all continue to keep safe.”