Friday, 4 July 2008

mirror mirror on the wall

Tomorrow is the third Saturday in a row of teaching for me. I'm feeling a bit out of routine as a result. And school holidays. Plus, teaching crochet is hard. Much harder than toy making.

I've spent some time thinking about that.

One of the reasons I didn't end up a teacher (despite getting qualified) is because I find it really hard to deal with 'failing' to teach someone something. I really want to believe that anyone can learn anything if they try hard enough. The reality is that even if that's true, life gets in the way for lots of people in a way I can't even begin to know let alone control.

People's perceptions of themselves, their expectations of what they should be able to achieve and how fast, the limitations of the teaching environment and the materials you are working with. What people have trained their hands to do before they sit down with a hook can dramatically effect how easy they find the initially weird and unnatural process of crochet.

Being a teacher forces you from the outset to compromise. It is inevitable that students will need different things from you, learn at different rates and at least some will have totally unrealistic expectations.

And I know all this but still it gets to me that there are some people who leave the class disappointed, or worse, convinced they just can't do it. The ones who don't return after the lunch break. The ones who repeatedly apologise for not getting it, or who ask me to explain that one more time and slower. The ones who get frustrated that I go too slow and don't sufficiently challenge them.

In toy making class the differences between students are so much less problematic, and technical skills per se are less important. That class is all about ideas and images and play. The crochet class is by its nature more focused on a set of uniform skills and that makes it so much more dependent on me and on everyone being roughly in the same place.

And while I don't consider myself a 'technical' crafter - tending as I do to a more slap dash approach and crafts which encourage invention rather than perfection - the truth is that I really enjoy learning new technical skills. This comes as something of a surprise to me and highlights something of a disconnect between my self-perception and my behaviour.

Once this thought occurred to me, I saw evidence all around. My new crochet roll, my extensive library of patterns and reference books, my pattern drafting tools, my various searches for the perfect whatevers. My storage systems and attraction to new and ever more complex crafts.

Is it possible there's a perfectionist buried deep inside me, almost lost under layers of recycled felted jumpers and the detrius of children?


Kate said...

When you know that you don't Need the technical skills to do ok - that's when you appreciate them. When you know that it'd be fine otherwise, but now it will be So Much Better.

Learning new things sure is hard. especially as you get older - my new theory is it's not even as much about the brain and it's structure. It's that you are used to things already being easy, because you've already learnt them. I get this all the time with knittng 'oh, that's too hard. I could never do that'

Like the Yarn Harlot says, if you're dressed and your clothes are the right side out, you're smart enough to knit. It's jsut that it's something *new* and, as such, takes time to get good at.

And even longer to get really Good at. Every time I learn a new knitting skill, or jump another hurdle (it's lace atm) I get such a rush. There's always somethign new to learn, too.

Judy said...

I think I know how you feel. I used to teach dance - to my peers - in high school. Talk about a tough crowd!

But still I wanted them to learn, and I tried to be gentle. It's good *to want* to learn new things, even if you feel like a big fat failure while trying. And I think it's good to teach if you are an inner perfectionist.

Past few weeks I've been trying to teach myself (with the help of some books) to crochet. I feel like such a dork! Why can't I get it? Of course, I remember feeling that same way when I was learning how to type 36 years ago.

So maybe 36 years from now, I'll be really good at crocheting but probably not.

sooz said...

touch typing is indeed the perfect analogy- I use it in class to say it is a muscle memory thing not an intellectual thing. The first 1000 stitches will feel weird and awkward and then after that you will do it without even being aware. But I remember from typing class how hard it is for the brain to surrender to the hands for those first 1000 stitches! And Judy forget the book - I really think it is an impossible way to learn. It's not you. You need a real life person

Thimbleanna said...

Love your new crochet role and that sweet fabric on the inside. Thanks for the reminder that I need to make a crochet roll too!

Kris said...

I find the compromise very hard as a teacher. I'm struggling also with the idea that people may not care as much as I do about the things I'm teaching, whether that be social justice or grammar. But when I get those people whose eyes spark and who *get it*, it's a brilliant feeling.

Catherine said...

You are an excellent teacher - and I can say that from personal experience . Maybe teaching is only half the equation - the person has to really want to learn and get through the challenges that go with learning a new skill. For me learning how to crochet was so frustrating, it looked kinda easy but why couldn't I get it? Reflecting back now I suppose I didn't want to know enough so I let it go (for now anyway). And hey, what did go well that day?

sexy said...