Seems like a snowflake is appropriate for today's post.
So, I've been thinking a lot about teaching. How one presents material. How students process material. Thinking about the teachers I've had - some of them really fabulous, some of them, not so much, most just kind of in the middle.
I have to say I was very lucky to have mostly really good teachers. My first three teachers were all female and grade 1 and 2 were excellent. Grade 3, was enthusiastic and mostly encouraging. Grade 4 was a bit more challenging but a nice man and when things were not going well he would decide we'd done enough work for the day open the piano and we would sing (he was also one of the music teachers and led the school choir). I liked him well enough but was mostly bored, for reasons.
Grade 5 the teacher tended to be a lot stricter with the boys and give some of the girls lots of leeway and I didn't like his favouritism. I was also sick a lot that year and missed some crucial lessons and never really caught up. It was not a good year for a lot of reasons.
But Grade 6. Oh my, what a wonderful teacher I had for grade 6! He was Welsh and not afraid to examine things like the White Man's Burden and challenge the students to look at the inherent racism involved in that little slogan. He challenged us to think for ourselves, but always in a most gentle way. I'm sure we were a challenge with more than 40 students in the classroom, but I never felt he was ignoring anyone. Having Mr. Rae for my teacher in grade 6 taught me more than just what was in the curriculum - he also shone a light on how to think for myself. And he didn't coddle the girls, or the boys. He just seemed to open doors to learning.
As I moved into junior and senior high school, I had a lot more teachers because now teachers taught specific subjects and we moved from class to class, with changes in who might be in the various classes. I learned a lot more about a larger pool of human beings as I needed to interact with more people, but on a more superficial level.
Some of my teachers were fabulous. Some, not so much. And again, most somewhere in the middle. And I learned more than just the curriculum as I dealt with very different personalities.
I also learned a lot about teaching and what I connected to with the teachers, and what put me off. Some I just sat back and did what I needed to do to pass. Others were a struggle. But some? Some lifted me out of my blue collar working poor life and showed me another way of being. That poor didn't mean stupid - or ignorant. And I will always be thankful to the teachers who not only allowed me to read whatever I wanted when my work in class was done. I am pretty sure my grade 7 teacher was well aware that when I sat way back in my desk I had a book tucked into my desk that I was quietly reading. He also never objected when I asked permission to go to the school library, just round the corner. I would come back with a new book to read, like a cat who got the cream.
So when I started to teach, I confess I was not a trained teacher, but I had a pretty good idea of how to string information together to show someone how to do something. I also wrote reasonably well, and could generate class handouts. Drawing has never been my strong suit but I can usually manage a few simple line drawings.
The more I taught, the more I understood what people needed to have presented to them. The more I failed to connect, the harder I worked to find a different way of presenting the information.
I drew on my experience of being a student in school, pulling on my memories of what excited me about learning something and how my really good teachers presented information.
So, clear explanations. A little self-deprecating humour. Asking questions, to help people think about the course content. Can they connect the dots? Giving people time to process before loading them up with yet more information.
I came to realize the perhaps the biggest gift I could give to a student was to encourage them to think. Then when they made a comment, ask them more questions. How? Why? What? Push them to think processes through to conclusions. And never say that my way was the only way or the best way.
Give them agency over their own learning, and their own practice.
The more I learned the more I understood just how vast the knowledge of weaving (or spinning, etc.) truly is.
The more I interacted with other weavers/spinners I liked and respected, the more I grew to appreciate their journey of learning - how had they come to that point in their lives?
For the longest time I thought about the saying that when the student is ready, the teacher would appear. As a student I found this to be true. It was only when I was more firmly rooted in teaching that I realized the teacher was always there. It took me (the student) to recognize them and open my heart and mind to what they had to teach me.
Today I got another scarf done (finished one, began the next). Since I'm only needing surface attention at the minute, and no pressing deadlines, my thoughts have been wandering down different highways and byways, and it's been interesting to note which stones are turned over and examined. And which pathway beckons. It's been kind of fun having a good wander around in my own mind. Asking questions of myself, mostly. But also thinking about students and the classes that are set to launch in January/February. I'm sure I will learn lots from the new crop of students I am hoping will discover me.