I'm often asked by people who knew of my former life as a teacher if I miss the classroom. And the honest answer is that I just switched classrooms. My new life affords me all the wonderful experiences that teachers have in learning new things in order to share them with others, yet in this new knitting classroom no one yells at me if they're angry at their Mom because she didn't pack the right lunch and I don't have to do yard duty. What is there to miss???
The on going classes that we have offered at WOOL-TYME Kingston over the past 12 years reflect the idea that we grow into our knitting persona, that everyone should be able to work at their own speed, on their own project that they have committed to with same encouragement no matter if it takes them 2 weeks or 2 years to accomplish the task. See the link above to our Never Ending Knitting Class for more information about how we differ from many other knitting classes.
In Interweave KNITS newest magazine publication: Weekend Knits, there is an article about teaching kids to knit. I was struck by how applicable all of these tips are to teaching anyone anything. Here are a few examples:
-Focus on process, not product. And I would go even further than that and say that even the process should never be expected to be perfect from the beginning. I so often hear people say: :I can't knit because I can't hold the yarn like my mother told me to." I say: "Whatever..." I will often not tell people how to hold anything. I'll show them what I do and direct what the yarn and needles should do, but I don't tell them how to do it. They've had years of experience holding all sorts of implements; their bodies have their own knowledge of what is comfortable for them. I watch and if I see someone struggling with the stitches because their "technique" is not firm enough, I'll suggest a few tips that may make life easier and the knitting more satisfying for them. All that to say that there is no wrong or right way to knit (or do most things, for that matter). When you're starting out, it's all about what works for you. There will be plenty of time for perfecting technique later on.
-Quality materials matter. I would say that this is perhaps even more important for adult learners. Not only do quality materials feel better when we use them, and usually provide a more satisfactory finished product, but if an individual has invested time and money into their new skill, they are more likely to stick to it than if they've taken on as a task a $3. dishcloth.
-Choice is key. When beginners come for instruction, one of the first questions I ask is: What do you want to learn to make ultimately? We all know that they aren't going to pick up a set of needles and make a sock in the first class if they've never knit before, but it helps us all to keep the actual goal in mind right from the beginning. By the 3rd class, we can often get them started on some simple form of their dream knitting project.
The article has a few other tips but my favourite is the last: Show pleasure in what's accomplished. Sometimes our new knitters look at me skeptically when I say how well they've done, even if the 1st swatch has a few "eyelets" and has changed shape while progressing to a more uniform tension. But truly, as a teacher, all I see is the progress that's been made. There are so many things to learn with any new skill, and heaven knows that we can all think of how new skill acquisition can keep us all very humble.
But the thing that most impresses me is knitters who come back to class over months to slog through a project that is presenting more challenges than they expected. How could anyone possibly criticize the product of such determination. There are no knitting police to inspect your finished projects!