|Two girls knitting in elementary school,The Netherlands, 1941.|
A couple of weeks ago I finished my last community ed. knitting class and signed off on my LYS teaching commitments as well (sniff!).
I love teaching. To be perfectly honest, I like teaching more than I like designing; immediate gratification-wise, it’s much more satisfying and unlike designing, it gets me out of my shell and forces me to interact with other humans. (It’s also considerably better paid, at least on an hour-for-hour basis.)
I hope I’ll be teaching knitting and crochet again when we get out to Oregon but for now I thought I’d try to distill the past four years of teaching experiences into a little advice that—who knows?—might be helpful for anyone contemplating a class. So here it is:
- Show up. You’d be amazed at how many students don’t even show up for the first class. C’mon, you paid for it and it’s possible that meant someone else didn’t get a space. You won’t learn anything if you don’t go!
- Know what the class offers. Beginning crochet does not equal pattern reading (though we will cover that in the third class). Intro to Lace does not cover Faroese shawl design. If you’re unsure of what a class will cover, don’t just sign up hoping for the best; ask for details before you pay. If there’s something specific you want to pursue, ask the venue if it can set up a class in that subject or look into private lessons. And if you’re simply looking for some crafty companionship, seek out a knitting circle—most yarn stores have them or can put you in touch with one.
- Don’t sign up with anyone you’re related to. No really, I’m serious: the weirdest class dynamics I’ve dealt with have all come from students who were sisters, mothers/daughters, cousins, or (heaven forbid) in-laws. Sometimes, one feels like she has to spend all her time “helping” the other one, sometimes one feels like she has something to prove; insecurities, rivalries, and bossiness bubble to the surface. Go on your own and enjoy meeting some new people. You’ll thank yourself, your relations will thank you…and your teacher will be grateful, too.
- Read the fine print. Understand what your rights are if you cancel or if the class is cancelled by the teacher/venue. Understand what, if anything, you are expected to bring with you to class and what will be supplied. Honor requests from LYSs to buy supplies for classes from them—it helps keep them in business.
- Communicate with the teacher. Ask questions, let her know what’s working (or not), tell her you love/hate the yarn/needles/stitch/pattern/whatever, tell her if she’s moving too fast or too slow. Let her know if you can’t make it to a session and ask if there are ways you can catch up; ask for feedback on a pattern you’re contemplating.
- Communicate with the venue. LYS, trade show, community education program or other, let them know what you liked and disliked about the class(es) you’ve taken, and let them know what classes you’d like to take in the future. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you thought of the classroom environment, either; from the parking to the lighting to handicapped access, it’s all important and the more a venue knows about what its customers want, the better it can serve them.
- Cut yourself some slack. Human beings are not born knowing how to knit or crochet—that’s why you’re taking the class. Inevitably, some students learn quickly, others learn much more slowly. You’re not getting a grade and you’re not in competition with anyone (right? See #3); relax and don’t worry about being perfect.
- Give it a fair shot but don’t drive yourself crazy. Please don’t force yourself to knit or crochet if you don’t really enjoy doing it. Every so often, I get a student determined to learn enough skills so she can finish a tablecloth that her mother started before she passed away or to go on a knitting cruise with her BFF. These are very sweet goals and I admire them, but life’s too short to force yourself into a hobby that’s not a good fit. On the other hand, if you’re still intrigued by the craft but feel like it hasn’t quite clicked for you, try again in a different environment with a new teacher; that might be all it takes to get where you want to be.
Sarah BarbourKnitting and crochet designer/teacher and stay-at-home mother to three lovely little girls. Recently relocated to Oregon from the Illinois and enjoying my new life as a West Coaster.
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