A View from Sierra County

Small town life and politics, lots of knitting, and travels with and without my five burros

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Location: In the Sierra Nevadas, United States

I blog about rural living and social issues, and the creativity that comes from knitting, as well as post random pictures of the Sierras and my burros. "In order to be an artist, one must be deeply rooted in the society" - Simone de Beauvoir


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Teaching and Learning

From the wild sheep's fleece in olden times,
The wool was won and washed and spun.

Sheep gave the wool,
people gave it form.

With link on link
And row on row

The one long thread
Begins to show

How the work of our fingers
With patience transforms;

Now the wild sheep's fleece
Can clothe peoples' forms.

This verse, my adaptation of the original from Gertrude Madey, is the one I use with my second grade handwork class to close each lesson session. I am finding my work fun and rewarding, but the time for each lesson far too short. Through it all, children learn, and most especially in this situation is knitting about process. Stitch counting helps with math, sitting at one's desk, using both hands to concentrate on creating an object is a grounding and centering activity for the young child, and of course there is great excitement and pride of accomplishment at finishing a project.

Sara and I met this afternoon to review the curriculum I am piecing together; she taught at Live Oak Waldorf School for several years while her two sons, now 28 and 30, were in elementary...

We discussed the differences and similarities between the public version and work within the private Waldorf setting, as well as the changes that have taken place with a new generation of parents bringing children, and also needing for both to work full-time. There are far more separated families, for example.

I am very fortunate to have a group of parent helpers, fulfilling their volunteer hours that are required for their children to attend a public charter school of this type, with me through each and every lesson, and we still felt pretty overwhelmed as our group of 30 first-graders all made their first attempts at a garter stitch this morning. Out of that number, I was delighted to see that there were five with previous knitting experience, through their families, who were capably charging through three rows in the same time the very beginning students were struggling through their first few stitches.

Sara and some of the staff have also cautioned me to set limits on the out-of-class I devote, and so "correcting" will mainly take place during classes, so that I don't become a slave to re-doing, fixing, etc. Sara had several examples of her sons' stuffed animals, made during their early years, and a few "next step" projects for my second grade students, a few who are close to exhausting the steps taken in previous years.

Teaching is always an adventure involving staying a few steps ahead of your students, no matter how familiar the subject or how long one has been teaching it. Sara reflected on how much that is the case in teaching adults in the fiber arts as well. A wonderful, end-of-summer meeting of the minds at one of our lovely outdoor cafes in Nevada City, before winter sets in... thanks so very much for your generous gift of time, Sara.

A last note, to remind all who haven't done so yet... there is still time to enter my 375th Post Contest; I haven't gotten my new Typepad site ready to launch and am behind schedule, but the contest will take place on time:). There's also still plenty of time to join in the fun for the Twisted Knitters Dye-Spin-Knit Along, not that you have nothing to do!


Blogger Sara said...

Oh my, Live Oak has a website, and I didn't even know.

Nice meeting with you yesterday, a beautiful Fall day on the patio with coffee and knitting. Remember to have fun with the children, and take time to breathe. (hah!)

6:17 AM  
Blogger Tactless Wonder said...

The first, and last, time I taught 7th grade Social Studies, the class, led by sweet little Moises said, "Teacher, you really know how to teach English, we like your English classes. Ah, but, you know what?" (And I swear the tone changed to the "hat-in-hands, 'Senor the bandits are raiding the village again' plea,) "please don't teach Social Studies again next year, please..." And 29 agreeing/nodding heads surrounding him...

I was more 1/2 a paragraph ahead of the students for that one...

Yes, in total agreement. Do limit yourself on correcting the mistakes. Big major ones, my blessing, but part of the learning process is for kids to get the "AH HA!" of "OH THAT'S why that stitch looks different than the others" on their own. It may not happen until 7th grade sometimes, but when it does, magic happens...As Crazy Aunt Purl would say, I am a cautionary tale :).

6:40 AM  
Blogger beadlizard said...

My kids all know they can get my DD or me to help, but we tend to explain more than do the actual corrections. We'll demonstrate how the mistake was made and how to fix it with our own knitting, then the kid gets to fix his own.

Also, Stitch'n'Bitch (I think it's the first book that's best) has very clear drawings of mistakes and corrections. I have to put a brown paper cover on the book because of the title and the regulations at school...

If you have kids who simply cannot fathom knitting, get some bright leftover yarn and show them how to make pompoms wrapped around their fingers (email me if you need the directions). It gives them experience in handling yarn, maintaining a moderate tension, square knots, and cutting yarn.

Plus, throwing pompoms at each other releases all the tension and gets them to communicate with each other.

I think what you're doing is wonderful and I am jealous of your time with Sara! --Syl

9:31 AM  
Blogger Becca said...

Just popped in to say "hi!" Sounds like you're having great fun with this class.

3:23 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

It's true! You do have to stay ahead of the students, but every year that I taught, my students taught me things too. That's the beauty of teaching. It sounds like you are having a good time!

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Carrie K said...

What a lovely poem. Good luck on the teaching! It sounds like it's very rewarding.

10:58 AM  

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