Sunday, September 19, 2010

What Do You Think?

It's pretty rare that Chinese fortune cookies are so very accurate, but when I met a good friend for dinner Friday night, this is what mine said--


It had been a couple weeks since I'd seen this particular friend, and over dinner, she told me about a horrendous experience she had when she went away on a quilting retreat. A great deal had gone wrong, to say the least, but three things she told me about the teacher's (in)ability or "style" stood out in my mind:

(1) The teacher was unable to vary her delivery of information in such a way so as to facilitate learning in each of her students. We all learn in different ways. Some of us are visual learners, some are auditory learners, and some are tactile learners. When a teacher can only teach to one style of learner, several students will never "get it." That's why most of us will explain certain steps, then we'll show how the steps are done, and then we'll have the students do the steps themselves, with our help. And if someone doesn't understand an explanation, a good teacher will try to explain it a different way.

(2) The teacher demanded the students do exactly what she instructed and did not allow any deviation. During my years of quilting, I've found there are many quilters who like to follow a pattern exactly, so their quilts turn out just like the picture on the pattern cover. Some quilters will even want to use the very same fabrics. There's nothing wrong with that. But there are others who use a pattern, or see a class, as a jumping off point, and they then take it a step or two further--because they are artists. They find joy in creating. And there's nothing wrong with that either. When a teacher, and particularly one who is herself a recognized artist, discourages creativity in her students--well, there's something incredibly wrong with THAT.

(3) The teacher not only didn't praise and encourage her students' efforts, but she pointed out errors and criticized the students' work in front of the other students. As a teacher, I find it hard sometimes to even tell a student when she's done something wrong, but I know that's part of the job. I can only hope that I do it in a positive way and without causing embarrassment. After all, it's only fabric--it's not the end of the world if something's cut wrong or sewn crooked. And more often than not, it can be fixed. But hurting someone's feelings isn't acceptable--especially when they're paying ME to help them be better at doing something they enjoy.

So how about you? Have you had a unpleasant experience with a quilting/craft teacher? Or wish something was done differently in classes? Or have you had an extremely positive experience? What do you think makes a good class or a good teacher? As a teacher, I'd love to hear "what not to do" or what works well, because I want my students to enjoy their time with me--unlike the time my friend spent at her retreat.

16 comments:

Ann-Maree said...

Oh Kim, I can relate to your friend. I had a very unpleasant similar experience from a nationally(Australian) recognised teacher. She held up my plastic template and told the class how 'inaccurate it was' and that would never do!! all day I was made feel inadequate through remark after caustic remark. I'm normally a strong person, and wouldn't have given a hoot but it was the WAY it was said. I was crushed and very upset....I had a horrible day from this person's treatment of me. Of course, I tell my story to every quilter I know.... I have subsequently sold all this persons patterns that I owned. Very poor form from her, although I suspect she has no clue...turns out that other people have had the same experience....
I pity her. hugs to your friend!
Ann-Maree in Sydney

Robin said...

Like your new background...could ya make the font bigger, tho...old eyes!? LOl
That teacher sounds awful and she probably should not be teaching. But how about from the other point of view? I taught a 6-week beginning quilting course once and had one woman who REFUSED TO use the rotary cutter in a safe way!!! She insisted on cutting cutting sideways, cutting "backwards", cutting toward herself, etc. She scared me to death. After the third week of modeling the correct way, explaining the dangers of what she was doing and pleading with her to try it the right way, I finally left her to her own devices. But it continued to scare me and I was sure there would be blood. I couldn't wait till that six-week class was OVER. PS- At the last class, she told me, "There are people who MAKE quilts and there are people who BUY quilts. I'm in the latter group!"

kimland said...

An instructor can make all the difference. My very first class a very simple project, was 2 days and was ok, but felt flat. I knew there had to have been more. So, I went to another shop and found a FABULOUS beginning instructor that lite my passion. We have negative experiences but, need to shake those (if we can learn anything from it...that,it is not the way to act or treat others!) and keep looking!

Anita said...

Wow, I feel bad for your friend. I've had a couple of less than great teachers in two sewing classes. The first teacher was very new to teaching but not new to sewing. The teacher gave us instructions with errors in the cutting the instructions. I finished up my work from the first class and began cutting fabric at home following the printed instructions. When I got to the second class I was told, "oh I meant to tell everyone that the instructions were wrong, sorry." I had to buy more fabric and throw away the fabric that I cut at home. The instructions for the quilt were also very poorly written and thought out. The lines for the snow ball quilt that the class made did not line up. My friend that took the class with me spoke to the quilt shop owner about the mistakes with this teacher's pattern and instructions. We were given a refund for the class. I don't think that the teacher was asked back to teach future classes.

dianne said...

i am all three - visual, tactile AND auditory - i have to see it and touch it and then i have to hear it (again and again) and then see and touch some more ... it's a pain in the butt to have me in a class, lemme tell ya

and that's why i will probably never own a Kindle - sometimes i have to read a book while holding a pencil in my hand (scribbling on a scrap paper) AND listen to it on a recording before i actually GET IT

i'm not too crazy about having my work critiqued in front of other people - but when Auntia and i took a class together and the teacher (curse her) held up Auntia's as an example of what NOT to do, the she-bear in me growled warnings toward her (and we stopped spending our money in her shop) cuz that's how creativity and inspiration and can-do-itude gets killed

Nancy said...

My only bad teaching experience was unfortunately in a class where I couldn't leave...It was on a cruise ship..with a nationally known magazine. We were told what fabrics to bring..she gave us all one of her books (which I later learned was an old book!). When we arrived in class (on the ship!) she said "turn to page 76 and follow the directions.. that's it..no instruction at all. Many just up and walked out. I made the tote... We complained bitterly to the "big man" and I don't think this particular person has been asked back.

tami said...

I think the best class I ever took was with Doreen Speckmann. She was animated and taught all her techniques with funny little stories that help you remember.
I also teach and only tell my students what they did wrong when they ask me why theirs isn't like they feel it should be. I also follow that up with "if it's ok with you it's more than ok with me." I feel we all have varying degrees of what is acceptable to us and I would never presume to try and tell someone that they need things "perfect". Sometimes the imperfections are what make it perfect.

Sandy from Thimbleberries said...

Well, my friend and I took a class at one of the stores in town. We had seen the quilt hanging and loved it. The teacher was very disrespectful to two of the students. She admonished them in front of us and belittled them. I was so shocked and floored by the teacher that my friend and I decided never to take another class by this person and to let others know how she behaves. We found out she does that all the time. She has our email address and sends us updates. I have no respect for a teacher or student who puts others down.
I understand what your friend has gone through just by being in a class with two students who were made to feel wrong. PS They didn't come back for the next class.

Janet said...

Hi kim,

I like the new Halloween diggs!

I teach at the LQS and have taken a lot of classes.

As a student I dislike it when instructors bring in separate projects to work on(ie. not what we are doing in class), or when they do a lot of talking about the project but not any actual teaching. I took a year long Dear Jane Class which met every 2 months. The teacher had a lovely Power Point presentation but never actually demonstrated techniques or blocks. It was very disappointing.

As a teacher I try very hard to incorporate visual, tactile, and auditory learning in all my classes. I rephrase concepts continually throughout the class because sometime saying/showing things a different way will allow the student to "get it". At the end of the class I find it is benificial to recap what we learned today as it reinforces concepts. If I do need to give some additional guidance, I try to pick something they have done very well and pair it with a correction in technique.

For me teaching is not about the money, it is about passing on something I truly love to someone else.

BTW Thank you for your Happy Jacks Tutorial I printed it off and it will be great fun to make.

bettina said...

sorry that happenedto your friend i would have shown the creativity that goes into each every quilt or just say to the friend that you might think about mending it this way or that way nothing is ever completyly wrong just an opportunity for creativity

quiltmom said...

Kim,
What a terrible experience to happen to someone who loves to stitch and create. I can't think of anything that can kill one's creative desire more quickly.

I am one of those students that use a pattern as a jumping off point.( I am not much for creating kit quilts or making something exactly like the pattern.) I have a largish stash and I like to use what is in it to play and create my own version of a design. I am not brave enough to create my own designs. I need people to show me - both hands on and visual- it takes me much longer to figure out a pattern with just words- diagrams are better. Some things are compounded by being left handed so things such as stitcheries, knitting and crocheting can be backwards for me. Occasionally the rotary cutter and ruler can pose a challenge when figuring out diagonal cutting.

I have never thought embarrassing someone helped them learn something- its not about teaching someone to do it perfectly ( we are not creative clones for the teacher)- As a teacher, its about helping someone to understand the process so they can do it for themselves. None of us are perfect- not world recognized quilters or an average quilter- What I would want, is to encourage someone and support them as a learner. Most of all, quilting and creating should be fun - otherwise it could just be a challenging process that was frustrating and expensive.

One thing that I am sure of Kim- is that you don't need to worry about having students come away from your class disappointed. All the extras you do to help your students be successful and the fun atmosphere you create in your classes would make taking a class from you uplifting. We can only wish that everyone has those same kind of teachers.
Warmest regards,
Anna

Kim said...

Well, I've never taken a quilting class or taught a quilting class, but I teach fourth graders every day! And everything you said applies to any teacher. A good teach always has to be able to teach to ALL students, say things in different ways, model, and allow creativity. I'm sure you're a great teacher. It seems you are a great listener having picked up all of that from your conversation with your friend. I so wish I could take a class from you, but Iowa to CA might be just a little too far to go!

Jan said...

Hi Kim :) I'm afraid I'm no help w/this post cuz I've never ever taken a class!!! I'm one of those gals who dug right in doing everything wrong the first time ... fell in love the craft in spite of that tho :)

I've been MIA (battling cancer), but just spent some time catching up w/all your posts ... love the new "look" and your Scnibbles are all awesome, as are your great Thrift store finds. Hope it's a good week ahead for you and "Happy Fall!!!"

Lisa said...

Thanks for bringing up the topic. I have taken several quiltmaking classes and teach as well. I, too, have been taught by a few teachers who probably should not teach. When teaching I show clearly on a dry erase board (or similar) the technique, then demonstrate with needle and thread, and then ask the students to do it while I move around to observe (but not hover!). In order to illustrate common errors I use my own work. I have found it's the best way for me to illustrate how to get good results without singling out a student. I also like to show additional ways to do a technique if applicable because some students may be able to more easily get the results they want with an alternate method. Above all, it's their class (not mine!). I want them to have a great time (laugh even) while learning a thing or two about quiltmaking. Best wishes, Kim, with your teaching! Lisa

Wendy said...

Some teachers are really good and some not so good. I try and learn one thing from a bad teacher and move onto someone better.

Quilter Kim said...

I have taken many quilt classes. I know how to quilt and piece but enjoy learning new techniques and the fellowship of other quilters. I hope to learn something new from every class I take. My problem is that I have taken a class from one instructor who told us that she had done all of the research for us and come up with the best way to do everything. She then proceeded to tell us that this was the "ONLY" way to do it right and admonished us everytime we tried to do things our own way. Be it right or wrong I feel that everyone gets comfortable in their own was of doing things and if they are receptive to change and want to learn a different way will do it on their own, not at the prodding of a teacher who is full of themselves. Thank you for allowing me to vent because I have been bothered by this and will never take another one of her classes.
Sure wish I lived closer and could take one of your classes, I'll bet they are a blast.