26 April, 2009

Early Hunting

For the past two days, despite all my homework and stress, I have suddenly become obsessed with apartment hunting. I'm toying with the idea of living alone. Might be too lonely, might be a nice change.

I could live by myself in San Francisco, no problem. But I worried for a while that living alone in London would just highlight how lonely this city can be. But I can safely say that sometimes I want to be lonely. I would love to come home to my own little place after a full day of working around other people.

But financially, that might not be in the cards. So for now, I'll keep myself busy dreaming and searching every rental agency website I can find.

25 April, 2009

A Taste of What I Do

Here's a snapshot of my first round of research for one of my many projects. I'm sure I'll do about three times this much by the time I'm done with just the research aspect of the sketchbook.

Trying to go about research in a different way after speaking with the dean....

I Fought the Law, and the Law Won... I think? Or wait, did I?

Well, the meeting with the dean did not go how I expected. In fact, he calmed me down. It took me by surprise that talking with him in his dimly lit office would make me feel so satisfied. He was the first person at the school who stopped to listen to me, and agreed that the policies were crazy. Though he knew of no way to work around the policies, or go about changing them in time for them to affect me.

When I addressed the massive number of students failing, he told me it wasn't uncommon at CSM (though I've heard otherwise from 3rd year students). When I discussed the need for in-depth feedback he explained how difficult it is to give feedback and concrete success criteria when each student is encouraged to find their own style. I told him I understood that, but that a tutor's job is to recognize each student's style and work with them to develop it. And that is when the whole meeting changed.... he asked if he could see my sketchbook.

In five minutes, the dean gave me more constructive, mind-blowing feedback than I have gotten from my tutors in the last six months. He told me what was good, he told me what was crap (he apologized and said, "not to be too blunt, but this drawing is utter crap. Why did you draw this when you can draw like this?" and pointed to another sketch.) He looked at my research and pointed out exactly what I've been missing, and suddenly it seemed so obvious. It made sense. He showed me what I was lacking and suggested I approach research and sketchbooks in a different way.

I was shocked. I was inspired. I felt like I could do these four projects and enjoy them. It was hard to hear him tear my work apart, but it was also incredible and inspiring. When he pointed out my shortcomings it was as if they were so grossly obvious I couldn't believe I'd never seen them before.

When he finished I said, "if any tutor had EVER given me that kind of feedback in the last two terms, I would not be sitting across from you now." He chuckled, and told me that he was going to speak with the Evil Tutor about this issue. I expressed my nervousness about him confronting Evil Tutor because I was worried that his ego would be bruised, resulting in anger directed towards me and my grades. The dean assured me that the issue of feedback is a larger issue, and it is something that needs to be addressed. He also said that if Evil Tutor gets at all uppity, that I am to meet with him again so he can have words with the tutor.

He advised me to do all my work while continuing with the appeal process, and that he would assist me with it. He also said that if I pass this Retrieval project and all the other projects this term, my chances of moving onto 2nd year are good.

I left his office feeling strangely accomplished , though in the end I guess nothing really changed. I found that the fight I was entering would be a round against the entire university, and almost assuredly one I would lose. I suppose I gave in to the five projects I have to do. But I also feel as though I have the dean on my side now. He is one of the people who decides who goes on to 2nd year. And now, despite my low grades, I am more than just numbers to him. I am a girl who voiced her concerns and who wanted more feedback, and the opportunity to do better. And when he speaks to the Evil Tutor, perhaps things will change. Perhaps I will get more feedback from now on. Perhaps not. If not, the dean told me I can come speak with him again.

Am I backing down? I don't feel like it. I just feel that my time would be better spent trying to put his feedback to good use, and improving my grades this term. If I don't fail any projects, then this whole "being kicked out" drama goes away, you see.

I didn't really get to enter the ring. I was fully prepared to start one hell of an epic fight with CSM. But the dean's attitude, his empathy for my situation, his honest feedback and critique of my work, and his offer to speak with the tutor satisfied me for now.

And now that I think about it, entering the ring was never the point. The point was to make my concerns heard, and ensure that I had the opportunity to improve and grow as a designer and student. Hopefully I got that. So maybe The Law didn't win.

22 April, 2009

Taking On the System

I haven't written for a while, and it's because I've been gearing up for a fight with CSM.

When The Boy and I arrived at my place in London, I found two letters from CSM at my door. I'd been dreading them; I'd been hoping they wouldn't come. One letter said, "you failed last term and have to do ANOTHER retrieval project." The other said, "you failed your last retrieval project and therefor your position at this school is up for review."

In short, over ten of my classmates and I are in danger of being kicked out or held back. Ten out of 36 students is a ridiculously high number of positions to review, wouldn't you say? Although one or two people really do need an ass-kicking to get themselves in gear, it is my opinion that the rest of us have been unfairly threatened.

I currently have an appeal in to the school board to say that I should not have failed the last term and would like to be reviewed again. I also have a meeting with the dean of fashion tomorrow afternoon, during which I will not only request that my unfair retrieval project be revoked, but that from now on my classmates and I need concrete feedback and more attention from our tutors.

If over ten people are failing miserably, then CLEARLY something isn't right. If one or two people were failing, then it's probably their own fault. If a third of the class is failing, something else is going on.

It has been my complaint from the beginning that the tutors don't give me guidance or help of any kind. I know that they are not supposed to "teach us" per say, but that does not excuse the fact that I have been unable to get a straightforward answer from any tutor about why I have been failing projects. Time and time again I have sought out real guidance, help, tutorial time, extra advice, and every time I have been told, "just keep going" or "work harder". I was willing to deal with the frustration of this situation until it became a threat to my position at this university.

Yesterday I met with my tutor. The evil tutor. I decided that before I go speak with the dean I should give me tutor one last chance to explain himself and his grading. He told me that I should "look forward, not look back" and that my work was.... wait for it..... "too glam". Glam? GLAM? He told me that I favored one-shouldered slim fitting designs and never experimented with shape and silhouette. This, incidentally, is utter bullshit. And I told him I disagreed. He shrugged, dismissing me. He had his chance to explain himself, and now I'm going to speak to his boss.


So. Tomorrow I meet with the Dean. I am going to bring in some work, and the school's handbook which clearly states that I should be getting feedback in written form after each project I fail explaining WHY I failed. The handbook states that I may seek out extra help from my tutors if I am confused. It also states that I should be warned if my work isn't good enough to pass. I am going to sit across from him and tell him that I am concerned with the way things are going. I am going to be professional, diplomatic, sweet, but very firm. I want my project graded again because I did NOT deserve to fail. I want my retrieval project removed. And on behalf of myself and the other students that are caught in this huge machine, I am going to demand that we get more thorough feedback, concise success criteria, and more tutorial time.

If this talk doesn't go well, I will go higher. I will piss them off and bug them and plead with them until I am sure that they will make efforts to fix this problem. I shouldn't have to fight for an education. I will gladly take an active role in my education, but tutors shouldn't yell at us for asking questions, or cut us off when we ask for more help.

I am fed up with this place and now they are threatening to pull the rug out from under me right when I am starting to get a grip on life at Central St Martins. Well, I won't let them. And if for some reason I fail, I have so many other options and plans that CSM will someday look back and wish they could have added my name to their "notable alumni" list.

Wish me luck.