Need Advice On Starting To Teach - Please!

Decorating By slush Updated 4 Sep 2009 , 10:39am by slush

slush Posted 1 Sep 2009 , 9:17pm
post #1 of 23

I've been talked into giving cake decorating classes to a group of 16 - 20yr old girls. They will be absolute beginners. (I've been promised!)

I'm really nervous as I don't really feel experienced enough to start teaching but I said i would give it a go and see how it goes.
each class is for 2hrs and it will be once a week over the year. (skipping weeks here and there for this and that)

I was wondering if any teachers out there could give me any words of wisdom, dos and don'ts etc??

Thank you


22 replies
rottieluvr2000 Posted 1 Sep 2009 , 9:31pm
post #2 of 23

Be yourself and don't freak out when you make a mistake.

mcaulir Posted 1 Sep 2009 , 9:53pm
post #3 of 23

Be as organised as possible, leave at least half as much time again as you think things will take, but be ready if things go super quickly. Practise explaining things t the mirror or the dog so you know what phrases you will use.

Oh, maybe you meant only people who had taught cake decorating. The above are general teaching things. icon_smile.gif

cylstrial Posted 1 Sep 2009 , 11:55pm
post #4 of 23

Just pretend your on one of the cooking shows. In fact, you might just start saying everything out loud to yourself as you work right now. It will help you practice.

diane Posted 1 Sep 2009 , 11:59pm
post #5 of 23

what...are you kidding?? icon_confused.gif

i took a look at your're ready! icon_biggrin.gif

just be yourself, take your time...and have fun! thumbs_up.gif

slush Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 7:16am
post #6 of 23

Thans so much everyone!
and mcaulir any advice is good for me, I've never tought before!

slush Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 8:26am
post #7 of 23

Thanks for you compliments diane - that means a lot to me!

Melnick Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 8:27am
post #8 of 23

Definately agree on the planning aspect. If you walk in there prepared you sound confident and you don't have a lot of dead time (time where the class is standing around doing nothing). If you're not prepared and you are winging it, you will feel flustered all lesson. Try not to have dead time - set little tasks if you can for when you get stuck with one person (When you're finished, could you please have a go at .... try to work out what the next thing we'll need to do is .... practice making a ....etc).

Also, try to break down a task into its simplest elements. You will find if someone is having trouble doing something, it is usually because they do not understand something very basic - so basic in fact, that it doesn't occur to you that you would have to tell them that.

Another thing to remember is that if people aren't looking at you, they're generally not listening and are often too focused on whatever else they are doing to listen to your instructions (and it is very irritating to have to constantly repeat yourself to each student). A good way to get people's attention is to start saying a sentence and pause (I will often do this up to three times). The great news is that if they want to be there learning, they will be really interested in what you have to say and the biggest problem you will have is that they will be too absorbed in the project that they are working on!

Good luck! I'm sure you'll be fabulous!

leahk Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 10:03am
post #9 of 23

While my level of decorating skills is not even close to yours, I've done workshops a few times- so I have some experience with this kind of thing.
Here are some of the points you need to consider:
Is it going to be demonstration or hands-on?
Why are these women coming to learn- they are interested in cake decorating, or an interesting "night-out"?
How many sessions will there be?

My preference is to pick one idea, and then do it well. Once I did an evening with someone else and she tried jamming in: cookie decorating, filled chocolates and cake decorating ideas all at once! In my opinion it was information overload, and only the women with some kind of background gained anything- the rest gained no practical skills.

For basics you should check out the wilton website- they have lots of ideas and tips for beginners.

Once you've decided what you want to cover, then the next time you do that thing use cylstrial's suggestion- talk out loud! I also made myself a running list of supplies that I use, so I would remember what to bring.

Hope this helps!

mcaulir Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 10:47am
post #10 of 23
Originally Posted by Melnick

Another thing to remember is that if people aren't looking at you, they're generally not listening and are often too focused on whatever else they are doing to listen to your instructions (and it is very irritating to have to constantly repeat yourself to each student). A good way to get people's attention is to start saying a sentence and pause (I will often do this up to three times).

Ha ha, I was thinking about this, but only have my techniques that work with 10-year-olds. Hands on heads not really appropriate with adults.

Keep your eye out for when most people have finished something and you need to move on. The slowpokes can continue with what they were doing or move onto the new thing. Everyone doesn't have to wait.

JoJo0855 Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 11:49am
post #11 of 23

Careful planning is the key! Write down all the steps to cover, will help you stay on track and ensure you don't miss anything.
Have some finished product samples on hand so they can see what they can achieve.
Be aware that you'll likely be a 'nervous Nellie' for the first 10 minutes, after you've gotten their attention it will all come together.
Most important - remember that even though you may feel you are not 150% qualified or experienced enough to teach, you will always know more than your students do!
And above all, have fun with it! Good luck!

Melnick Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 1:00pm
post #12 of 23

Ha ha, I was thinking about this, but only have my techniques that work with 10-year-olds. Hands on heads not really appropriate with adults.

Hands on heads is definately the easiest way!!!! lol. I found the pause most effective after spending many a staff meeting training other teachers. Teachers totally make the worst the students .... they know all the tricks and ignore them! Oh! And start talking in a really quiet so they have to strain to listen can work too!

slush Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 1:09pm
post #13 of 23

Thank you all for your fantastic advice - you've got me thinking and now planning and planning.


Is it going to be demonstration or hands-on?
Why are these women coming to learn- they are interested in cake decorating, or an interesting "night-out"?
How many sessions will there be?

The plan is that I do a demo and then the girls/women get to have a go.
It is a year long class with aprox 25 sessions so they have to be commited to learning. It is something they have chosen to do from a few different choices so hopefully they will all be eager to learn.
It is in a college and they provide all equiptment and ingredients and each student gets a box with the basics in.
I went to check it out today and they have a cupboard full of stuff for me to sort through.
and now the organiser wants me to so a little getting to know you session with the students next week even though I'm not supposed to start til october. I thought i would bring some pics in possibly give them a plan of what i hope to acheive with them over the year.
Do you think I should do that or should I just see how it goes week to week to see if we can follow a plan?

And thanks again everyone, you've really helped me see where to start - I was feeling very lost.

JoJo0855 Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 2:02pm
post #14 of 23

A plan is good! You don't have to be very detailed for the preview session, just a course overview.
I'd take lots of books for them to look at too to show what can be done. And, if allowed, why not take a finished cake to share. Nothing makes people smile more than a nice piece of cake!

slush Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 2:56pm
post #15 of 23

That's such a cute idea JoJo855! I'll have to check with them but I may just do that!!

cutthecake Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 3:04pm
post #16 of 23


I'm an old-fashioned teacher. I loved desks in rows! The one thing I hate about current classroom set-ups is the way students sit at tables and face north, south, east and west. Only one quarter of the students are facing the teacher at any given time. Three-quarters are aimed in different directions, and are therefore not watching the teacher. Like melnick said, if they aren't looking at you they're not listening. There's something to consider.

Keep in mind that often the lesson you think will move quickly might actually drag along, and the lesson that you think will take a whole class might go quickly. I find that I'm most comfortable when I have extra plans and activities "just in case". Don't try to overwhelm them with tons of information each week, but do keep them busy and involved. Down time leads to distraction.

In the first session, you might want to ask them what they want to achieve/learn during the course. Maybe they could start thinking about the design for their final project at the beginning and modify it throughout the course. Or have them sketch their "dream cake" at the first session, then modify it as they learn new skills. Have them bring in pictures of things they'd like to try.

Maybe you could focus on a different skill/technique/medium/procedure/holiday/occasion in each month.

Consider looking at the Wilton courses to see what will work for you, and the order in which things are presented.

Are you just doing cake decorating, or can you do cookies, cupcakes, bar cookies, and chocolates? Will the focus be on decorating or will they be baking, too?

As a Home Econmics teacher, my one non-negotiable rule is this:
No nibbling, and no licking spoons, fingers, etc., during baking and decorating. They can eat anything they want when they're done, but not when they're still working. There are just too many germs in a classroom full of students. If they want to taste test for flavor, it is done with a clean spoon--no double dipping-- which is immediately washed properly.
And, I'd have them tie their hair back and/or wear hats; insist on FREQUENT hand washing; and no face touching.
(Wow. I sound neurotic. Oh well.)
There are so many options. It sounds so exciting.
Good luck to you.

slush Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 6:49pm
post #17 of 23

Thanks so much for your response cutthecake!

good point about the hygiene issues - I will definately make a point of making that a priority ( I hadn't thought of bringing it up, I suppose I thought it was obvioius)

The classroom is set out that all the tables are facing forwards and there will be a few put together at the front for me to do the demo at.

I love your idea of getting them to sketch thier dream cake and then spending the year working on techniques and skills for them to achieve it. Thank you for that!

I will be doing just cake decorating primarily using fondant so I was going to start by teaching them covering the cake, then the techniques that you do while the fondant is still soft like crimping, then I was going to do frilling as I think it's quite exciting for someone who has never seen it.
I thought maybe then to teach bows and swags and large bow topper with curlicues.

Then I thought to do flowers and then modelling.

what do you think?

kakeladi Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 7:50pm
post #18 of 23

You've gotten some good basic advice, but what I want to touch on is:
Are they going to bake the cake in class? Is there equipment for them to make icing in class? Or are they going to make it & bring to class?
start the 1st class with introducing/showing equipment; how to use it; how to bake; how to make icing. Give them recipes so they bring cake & icing to next class. You demonstrate almost everything - crumb coating; icing cake; simple piping.
2nd class: using filling; crumb coating; icing a cake. Start them on learning piping and simple flowers.
3rd: basically the same as above....introduce a couple new flowers &/or borders.
4th: ditto 3rd wk.

You will be surprised how quickly the time will passicon_smile.gif Plan on only getting in 1 1/2 hrs of actual work. 15 min at beginning of class is telling about your self themselves; answering ?s from the last class and then at the end another 15 min. for cleanup.

As the class tries each technique you go around and help out anyone having trouble; making sure they are doing it right. That takes time w/that many students.

If they are bringing their own equipment make sure they keep the basket (container used to bring to class) on the floor; keep the table as clear as possible so they have room to work.
It's been soooooo many yrs since I taught......those are just a few of the things I can remembericon_smile.gif
Oh, see if any are left handed. I'm assuming you right handed. If so, practice using your left hand so you can help those in class. Of course, the opposite (practice right) if left. It *can* be done; you will never have the same strength in the opposite hand but you can muddle your way thru to help the student icon_smile.gif

As the year goes on - take those 'dream cake' ideas and make sure you have taught each technique and flower they would use. There are soooooo many flowers to teach I'm sure you can cover the entire year.
I've never taught more than 6 week courses so don't know how to stretch it out to cover a whole school year.

Gefion Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 9:55pm
post #19 of 23

Since you already have lots of good advice, I'll just add the importance of keeping it positive. Encourage your students, tell them they are doing great. In my classes students are not "allowed" to talk bad about their skills! Cake decorating is difficult enough without it.

saffronica Posted 2 Sep 2009 , 10:07pm
post #20 of 23

25 classes is a lot! That gives you a lot more time than in most classes, so don't rush too much. Let them practice one technique until they can do it well (but not so long that they are completely bored).

Also, when you meet your students next week, you might want to spend some time asking them what THEY want to learn. Then you can tailor your lesson plans to their interests, and you'll be a lot more likely to hold their attention.

leahk Posted 3 Sep 2009 , 9:55pm
post #21 of 23

i think that kakeladi has given you a good outline. i just wanted to point out that they don't neccessarily need a cake every lesson. after you've covered the basics of levelling, torting, filling ang icing, you can practice other techniques on a cake board or a piece of vinyl. then have another lesson to reinforce the skills you've taught while decorating a cake and getting a feel for placement and cake planning.

bobwonderbuns Posted 3 Sep 2009 , 10:09pm
post #22 of 23

My cake class is loosely based on classes I've taken over the years -- what some teachers have done that I liked and what some have done that didn't work so well. Take the good, leave the bad. I also make sure to first demonstrate the technique, then let the students try it, then I go around the room giving each a few minutes of individual time and pointers. I also have a set agenda, each day we cover this or that, depending on what it is. It's this formula that has allowed me to cover a great deal in a short amount of time, even with students at all inherent skill levels (they are all beginners, but each has some degree of natural talent -- or not...icon_confused.gif This formula seems to work very well for me too because the classes have become so popular over the years we've added another class just to handle the overflow. (Yeah baby!) icon_biggrin.gif

slush Posted 4 Sep 2009 , 10:39am
post #23 of 23

Thanks for your replies everyone,
Will have to take sometime to read through everything again and put together a game plan!
The students will be working with dummy cakes so I'll just be teaching the covering and decorating bit.
I'm getting quite excited about it now - and I guess if it isn't going well I'll just give it up!
Hope you all have a gr8 weekend!


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