As some of you may know I am in a season of trying new things. One of the things that I am pursuing lately is sewing. While I have sewed some in the past, I have never taken a class before and I felt there was a lot I could learn. I am enjoying the new challenges and the creative atmosphere. However, there are some things I've noted in my role as a student that I would like to share. As a teacher, I may have never noticed how these things came across. I am unaware if I have done them myself, but as a student I have a new perspective.
Sewing is something that I have tried to take up on more than one occasion. As a child, I had an adult that tried to show me how to use a sewing machine, but I proved to be unteachable I guess and was told to continue sewing with a needle and thread. I've been able to sew by hand since I was very young. My mom taught me how to do simple stitches and repair clothes. From there I ventured into making some things such as table cloths and skirts. I do pretty well with my hands, but the machine always eluded me. I realized that this is how some students might feel about some subjects they've never been too good at such as math or reading. When I was in school, learning came fairly easily for me. I was never a student that needed much attention from the teacher. Sewing is a little bit different for me. For one, I don't know all of the terminology and so when the teacher is using all of the terminology she might as well be speaking in another language. I think people forget that when one is new to something it is easy to get lost. Teachers start to sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown and it isn't because of boredom, but because the brain is actually struggling to make sense. As my teacher goes on and on explaining something, I'll think to myself now what did she say again or what did she do again, but she's already moved on to step five while I am still trying to figure out what she did in the first step. I end up being the student that asks my neighbor, "What did she say to do?" Yes, it's been quite interesting. It certainly has given me some perspective.
Here is the thing that is interesting though, as adults there are a lot of things that we say. All the time. Especially to children. I was sitting in my class, working with the machine when I couldn't figure out how to make the needle catch the thread from the bobbin. It turns out I hadn't put it in correctly and as my teacher is fiddling to see what is wrong and explaining it to me, my head is just hearing all these words I don't know and I am not quite sure how to do what she is asking of me. It barely had been a second since she stopped talking that she looks at me and says, "Well do it. I am not going to do it for you." I looked at her and since I am an adult I was able to say, "I'm sorry. I just don't understand what it is that you want me to do." She calmed her tone and explained it to me a little differently and it somehow clicked for me that time. Since I am a teacher, I instantly began to reflect on that circumstance. I thought to myself, if I was a 5 year old, scared, and feeling stupid hearing an adult say something like "I am not going to do it for you" as if that is my intention would make me think twice about asking for help. I would feel as if I was caught in a catch 22. I am supposed to ask questions, but when I genuinely don't understand I am accused of just trying to get the teacher to do the work for me. I thought to myself, I am an adult. I am here because I do want to do it myself so I can actually go home and do this by myself. I let it go. As an adult I can do that. I can allow things that others say to not offend me, but would it be that easy for a child? Children are usually still working on dealing with their emotions. How much would something so casual that a lot of adults say to children, in fact hinder their learning environment?
Later, I made another mistake. This time I was asked, "Did you not listen when [name]....?" This time I am being accused for doing something wrong. It is my fault. I have obviously not listened because if I had, I would be doing it correctly. Now, it is hard to tell when children are in fact not listening and when they are simply not following directions. But I know as an adult I do not appreciate that sort of treatment so I would venture to say that children should be treated with the type of respect that we as adults would like to be treated. I recall one day being particularly frustrating when I was trying to explain to some students in third grade how to complete their assignment. I restated the directions at least 5 times. I got incredibly exasperated and I felt they were not listening. Now, while some of the children were trying to begin the assignment before making sure they understood the directions, upon reflection I realize that that is the only time I can recall this event happening. I normally did not have to answer the same questions over and over. I realize as well, that that particularly assignment was incredibly hard for the children. So now I am wondering if it wasn't that they were not listening, but it was genuinely hard for the students. What if we gave children the benefit of the doubt a little more often? At the very least not be so quick to assume that children are choosing not to listen.
For me, I am going to continue to go to class and once I have learned enough, I will be able to continue to self teach myself at home. I am an adult. I've had tons of experience and I have the self confidence to know that even though this is hard for me, I will learn how to do it. I am a self motivated learner. That is essentially our goal as teachers. We want our students to be self motivated learners because at the end of the day what they don't know doesn't really matter. What matters is that they know how to learn and that they have the motivation to figure things out. Luckily for us, children are resilient and manage to do many things despite our failures.
December 6 2016