Learning by Experience

I’m hoping to post something about learning by experience each Wednesday. Its an opportunity to talk about the new things I’ve learned this week, answer some questions from Wooly Wednesday over on Facebook and share some perspectives about teachers learning from students!

The last statement might seem a bit strange so I’m planning to start there – what can teachers learn from their students?

I’ve had a variety of teaching roles over the years, from on the job training for student nurses, through formal classroom teaching, to training and developing volunteers and people with long term illnesses  to my current role of teaching knitting, crochet and kids crafts to individuals and groups. I love teaching, its a great way to keep information current, relevant and alive and in the craft world it stops skills dying out too. Learning a craft also gives students the opportunity to develop their confidence and practice using maths, english and problem solving skills in a meaningful way. In school we all got bored of working out numbers for mythical car journeys but in knitting, solving a problem with tension gives a real confidence boost and helps us own our work and develop our own creative and design skills!

So lets move along to the things I’ve learned this week!

1. Never Underestimate Small Children!

I ran a crochet taster session at Southampton Adult Learning Festival, run by TWICS – a great local organisation who promote community learning. I went along expecting to teach adults and spent most of the day teaching children or families. It was great fun and I soon realised that even little ones could manage to produce something. So I’ve come to the conclusion that once a child is of school age, there is no reason why they can’t join in and have a go. Its possible to adapt activities to make sure they achieve and get something out of their “lesson”.



2.  Be Careful What You Leave Out for Inspiration!

I’d gone along to run a “crochet taster” in a sheltered housing complex and decided to put out a range of books and magazines for the group to read, as I had no idea what level I was meant to be pitching the lesson at. I’d also taken along some beginners material and patterns for granny squares. 3 adies duly pitched up, 2 decided they wanted to learn and proceeded to have a look through the books. I asked them whether they would like to learn a square or do something else – they both said they would love to do butterflies. And proceeded to choose a complex pattern – I asked them if they could crochet and they both smiled and said “oh yes, we can do chain stitch”!!!! I persuaded them towards the smallest and least complex of the butterfly patterns and taught on a stitch by stitch basis. We all made a butterfly and the ladies were very pleased with their finished pieces and have kindly agreed to try squares next time….

3. Learn from the Group

I’ve also been teaching people with head injuries to knit this week and it was a really good session. However 2 guys only have the use of 1 hand and I was a bit stuck on casting on as every method I could think of needed 2 hands, including the thumb method. I got a few people started but one lad said I didn’t cast on like his Mum did, so I asked him to show me how. Its a technique I’ve seen and used before  – the wrap cast on – but had completely overlooked as its not something I use very often as I find the tension can be uneven and I often struggle working into the front of the stitch on the first row. However we switched methods and it meant everyone had the opportunity to cast on their own work.

4. Practice What You Teach

Cartoon Elephant Clip ArtIn a previous life as mentioned I used to deliver training to people with long term illnesses. A key skill was Action Planning – essentially taking a large goal and breaking it down into manageable sections that you could achieve – otherwise known as eating your elephant in small chunks (or trunks as I managed to say once 🙂 )

My personal elephant is a huge storage issue! Basically I have far too much filing, yarn and fabric for the space in my flat. I can’t afford a studio yet so it has to be accomodated. I also have far too many books and I teach in a free book shop on a regular basis – bit like popping a chocoholic into a Cadbury’s (subsistute your favourite chocolate) distribution centre and expecting to find leftovers the following day!  I’d been offered a free one to one with Tarryn, owner of Mum’s Who Care, as part of my “Mummy of the Month Award” from Networking Mummies. I went along totally unaware of what this would involve and found out that we have a shared passion for helping people make small but meaningful changes in their lives. Tarryn asked me to fill in a wheel of life, working out what I was happy with and what needed to change. As is typcial, the biggest problem was the one I identified last but was also the one that had a big impact on all other areas. As we worked on the problem, Tarryn suggested I write down some goals for sorting out the worst 3 issues and then break them down into manageable action plans! I sat there with pennies dropping like a fruit machine on overdrive as I suddenly and somewhat sheepishly realised that I knew this stuff and could easily sort out the storage. So by a week on Sunday I pledge that I will have:

  • Sorted out the surplus books and taken them to Books for Free – hence salving my conscience and creating shelf space
  • Sorted and got rid of any unneccessary paper work, restoring my lounge shelving to the “Office” purpose its meant to have
  • With the assistance of any stray teenage potential slave that comes to visit the teenage with undeveloped potential slavess that lives here, have wound skeins to balls and packaged all my yarn into the containers I’ve been begging, stealing and borrowing from all and sundry and adding to the clutter!
  • Repacked the now liberated bookcase with yarn, fabrics and other materials
  • Have created myself a “mini studio” based around my dining and picnic tables

I’ve just about finished knitting  and crocheting a circular shawl. I downloaded a vintage pattern from the internet to provide a crochet edging for it. Once its complete I have washing and blocking to do….. somehow I think I have a working title for next week’s “What I’ve Learned” already!


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