Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Art of Teaching

Tulips starting to die. I thought they where still so pretty just in a different way!
As I prepare to leave in a few days for 3 teaching engagements, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Sister's Quilt Festival in Oregon,   I am overwhelmed each time I start to prepare my supplies by how unprepared I always feel.  And I hate that.  Even though I spend days beforehand preparing.  I have taught and lectured now for the last 8 years nonstop and each time it feels like the first time for me.  I feel insecure and not fully prepared or worthy.  Do I have anything new I can add to the student's education?   Today, as I get ready it hits me again.  Maybe it’s because I had some really bad teachers in my life and I watched them and hated them for not seeing I needed help.  I don’t want to be like that. Sorry Mr. Cope, but you SUCKED!  Then there are the superb teachers that saw something special in me and pushed me in the right direction. Thank you Miss Thaure. I want to be like her. Besides, she was hot!

A few months ago, while teaching a 2 day workshop,  I noticed 3 different women in my class.  They all had the look of fear and concern but each responded differently to their fear.  Part of being a good teacher, in my eyes, is picking up on the signals that students are sending so I can meet their needs and guide them into thinking creatively.  Fear often blocks our path.  So the first thing I do is try to get rid of their fear.  For some of them that fear has been there a long time
One student sat in the back and was very quiet…. one cringed at ever word I said... and the other looked like she didn’t care as she worked on another project while I lectured, which is OK with me but she was giving off the signal that she already knew it all or didn’t care.
But as I made my way to each student in the room I could see they really needed what I was offering and hopefully I could fit the lesson to them personally.  At least I could try.
The quiet one in the back was very receptive to the attention I gave her. I figured she had been ignored like me before.  The woman that cringed at everything was just fearful and once I got her on her way and she saw the beautiful flower blooming, she wore a big smile.

I love my Coneflower Class.
But the one that was looking aloof was hard to crack.  She wasn’t going to like anything she or I did.  I think she was very hard on herself.  Her fear was the greatest of the three.  Such fear always blocks learning a new technique.   At first I thought, why would she take a class if she didn’t want to learn?  But she did want to learn, she just needed more time and we didn’t have it.  
I still think about her and wish we could have had a 5 day retreat together.

So I am folding patterns, making lists and cutting the Steam-A-Seam 2 for my classes, trying to figure out how to fit everything into the suitcases allowed by the all so accommodating airlines.   The way things are progressing, soon I will have to pay extra for using the bathroom. Won’t that be lovely?  

Getting ready for teaching and travel is an art form in itself.

Anyway, I realized today that perhaps still feeling  unprepared is a good thing.  It keeps me on my toes and I have so much to share. When I stop worrying and I think I have it all down, that is when I need to stop teaching.  The insecurity I feel keeps me sharp because I care about the audience, so I always say a little prayer before each class that I will see and be able to meet their needs and guide each student in the right direction.  

So here we go again.

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