Yes, I can teach ~ really, I can

Do I start with only a sock class? Hell, no. I’ve got to start with 2 classes held on one afternoon: one class is three 1.5-hour sessions (socks); the second is 4 1.5-hour sessions. This means teach a sock class for 1.5 hours, take a half-hour break, follow-up by teaching a class on a complicated shawl for 1.5 hours. What was I thinking? I understood going in that knowing how to knit and having knit a pattern are not the same as having the skills to teach how to do either. What I didn’t understand was all the personalities I would have to deal with as a new teacher at the LYS I dearly love.

Several unexpected things happened to make both the first sock class and the first Catkin (a beautiful shawl by Carina Spencer) class more stressful than they typically would have been. No need to go in to that here: what I learned from those first 2 classes is much more important.

For a newbie teacher, having fun the first few classes is not important: having fun hopefully comes later when students communicate their happiness and the shop owner is happy with the teaching. If fun for the teacher is not to be had, move on and drop the teaching.

What happens first to many new to teaching (please this can’t be just me) are the complaints from students and violating some shop rules. Learn from the complaints; learn the shop rules.

So given hindsight (we all know how that works), here is my list of what I believe will help me & possibly others (I know at least a few people are reading this)  as I move forward in this new venture into the world of teaching knitting classes –

  • give the shop owner a class plan – notes (no matter how good), a highlighted pattern, and a list of what is to be covered are not enough
  • have a syllabus for each class in a series – it may also serve as a good handout for the students
  • include on the syllabus an estimate of the time it may take to cover each item (and remember, it’s only an estimate)
  • ask the owner if it is possible to schedule classes to begin 15-30 minutes after the shop opens and to allow 15-30 minutes between the end of one teacher’s class and the beginning of your class
  • take a look at the classroom – try to get a feeling about how to work within the space especially if it is small and confining (typical for a small shop; space is expensive
  • meet with the shop owner one to two weeks before the first class and after she or he has reviewed your class plan: take notes at that meeting; ask the owner what you may encounter in class that you may not be prepared for (e.g. a quirky student, students missing a class and wanting a make-up class); how does the owner handle a last-minute class cancellation; what advice does the owner have; and, whatever questions I haven’t thought of to date
  • know that the unexpected most likely will happen; we can only do our best
  • screw-ups will most likely happen, too – learn from it, do the best damage control possible and get over it

The most difficult thing for me is developing a tough skin. I had a tough skin when I worked in neuroscience labs for 15 years and then spent 20 years in a business dominated by men. Teaching knitting classes is different: it’s personal. My knitting transitioned from a skill to a passion about five years ago. I can’t seem to complete projects, design knitwear, or learn about fiber and knitting quickly enough; and, it’s dear to my heart.

The real test will come during the next class sessions. Yes, I will give my class plans and syllabi to the shop owner and request a meeting a few days in advance of the classes.

I still think the Catkin is gorgeous.


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