When I first took up weaving, intending it to be my profession, I resented the fact that the stereotype of a weaver was a little old lady in running shoes.
Now I are one.
The above photos are from a conference held in Victoria, now a very long time ago. How do I know? I was a brunette. It may have been 1984, but memory fails on this one.
I taught the first workshop ever the month I started weaving class. The fact that it was a spinning class and I knew very little about spinning was kind of incidental. I knew more than the others in the room and that was all that mattered. But I had my first taste of what it would be like to involve myself in this world of teaching about textiles.
Since then I have run the gamut of being valued...and not. I have stories. Oh my yes, I have stories.
Dini Moes used to say that 'comes from far away, tastes better'. And that seems to be in large measure true.
For a great many years very few people in my home guild had any idea that I was traipsing all over the continent teaching. Not only that, but my expenses were paid, I was housed in comfort, people were interested in what I had to say.
At home - well, I was just me, doing what I did. I almost never mentioned when I had an article published in a magazine, or was attending a conference in order to teach there.
I didn't want to boast, or make it seem like I was anything other than just me, doing what I wanted to do.
But eventually people started to find out what I was doing. That when I flew off to parts far away, it wasn't that I was going on holiday, but...working.
At one point the program person for my guild asked if I would present a program. I looked at her and said that I would but that I got paid (at the time) $50 to do a guild program.
She literally gasped and sternly informed me that "we don't pay for programs!" I looked at her and said "Yes, you do. Every out of town teacher who does a guild program gets paid. I get $50 - or more - for doing a guild program."
She sputtered and finally sniffed and said that she would have to get approval from the board. "Fine" I said. "Let me know what they say."
Eventually she said they would pay $25. I agreed. I would, after all, be sleeping in my own bed, no travel involved.
The night of the guild meeting, I impatiently waited while the guild business was done. I'd told the program person I did an hour long presentation, and I watched the clock ticking away. Finally they wrapped up the business and because it was getting late, some guild members left before I started.
At the end of the hour, I collected up my samples and other teaching aids (including my own slide projector) and program person brought over my cheque. She stood there, awkwardly, finally said that the program had been excellent. She hadn't expected that.
Inside I died a little, firstly because she had not expected me to do a job worth $50 and hadn't, therefore, fought for my right to earn the money. Secondly because she had been a teacher and her words saying she had expected me to 'fail' in her estimation cut, most especially since I'd already told her that I earned an income by doing this very sort of thing. Did she think I was just that bad, or that other guilds were that gullible? I didn't know. I looked her in the eye and said something to the effect that this was how I earned an income and doing this sort of program was just part of it.
Over the years I've taught at a number of conferences, again, all over the continent. ANWG was the first, then local/regional gatherings, but also Mid-West, NEWS, OHS and ATQ among others. I have also taught at Convergence.
Some of them have been miles ahead of others in terms of how I was treated. Some of them have been miles behind.
There is a school of thought that says 'this event is sooooo prestigious that instructors should subsidize the event because this is how we make money to keep operating as an organization.'
My attitude is that, without instructors, all you have is a giant shopping event with perhaps an exhibit or two thrown in for good measure.
People who teach at conferences are - by and large - professionals. Do they earn the entirety of their income from teaching? Not likely. Usually they will write and sell things as well. But they do take their commitment to teaching seriously.
Time and again they are asked to work for less than they might otherwise wish to do because they will get 'exposure', they will 'build their resume' by teaching at such a well known event. They will benefit in the future by participating.
Well, I'm done with that. I gave up adding prestige to my resume back in the 1990s. Where I live, people die of 'exposure'.
Teachers are frequently required to finance the event by buying their flights and carrying that debt for weeks, sometimes months, until the event happens and they finally get paid.
I think it's shameful that teachers leave an event without their pay and we will be moving heaven and earth to make sure that all the teachers leave Prince George with their pay in their pockets.
I am also building into the budget compensation for things like checked baggage (because what teacher ever travels without at least one checked bag, full of samples?) and shuttles to/from the airport.
We will be paying a per diem for food. Which means we will give them an allowance that we will pay for each day, no questions asked. If they want a glass of wine or beer at dinner? None of my business. No receipts will be required to be submitted, no questions asked about their food choices.
They will be given a room at one of the hotels, material fees will be collected at the door by an assistant and handed to them directly. They will not have to go get the money because - in my experience - they will be busy getting the room set up the way they want it, organizing their samples, their audio/visual presentations (if they are using them).
All too often it has come time to begin and I have not collected the material fees and I don't want to spend presentation time trying to collect them. I have just absorbed the expense, even when it may have been a really hard lump to swallow.
My philosophy in working on this conference is to treat ALL the participants with respect. That includes the vendors, the exhibitors, the volunteers and... the teachers.
My goal is to have everyone enjoy the event as much as possible. Our schedule will allow time for socializing - because all too often people say they didn't manage to connect with everyone they wanted to because there wasn't enough time. Or they never did make it to one of the exhibits - because there was not time.
Our conference will be held in a very small geographical location - the Civic Centre, library, art gallery and the two hotels are in a three block by three block area. All buildings are accessible, all buildings have elevators for the upper floors. All buildings have a/c, although it's rarely required in June, here.
If I do nothing else in this life, I hope to help bring this conference into being by treating everyone fairly. It may very well be the last conference I choose to attend. I want to make it a good one.