One of the wonderful things about teaching is the sheer variety of people you meet. This weekend, I have a lovely couple with fascinating backgrounds, and so much knowledge about a wide spectrum of subjects. We have discussed travel, philosophy, geography/geology and many other topics based on life. They have put me in the direction of new books to read, and ways of thinking that hadn’t occurred to me before, and in return they’ve had different aspects of the same subjects as well as weaving and history, textiles and looms.
Being a teacher is such a privileged occupation when you are with students who are eager to learn, willing to learn from mistakes, and open to new ways of doing and thinking about things. It’s not such a privilege when your main occupation is trying to keep control of people who don’t want to be there! It’s not to do with age, but with willingness to keep an open mind and not being afraid to go wrong. Having been in three different camps – teaching at school to classes, teaching at school to small groups/individuals, teaching at workshops to small groups/individuals – all three have their challenges and their blessings, but I have to say that I really enjoy teaching in workshops.
For starters, your students have elected to be there, and are usually paying to be there. That means they have shown faith in your abilities as a teacher and expect a high standard of tuition, patience and competence in you. I love guiding new weavers through the initially daunting first steps of becoming competent, enquiring weavers who are able to trouble-shoot for themselves and work things out because you’ve given them the tools to enable them to have confidence in their decisions and choices. I love watching them blossom as that confidence grows and they start experimenting at the loom, with the delight that comes from seeing a new design grow as they weave and their realisation that they understand the relationships between warp and weft and can play to develop new designs.
It’s the same guidelines as being a parent, really. Give your students roots (i.e. a good grounding in the basics), then give them wings (i.e. the tools to allow them to develop under their own steam), and watch them fly!!