Good Teachers vs Not So Good

During the summer of 2010, “The Summer of Jen”, I took some time and enrolled in 9 sewing classes at one of our local quilting stores.  One of them was working on a pattern called FRACTIONS.  It was a fat quarter pattern that had possibilities for crib size to king size.  I opted for the lap size.  I was so excited about the pattern, I was going to do the whole thing in SOLIDS.  It was to be my first solid quilt.  I was going to use 4 different shades of teal green and frame it in black.  I wanted the teal greens to be the only pop of color.

Then I went to the class…..

I’ve always tried not to speak ill or badly about things here, but I would like to share some frustrations I had with the class.

As I mentioned I was so excited about my SOLID lap quilt.  I thought it would look so cool with the pattern we would be working on.  Unfortunately, the teacher we had didn’t agree.  From the moment I unveiled my fabric selection I felt put down.  She looked at them, “Your using these?  Why?  They really won’t work with the pattern.  Won’t be enough dimension.”   I hadn’t even started to sew and I felt about an inch tall.  I was so excited about the pattern and my fabric, it was my first real attempt at picking fabric all by myself and after the comment I felt like I should just let someone else do the picking.

The pattern also called for two borders, a small 2″ border and a 3″ border.  I once again wanted to be different and wanted only one border a 5″ border in one color.  I was ready to go with cutting it, but was again told it wasn’t a good idea.  That it wouldn’t look great, but SHOULD cut a 2″ black and a 3″ black border and put them both on.  I thought this was silly, but there was no arguing with her either.  I was also told multiple times that I was doing things EXTREMELY WRONG, from how my thread was on my machine, to where it was situated on the spool, to how I snipped my threads, to how I pressed, to……  The day was going from bad to worse.

Once I left the class that day, I also left the unfinished quilt top in the box …….for a year.  I took it out in January of 2012.  Every time I looked at the box of fabric I remembered how I was treated, how my ideas were put down, how I wanted to leave by noon – I know “Jen get over it.”, but I’m like an elephant – I never forget.

Why did I take the UFO out again.  Well, honestly, I needed the box it was in.  I hadn’t looked at it in a year.  I didn’t know how far along it was, where I left off, I just knew it had to be DONE.  I was pleased to see that all my cutting was done, and the block rows were complete so the top only took a little bit to finish.  Now it can be moved from the box to the basket with quilt tops are stored.  I do like how it turned out – no matter what the lady said.

Jen, why are you bringing this back up again?  Because recently many of my quilting friends have been talking about teachers.  We’ve been speaking about what makes good instructors and not so great ones and what signs there are of great teachers.

For some of us we were able to tell we had a good teacher because of the following qualities:

* We felt encouraged during the class.  Our ideas, progress and projects were celebrated

* The teacher was professional – didn’t speak badly of other people in their field, or make fun of someone

(I know some teachers, rib their students, but only those who they know can take the joke)

* We were guided through the process, not told we were doing it all wrong, and we didn’t have our projects taken over and complete by the teacher.

* We were excited about the class and in most cases rushed home to complete the project either that evening or over the next few days.  – for many of us this was a true sign.

I teach as a career.  I teach one of the ficklest groups of people – middle school children (grade 6-9).  One day they love, the next day they ignore you.  Maybe because I am surrounded by teachers and students that I pay a lot of attention to other teachers.  I watch them, learn from them, and wonder if their teaching tricks will work for me.  I’m not an expert by any means, but my teacher spidey sense goes when there is a not so awesome teaching experience going on.  Did you know that if a teacher puts down a child or embarrasses them that it will take that child 10-20 minutes before they are re-engaged in your class.  And the kids who witnessed it will be lost for 8-10 minutes.  Meaning you give up about 10 minutes of your class, where no learning takes place, because of an action you have done.  Frightening.  And I’ve witnessed it – and I will be honest, I might have done it in the past.

Teaching is such an amazing thing.  You have the privilege of passing along your knowledge to others.

What makes a good teacher for you?  How about a not so hot one?  

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4 Comments

Filed under Everyday Life, Quilting, Teaching

4 responses to “Good Teachers vs Not So Good

  1. Some of the greatest inventions and ideas in the whole wide world only happened because someone made a mistake. I’m so pleased you did everything wrong and stuck with it because I LOVE your colour choices and how you,ve put it all together. Thanks for sharing. Avis x

    • Jen

      Thanks for your comment Avis. Nice of you to stop by. And thank you for your nice words. I’m really happy with how it all turned out.

  2. Those colours turned out to be a great choice.

    I agree with your assessment of a good teacher. If the student is doing something wrong, then there needs to be a positive way of helping them, but in the end – especially in a quilting class – there are no rights and wrongs, and the student needs to be respected for their choices.

    The teacher should also recognize whether she is teaching a beginner class, in which case the student may need help in threading the machine, properly, etc, and and intermediate class, in which the students have clearly found which way works best for them, and the teacher should focus on the technique the class is intended to teach.

    The teacher should also find ways to add value to the instructions. The worst class I took was with a very nice woman, who did not much more than refer us to the correct page in the book, and let us go at it ourselves. No tips, not even any demonstrations of techniques. I could have done that at home. A great teacher I had not only gave lots of tips about the quilt we were making, but brought in other quilts she had made and discussed techniques she had used in those quilts.

    • Jen

      Great thoughts on what makes a great teacher. I agree that a good teacher should try to add value to the instructions and tips are so helpful especially if there are techniques that would work that we generally wouldn’t have thought of. I’m sorry you had a poor experience with your quilt class. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Greatly appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

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