I Walk the Line

Recently a student and a teacher had a disagreement. The student had taken a class from an ICES approved teacher, using an ICES scholarship they had been awarded. Part of the ICES scholarship rules say that you have to share one of the classes you take by demonstrating it at a Day of Sharing. The student did just that. The teacher was upset, because demonstrating the class meant that no one there would ever take that class. It was as though money was taken from the teacher’s pocket. The student felt they were only doing what was required. The teacher was hurt.

Recently a supply shop owner/teacher hosted a guest teacher, who taught several classes. The supply shop owner/teacher took every class. The supply shop owner then started teaching the guest teacher’s classes just months after the guest teacher visited. The exact classes. The guest teacher is aware of it and is hurt, but has not addressed the issue.

So where is the line? If you take a class, what are you allowed to do with that knowledge? If you are a teacher, what should you expect from your students? I’m not really sure I know, but I am going to try to answer. As always, this will just be my opinions, but I hope that they will have reason behind them.

The first question for me is whether the class is a technique class or a project class. No one can prevent someone else from demonstrating or teaching a specific technique. For example, if a class covers brush embroidery, that is a well known technique. Numerous people teach it. Many books cover it. If you take a class with me on brush embroidery, would it be ok for you to demo that?

My opinion is that you have free reign to demo or teach the technique itself. However, and this is a BIG HOWEVER, you have to come up with your own project, notes and instructions. You cannot copy the handouts from your teacher. You cannot use their pattern. You cannot demo or teach the exact project you learned. You need to put yourself into the technique. You need to design your own project and write your own handout. This is my opinion for how to handle long established, well known techniques.

So, what if it is a project class making a specific figure or something? The class may involve the use of numerous techniques in the creation of the project. Does that mean that the student can recreate it as a demo or in a class they teach? My opinion is that they cannot. Take, for example, Mike McCarey’s Big Bird class. If you take that class, you are not free to go demo his Big Bird. You are not free to teach his Big Bird. You are free to be INSPIRED and to teach a different project that YOU come up with, using the skills and techniques you learned.

What if the teacher is teaching a new technique or a new combination of techniques? If the teacher has come up with something totally new, I really don’t think you have any business demonstrating or teaching that. Are there new techniques? I’m not sure, but I see creative genius in my teacher and manufacturer friends all the time. I would tread most carefully here because this is something that everyone will identify with one particular person. If you try to teach it or demo it, you will look like a thief to people. If you name your class exactly what the teacher named theirs, it really looks bad.

A student recorded a class, then filmed a YouTube video repeating the class verbatim. A student copied a teacher’s entire handout and put their own name on it. If I asked enough teachers, I am sure I would hear of even more frightening things. Students need to remember that every time they share their class notes, demo a class they took or teach a project they learned, they have essentially just stolen from their teacher.

Some students will argue that it is ok because the teachers make tons of money on a class. (Isn’t this exactly what your customers think about your cake prices?). Most teachers I know barely get by teaching. Almost all supplement their income by doing cake orders, selling products, or working for manufacturers.

Some students will say that the people they teach wouldn’t have taken a class with that teacher anyway. Maybe not. But what about the folks THEY end up sharing with? This is almost like that ripple in the water in that it just keeps spreading. A student who then teaches the same exact class is going to affect the number of available students. Maybe the teacher had planned to do a DVD of the class or a paid tutorial. You stole part of that market.

Teachers expect you to take what they share and then recreate it for your customers, friends and family. Teachers expect you to make money from the class – just not from teaching it!

If you are asked to demo what you learned, just remember that you can show the technique but that you need to apply it to your own project. Be inspired. Make it your own. Be an original. And be kind to your teachers when you walk the line.




18 thoughts on “I Walk the Line

  1. no a student does not have a right to post any notes or video on a class thay have taken it used to be nobody shared their skill and now that we get a chance to learn a skill at a great value it still belongs to the teacher if thay want to share something thay should take the time and come up with it on thier own sweet and tears so to speak i can rember not so long ago nobody shared any thing ang now we have a great thing going on i really hope a few bad apples do not ruin it for the rest of us

  2. Very well written, hopefully people will take note of this and watch what they are doing ❤ I feel bad for teachers when I hear or see something that is an exact copy 😦

  3. YAY Ruth! Very well said and stated. I think that if people are in this type of business they should be able to take a well thought out idea and instructional class and turn it into something of their own. Copying someone’s class is no worse than copying a report or essay for a class in school. You wouldn’t do it there, don’t do it to your fellow instructors. If we put these talented instructors out of business then you won’t have any classes to inspire you.

  4. I agree completely. The Teachers are not paid enough and for someone to copy the exact class and put their name on it is wrong. I asked a teacher once why don’t they come out with more classes. Then I thought about it, the months it takes for research, organizing and coming up with the class notes is just that months of work.

  5. I am an instructor and have the blessing and written permission from one of the instructors mentioned in the above post to teach one of his classes. I give him credit for the design, I wrote my own notes, I modified parts of it to suit my geographical area and it’s a one day class not two as he taught it. I don’t want to start a fight with anyone but please check before you accuse someone of doing something wrong by teaching someone else’s class or idea. (I’m not saying that anyone is accusing anyone of anything in this post.)

    My students know it’s not okay to share their notes, videos if they take them or to take credit for someone else’s designs or ideas. I work hard to make classes my own and do not make much off of them as stated above. I just love teaching them.

    • Lorrie, thank you for your comments. My reply:
      1. I did not accuse anyone directly, especially not you. I don’t remember meeting you before and had no prior knowledge of your teaching efforts. Both people in the first scenario I wrote about had asked me to give my opinion.
      2. Mike McCarey wasn’t the point of the mention. I used his big bird class as an example of a PROJECT class. I could just as easily have used Susan Carberry’s Peanut the Elephant or Lauren Kitchens’ Muppet class as the example.
      3. I do research things before I write them.
      4. I now have checked out your site and see that you are teaching Mike’s dragon class, which is presumably why you took offense. If you have written permission, the point of my blog was not addressed to you. It is just like if I give someone permission to drive my car….that person crossed no line. If a person took my car for a drive without my knowledge or express authorization, then they do cross a line.

      • I didn’t take offense at what you had written, I just see so many accuse others of wrong doing in this kind of thing that I wanted to say that people should be clear about all the facts before they actually accuse someone else. Or criticize them. I agree with almost every thing you ever write and this is the first time I have felt the need to make a comment in case a student (past or future) should read this and worry. I would have made the same comments if you had used another project as an example. It was interesting to me that was the one you chose.

        Education comes in all forms and even though we make every effort to educate there will always be those that will copy, claim other’s work as their own and share when they shouldn’t. They will cross the line in all walks of life I suspect.

        You haven’t met me before but I do hope to meet you someday. I like your outlook on life.

  6. As a retired college professor, this sounds so familiar. Substitute “term paper” for “class information” and you are living in my world. Information and the way it is distributed has changed enormously in the last 30 years. The way people think about information has also changed – and not necessarily in a positive way. Every professor I know has had a huge upswing in the number of plagiarized papers being turned in. This is everything from weekly writing assignments to term papers. I have had students look me in the eye and tell me that they have no idea why their paper is exactly the same as the entry in Wikipedia – including the bullet points, misspelled words, etc. They honestly do not see this as wrong. They do not have any comprehension of plagiarism. Is this all students? Of course not. However, there is much less understanding of how information can “belong” to someone.
    As teachers, we cannot assume that the people taking our classes are aware that the material we teach is ours – either in part or whole. It is up to us to make it clear to our students that it is not acceptable to copy our notes, tape our presentations, duplicate our classes, etc. If we do not, then we cannot entirely blame students if they do. What we used to take for granted as “common sense” or “good manners” is simply not true any longer. If you do not want students duplicating material, etc., then tell them that it is not appropriate. Will this stop them? Probably not in all cases, but at least they have been warned and you then have a reason to contact the former student and inform him/her that s/he is “trespassing” on your intellectual property.
    It is up to us to make it clear to our students that this behavior is not acceptable. If that word is spread, then people will know that if Jane Smith teaches a class at ICES titled “Cupcake Capers” and then Suzie Sweetie starts teaching “Kupkake Kapers” in her shop – with the same handouts and content – something is wrong and Suzie could lose customers when word gets out that she has stolen the class.
    Our griping about this will not stop the problem. Ruth has brought it into the open in her always cogent fashion. It is now up to everyone who teaches to get the word out to students that certain behaviors will not be tolerated.

  7. Although I haven’t taught many, I have taught a few classes on my cookie sculpting technique. I learned some of that technique from someone else, but put my own method to it. I have been asked as a teacher by a student if they can demo or share it with their club. My answer is always no. Im trying so hard to make a living at cake/cookie decorating and teaching my technique, which I have no problem sharing with others to do as Ruth states above, use to recreate projects for their customers, families and friends. But I would be blatantly upset about someone posting my techniques or teaching them themselves. I did have a student post her pictures of her project in progress as we went along in the class. I’m not sure how I feel about it, honestly, although I had a student who was quite upset about it from a different class. The student did give me credit and she does blog a lot about the classes she takes. I didn’t take an action about it, but it was a difficult place for me to stand. We live in a world that is sweet and ever evolving. I’ve paid for classes that were taught by people that I look up to who were not the best teachers and I’ve walked away from those classes wondering what I did learn from them if anything. I would never go back and try to teach their techniques, even though I might be able to present it more understandably or in a better manner. There is such a lack of respect in our world. In the sugar world, wouldn’t it be sweet if we instituted the respect clause in every aspect? No stealing of pictures and posting them as if they were your own, etc.

  8. I agree, as a student, if I take a class that taught me something valuable, then I just refer another student to take that class with the same teacher. I would never turn around and try to teach that class myself! I am sure there is specific training to become a teacher to make you qualified to turn around and train another person. I give respect to the teacher who trained me, and refer others to take their class.

  9. I am standing up and applauding in my studio.
    Well said – its a great shame and all about respect!

    I now don’t allow videos in my class only photos because this happend to me

  10. Hello!

    I follow and love your blog so much! You always make sense and bring important things to light. Thank you!

    If you get a couple of minutes free, would you take a look at my cake painting video and let me know what you think? I’m hoping to grow this new YouTube channel so any advice one product would be appreciated.

    Here’s the link to the channel:


    If you don’t have time, I understand. Thank you!

    Sincerely, Tamatha Cain

    Owner/Designer Choux Cake Studio 4458 Marquette Avenue Jacksonville, Florida 32210



    John 3:16

    Winner: Best Wedding Cake Decoration in the Southeast and Best of The Knot, The Knot Magazine

    Sent from my iPhone


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