Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Teaching and troubleshooting

I've always been good at beadwork. Oh, I didn't make a perfect peyote stitch tube the first time I picked up a needle and thread (in fact, I accidentally kept making increases and so ended up with a flower-like shape) but that and my fear of brick and herringbone stitch is really the only time I remember having trouble with stitching. I had trouble making round loops to point up instead of to the side, and couldn't figure out how to manipulate wire into a proper wrapped loop for the longest time--but once I got over those initial hurdles, I don't remember having a lot of trouble perfecting them. And that was years ago; it's been years and years since I've had trouble looking at a graphic and right away having a good understanding of how a stitch works.

I do not say this to boast or brag. It has been a boon to me, but I'm not just an artisan, I'm a teacher. And having things come easily is a hindrance in my teaching. Even though I know things don't come easily to many people, it's still sometimes a little hard to understand why sometimes people don't know what bead to put their needle through in the next stitch. I always try to keep that sort of thought in check, unformed in the back of my head, telling myself I was a beginner too, once, even though I don't remember much of it.

But the other day, I tried bead crochet. I'd never been able to fathom graphed directions of fiber techniques beyond the first slip-stitch row, but I'd watched a tutorial video and thought I understood. Things were gonna be great! I'd learn bead crochet in a flash, and soon I'd be crocheting beaded ropes far faster than I could ever do with other stitches where I had to hunt for every bead and pull a long thread through every stitch.

Well, I did the first row ok, connected it into a ring (something I'd never been able to do before). Then it was time for the next row. Hmm. What exactly do I do? It involved sticking the hook through the 'next stitch'. Where exactly did I stick the hook? I couldn't quite remember, only some stuff about always sliding the new bead behind the hook. I didn't really know what my beadwork was supposed to look like--a sensation I didn't remember ever having had before. I decided to 'just do it', never mind doing it right, and finally stuck my hook through a stitch, continuing to crochet as best I could. I think I laboriously made it all the way around the ring, but could not figure out how to connect the first and last stitches, if I even needed to. My beadwork looked terrible, all loose and weird, not the nice tight ropes I'd seen others do. I couldn't tell if I'd done it right at all, as I still didn't know what it was supposed to look like.

After that, I'm filled with new admiration for my students. If they feel anywhere near that kind of bewilderment when trying something new, I'm so glad I had that experience, because now I can truly understand and sympathize--and understanding, I can teach better.

They never give up on peyote stitch or wrapped loops no matter how many times they have to ask a question. So I'm not giving up on bead crochet. But I'll need a few good and patient teachers to help me on my way!

3 comments:

Stacy Olson said...

Great article thanks. I really enjoy your blog

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Mary T Designs said...

I understand completely. I am a math natural and nearly pulled all my hair out trying to teach it to my children. It is easy to assume that everyone learns a subject in the same way you do, but they don't. Kudos for recognizing the fact!

Judy said...

Hi Jessah! You gotta give credit to yourself though. Learning from a video or a set of instructions is so much more difficult than learning from a teacher that can simply tell you what to do!