Now I’m back from the US, it’s back into teaching with a surge! I love teaching. I know I’m in a very privileged position because I’m self-employed and people from all backgrounds and geographical reach come to my home studio to learn. And not just from the far reaches of the UK, either. It’s wonderful to teach students from the US, New Zealand, and across Europe and each student brings with them their particular outlook shaped by life’s events, and by their culture – from the standard of living their upbringing imposed, to choices of work, ways of thinking and how they live now.
One of the things I love to explore is how people think. I know that I have a certain visual acuity, but I love words (although I frequently have to stop to work out what I’m trying to put across <G>). I can visualise quite a lot where weaving is concerned, and have huge intuitive leaps between things I see and creating an interpretation of that in my weaving. However, I can really struggle when learning a new field, and sometimes have to work in a comprehension vacuum until my brain filters what it’s trying to absorb, and eventually it gets to that ‘aha’ moment when everything clicks.
So what interests me particularly is the myriad of different ways our brains process learning. I know that for a lot of teachers these things are old hat, but even though I’ve been teaching for nearly 20 years, I still find it fascinating. The student who can’t understand anything until they’ve actually physically woven what you are suggesting, so you need to give them detailed instructions and they follow them through verbatim and then – kaboom – the wonder and comprehension in their eyes when they see ‘in the flesh’ as it were, what was written down. Other students seem to have an instant fundamental understanding – intuitive – before they get anywhere near the loom.
People with an engineering bent, or very practical in sorting things out around the house, usually can visualize really easily. Artistically inclined students sometimes have wonderful ideas but no idea of how they can translate that to the loom. Some are willing to experiment and push the boat out, whilst someone else might need a lot of encouragement to move away from a published draft. Some gravitate instinctively towards a particular set of colours, whilst some are in total confusion about what colours to use.
One thing that does strike me, and this isn’t just through my weaving teaching, is how anxious people are in general about getting things wrong. We constantly ask ‘is this right?’ or ‘Am I doing this correctly?’. Therein lies another musing, I think!! But it is a constant and it shows up very strongly in a teaching/learning situation. So one of my key things is to re-assure students that in weaving there are no mistakes, only opportunities or possibilities, and that if it doesn’t work for you, then try another way. These are weaving cliches, I know, but there are as many ways of doing things as there are weavers, and I feel that a didactic approach can hamstring students/weavers into set patterns of behaviour that constrict and restrict them, both in approaching the practical hands-on part of weaving, and the creative designing element.
What do you feel, either as a student or as a teacher?
Interesting post. I agree that many students are very worried that they are doing things “correctly.” In some cases, doing things “correctly” is important, sometimes not so important. Putting on a good warp for weaving, for example, is absolutely essential, or the weaver is going to be totally frustrated throughout the entire weaving. But for most of the steps, there are different ways to go about it. My first year I kept experimenting with finding better ways—better ways for me!–and I think that if a new weaver can understand that what works well for one person, may not work well for another and that she needs to continually experiment and refine. And this experimenting is how I grew to enjoy warping, because my warps gradually improved and the process gradually grew easier, and that was very rewarding. Likewise there are technical things about weaving itself that are important, and teachers can help by giving suggestions, but the students have to be willing to experiment and practice and realize that this learning is a long-term process. Well, I could go on and on…..(grin!). Learning, experimenting, testing, imagining, learning more………
I sometimes can visualise what I want to do, just not sure how to achieve that, which is where the ‘am I doing it right’ comes in… but I do like experimenting – when I have the time to do this. I don’t feel restricted by doing it the ‘right way’, but through necessity want to achieve the outcome in the fastest time. (university final year work time is something that is in short supply.) I like nothing better than ‘what happens if…’ if time wasnt in such short supply.