TIDKT: Teaching

A little later than normal but here is this week’s Things I didn’t Know post. (For other posts in the series click here)

Teaching a beginners class at The Sheep Shop – image by Sarah Clark

This week I have been thinking a lot about teaching as I plan my teaching schedule for next year. Local peeps will be pleased to know that I have lots of classes booked in at The Sheep Shop in Cambridge with some brand new classes planned for Spring/Summer.

I also hope to teach at some other venues next year a bit further away so I’ve put together a brochure of my workshops and sent it to some other yarn shops in East Anglia. Fingers crossed. (If you are a yarn shop owner or a festival organiser or a craft venue and you’d like to see it then please drop me an email.)

Teaching has been an unexpectedly vital part of designing for me. I find that regularly teaching beginners and intermediate crocheters and knitters reminds me of what problems they face in reading my patterns and helps me to ensure that the patterns I write give the right information for the level they are designed for.

So what have I learnt since I first started teaching crochet back in November 2011?

  1. Have a lesson plan and an objective set for every lesson – actually no, have THREE:
    1. what you want EVERY attendee to leave knowing,
    2. what the average student will leave knowing, and
    3. what the speedy learner will leave knowing.
  2. Plan lots of extension activities for faster learners but do not try to cover too much. I try to have 10 to 20 minutes at the end of each class for working without instruction so the students can make sure they have the hang of the techniques taught and plenty of time to ask questions if they haven’t.
  3. Make sure you know how to teach left handers – you will get way more than the national average in your classes as they are the ones who will struggle most to pick it up from books and videos which are normally aimed at right handers.
  4. Make a good handout for each class that reminds the class what you have covered. This will help people practice their new skill and make sure what they learnt in class is possible at home.
  5. Be kind, patient and encouraging – this is leisure learning, people joined the class to pick up a new hobby and to have fun. Knitting and crochet classes must above all be FUN.
    Students should leave feeling empowered to continue learning at home. Point out the progress they have made if they are feeling bad about being one of the slowest in the class. Picking it up quickest doesn’t necessarily mean being the best in a years time – they need to know this.
  6. BUT be strict enough to ensure that they know the rules to follow for the best outcomes when they do improve even if they can’t follow them just yet. For instance I don’t expect students to be able to work consistently into a chain in the beginners class but they need to know the theory and that its what to aim for otherwise it will slow their progress to beautiful projects.
  7. Know your subject matter really well. Research around the topic deeper than you plan to go in the lesson because you never know what questions will crop up. If you don’t know be honest and offer to get back to them. And be prepared to learn things from your students!
  8. Refine your classes – review after each class which sections worked well, what wasn’t so good and make notes to improve it for next time.
  9. Encourage repeat business and word-of-mouth business – a large part of my success has been in having a lot of students return to learn more and a lot of word-of-mouth referrals.
    Points 4 and 5 especially will go along way towards making a really positive experience and getting them knitting or crocheting at home (people who give it up after the lesson don’t need to come back to learn more)
    Remember they can’t come back and they can’t tell a friend if they don’t know when or where. All my handouts have a list of upcoming classes and a link to my website – you might choose to have them sign up to a newsletter – let them have a way to find you again whatever it is.
    Interacting with students on twitter and facebook is part of the joy of teaching for me – I love when they let me know about the progress they are making and I have made some wonderful new friends this way too.
  10. ALWAYS have cake or biscuits. Always. A very important part of the learning process.
my first class two years ago

PS it was lovely to look back on the blog posts about the early lessons – some of the students are still utterly hooked on crochet and making really amazing stuff now. And that is what it is all about really!

Comments

  1. says

    Especially # 10! :)

    P.S. As a person with lots of celiac family members, I would add: ask about food allergies before class and if possible be sure to have something for those students with special dietary needs. This will really help the word of mouth referrals too.

    • says

      oh yes, very important. I always used to check when I held the classes at home and Sarah at The Sheep Shop has an array of food suitable for all types of intolerances on hand normally.

  2. says

    I am super grateful to have learnt how to crochet by attending your classes, and have always found your handouts and verbal instructions to be really clear. I never thought I would have made a blanket and be working on a jumper 18 months ago!

    • says

      Oh, that is so lovely to hear Claire! I have really enjoyed teaching you and seeing your skills improve to the point where you are designing your own pieces and publishing tutorials! So wonderful to see. (she’s good, you should check them out dear readers!)