Sunday, March 18, 2012

When the Teacher is the Student

One of my hobbies is weaving and another is sewing. I enjoy fiber arts, and it is such a remove from my job teaching technology that I look forward to working on my projects. Yesterday my daughter and I went to a fiber arts symposium broken down into various classes.

I signed up for five classes, none of which were weaving. The first class I took was "Learn How To Knit". This is something I've always wanted to do, so it has been added to my bucket list.

I had a very patient teacher. I needed so much help with every step that I thought to myself "why am I bothering?" Why? Because I have always wanted to learn this. It would be a good skill to have. People have been doing this for hundreds of years and I would like to continue that tradition. I just wasn't getting it.

I found casting on very challenging. My yarn was coming untangled as I knit. She stopped the class to show me how to cast on. Then she showed us how to do the knit stitch. She had to stop the class to show me how to knit stitch. Then we practiced. I was getting pretty good with the knit stitch, even getting a little faster. My confidence was building, my fingers were going faster and it actually started looking half decent. Then she stopped us to have us do the purl stitch. I now had to wrap my mind around a different stitch. I was fumbling, I was untangling and I was highly frustrated. She stopped the class to show me how to purl.

I was thinking about all this on the way home. How much accommodation this teacher made just for me. I met the objectives of her class. I'm able to sit on my own and cast on, knit and purl. I'm not very good at it YET but I know with practice I'll be doing it as mindlessly as I weave or sew. In fact, I had even bought an extra learning kit so I could show my older daughter how to do it when I returned home, because she couldn't be there with us that day.

That is when I faced my first test, or summative as we call them at our school. I had to switch from knitting student to knitting teacher. That would be the real proof of my understanding. Could I pass my knowledge on to someone else?

I was not very successful at teaching her how to cast on, so she looked it up on YouTube. She finally figured it out. I was able to successfully teacher her how to knit. I have not taught her how to purl yet, but she was fine with that because she wants to master knit before purl.

This morning I tore apart my project again and practiced casting on. I finally figured out what I was doing wrong. Then I started practicing knit again and decided to stick with that until I can do it mindlessly, then I will do purl again.

My teacher couldn't have given me that extra attention that I needed if it had been a class of 30. We were a class of 6 students. I was learning hands-on. I didn't need to know the entire history of knitting before picking up a needle. I jumped in there and started learning by doing. I didn't need to have an IEP in place to get that individualized attention, I just needed a teacher that could read me. I didn't need to be assigned homework to practice the skills, I went home and discovered my short comings in the craft when trying to teach it to someone else, and my daughter showed me how using available resources (YouTube) can enhance learning. Most important, I didn't need to get a grade or have credit attached to what I was doing to make me want to learn it.

What did I need?

I needed a desire to learn it
I needed the opportunity
I needed the materials (needle and yarn)
I needed a patient teacher
I needed to be able to share what I learned with someone else who wanted to learn
I needed to be able to make mistakes and start over
I needed to determine what I wanted to practice, and what I wanted to wait to practice

Now I need to figure out how to transfer this discovery of what I needed in order to learn to my own students so they will want to learn in spite of credit, grades or graduation requirements.

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