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We flew into Amsterdam on Tuesday morning, jet-lagged and laden with a serious amount of luggage. (Foolishly, I thought I’d come home with less stuff.)

The classes at Art & Soul were a success. Whew! Thankfully, all three sessions went great—happy students who enjoyed the creative process and (I think!) left with projects and techniques they enjoyed doing.

Sara Naumann blog Art & Soul class

A still life of sorts: Paper plate for a palette, no-spill paint cup and (of course) a little Dutch candy for keeping the energy up. There's one at every student's place.

Here’s the thing, though: I’ve been teaching a long time—for more than 10 years, I taught workshops for Hot Off The Press, at scrapbooking retreats like CKU and trade shows like CHA. I’ve taught across the United States, in Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. I’ve taught workshops to groups of hundreds of people at once.

Every time, I get nervous. Every time, I think, “What am I doing here? It’s too nerve-wracking, I should cut the teaching and the caffeine and stay home instead.” Every time, I step in front of the class and wish I could run right out of the room and down the hall and go curl up with a nice book instead.

This is the disadvantage to being a Type A personality. Or Type “S” for “stress-prone”.

Sara Naumann Found Poetry class Art & Soul

All set up for my Found Poetry class: Tables set, kits ready—now all I have to do is remember to breathe.

In this case, my pre-class jitters were a little different. In the past, I taught for a company. A company designer would create a project using specific materials, and students would re-create that project exactly. It was usually a card or scrapbook page. The class lasted an hour, or in the case of all-day retreats, we’d do several projects that each lasted a specific amount of time. There really wasn’t a lot of room for students to do their own thing, and the steps were made as clear as possible to allow for all experience levels. Everything was very specific.

But this time, my classes were different: They were longer (two all-day sessions and one 3-hour class); the topics were based on  techniques, not product; and students really had to add their own creativity.

It was a totally new approach for me, a different teaching experience without the safety net of a company behind me. Actually, it was one of the first public steps in my new life—post-HOTP, post-maternity leave.

It goes without saying that I was a little more nervous than usual.

And when I get nervous about something, my body tells me. (Thanks, body.) It’s usually with a lovely combination of hyperventilating and stomachaches, but in this case I got a little extra dose of cold, canker sore and chest pains. Nice!

The irony? Once I get started with a class, I love it. It’s hugely fun, meeting people, seeing what they do and from what creative background they come. The best part, especially for classes like these, is to see students’ work at the end of the day—how people applied the information from the class to their own pieces, adding their unique style. I love it. It’s the biggest rush in the world, and totally makes up for any pre-class jitters. Or colds. Or gross canker sores.

In the end, I know the nerves and physical signs are just a part of how I deal with situations like this. I love teaching. I love sharing ideas and techniques and the mistakes and successes I’ve had while creating. I love the lightbulb moment when students realize what they can do, or see a different way to do what they’ve done in the past. And I love connecting with creative people.

The other thing I realize? The moment I stop being nervous before a class, the day I don’t triple-check to make sure every kit has the right materials, the time I saunter into a classroom and think, “oh, whatever”, that’s when I should stop. As much as I wish the nerves would ease up now and then, I know they’re actually a reminder of just how important I think this is.

Sara Naumann blog Art & Soul class

Getting a pre-class cuddle with Anna, who's really much more interested in my necklace. Thanks for calming my nerves, Anna!

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