Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thank goodness for spit splicing

I have sadly said goodbye to my blossoming knitters, although that is a somewhat generous description. Only one child actually finished a project. It was a very small and very lopsided little coin purse. But she was as proud as if it were a high end fashion designer handbag, as she should have been, of course.

The problem in finishing the project was that she, on the advice from another student, had cut the yarn after she finished the last row. One of the best decision I made, however, was to use not-superwash real wool. That meant a little bit of spit (ewwww, say my students) and a lot of rubbing and we're back on our way to casting off. (A friend pointed out that I could have used the crochet cast off, but that's a new one to me).

A few of the other seemed to sort of get the idea. I think a couple more weeks or a couple more hours of sitting with them and they would have gotten it. They could all do it with some help, but sadly, I can't split myself into seven! At least they all seemed to have fun, and at the end of the day, isn't that the most important thing? Next year or in a few years when they see some needles and yarn, I hope they remember liking knitting and that they believed me when I told them they could do it. I would do it again in a heart beat. I don't think I would do much differently. It just takes time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The teacher learns

I must admit that my capacity for patience has been exceeded by several of my young pupil's lack of fine motor skills and abilityto focus. A couple of the second graders have gotten the hang of it but the others are struggling. They get the concept but they seem unable to bring the new loop through the old loop. I think they could get it with a few more lessons, but we have just one left. I had hoped we'd complete little purses or small bunnies, but now I'll settle for them being able to knit a few rows.

This last week, two students were absent attending communion rehearsal. I thought that would make things go more smoothly but amazingly, there was still an intense amount of energy. They are having fun and that is the most important thing. I, being ever driven, want them to learn and forge ahead, but I do recognize that they are only 7 and 8. There is plenty of time for them to pack their schedules so full that multi tasking will become a way of life. For now, they are goofy and happy to chase balls of yarn off the table and around the floor, so why not? They have years and years of productivity ahead of them.

Of course I want them to leave accomplished novice knitters. I want them to be able to cast on, knit and cast off with finesse, but that just is not possible for all of them right now. They have, however, learned to make a slip knot, finger knit and cast on. It's a good start. They've seen wool and they've been smitten with the wonderful colors. They have plans in their head for what they would like to make and they have a sense of how to do that. This is all good. So, though we're not as far along as I'd like, I think the class was a success for all of us. They learned some things about knitting and I learned a whole lot about teaching. I would do it again in a heart beat.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Patience Learned

I have gone through my life with the unexamined belief that patience is something you either have or you don't have. This class has changed my mind.

I think instead that patience is more like fitness - you can become more patient with practice and determination. Last week when I was trying to explain something for the fifteenth time, I could feel my frustration rising and sarcasm bubbling in my brain. But I took a deep breath and searched my brain for yet another way to explain the same thing.

Honestly, with five children, I've had a lot of practice with this patience thing. I'm not the most patient person in the world or even as patient as I would like to be, but I do believe I'm better than when I started. Maybe it comes from exercising empathy. The more you try to put yourself in another person's shoes, the more patient you can be with that person. That and deep breathing!

So far, all six students can make a slip knot and do the backward loop cast on. From there, we've got issues. One kid is going gang busters, but I think she came to class knowing how to knit. After demonstrating over and over and holding hands to show them the process, I think I finally hit on an explanation that works. I tell them there is an old loop on the left hand needle. Put the right hand needle through that loop. Wrap the yarn around the needle to make a new loop. Pull the needle through the old loop. Then the old loop can hop off the needle. I found that it seemed to work best if I stopped and asked them to point out several times where the old loop was and where the new loop was and then explain to me what had to happen.

I think at least three were getting the hang of it by the end of the class. Just two more to go. I wish I could sign them up for another 6 weeks, but summer is coming too soon!

My own knitting has been slowed by a need to detangle the yarn DP (dear puppy) tangled on a romp through the house. Amazing how much damage can be done in such a short time. It's taken literally hours. The thing that keeps me going is that it's strangely meditative and engaging. I wouldn't think detangling yarn would keep my attention, but it does. Not that I would recommend it.

I may be doing more of it - these girls in my class have managed to make some pretty snarly messes of the balls I sent home with them. I honestly didn't know it was possible to get yarn into the jumble that they've made!