09 June, 2015
Letting Me In - Benefits of Being a Quilt Teacher
We sat laughing and secret sharing around a nondescript table in a junior high Home Ec room. Stories of siblings, child birth, and road trips. After a particularly racy story one of the ladies leaned over to me and whispered, "I hope you won't tell anyone this."
When I am invited to teach to a guild, in particular, there is something very special that happens. These are generally a group of women that know each other well, have spent many a Saturday or evening together sewing and chatting, and likely know a few secrets about each other. At best, they are there for each other when things are bad and celebrating together when things are good. At worst (and it really isn't worst) they know each other's fabric preferences and what kind of sewing will make them jumpy. Then there I am, a stranger thrust into the group.
Yes, I'm invited. Indeed, that is the reason I am there. They want to learn, to glean from the information and inspiration I can share. It is my job to be there and make sure they have a good day, with some challenges and more than a few a ha! moments.
The other people in the room are there because they chose to be there. Maybe they want to learn from me specifically? Or perhaps they sign up for every course the guild offers because they like to take classes? Sometimes they just want the day to sew and a class gets them out of the house (and away from family!)? Either way, they are taking time out of their lives to gather and sew. More than that, They are gathering together in a group that likely knows each other. Some better than others, but in a guild class the students generally know each other and I am the stranger in the room. It is a privileged position.
Conversations happen over the machines that will not happen anywhere else. Sometimes I am included in them, other times I am the observer or even the interloper. It is part of my job to judge when I am welcome in the conversation as much as it is to teach them how to make a perfect circle. And it is definitely part of my job to keep my mouth shut when we leave the room. The classroom is essentially a sacred space. Like an AA meeting, or a stitch and bitch at home, what is said there remains among the people there. As the teacher, I must respect that wholeheartedly.
As the teacher, I also see it as my role to create that special space. In a store or workshop setting where students don't necessarily know each other I like to build an atmosphere where there is chatting, sharing, laughing, and even a few secrets as we sew. If you know me or have ever taken a class with me you know that I am not one for keeping silent. So even if you don't talk, I will! It isn't about filling air time, however, it is about building trust and sharing. I want to invite you into my world so we have a shared story at the end of the day, not just some quilt blocks.
This is one of the reasons I love teaching so much. Of course I love to get people inspired and spread new techniques across the land. But it is the notion that I am invited in to a shared space and there is immediate trust that makes my job special. Knowing that people trust in me and feel so comfortable with me is a mark of success in my eyes. So no, I won't tell anyone what we said, no one at all.
Posted by Cheryl Arkison at 10:37 AM
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Cheryl, at The Quilt Shop, in Boone, NC where I lived until recently every Wednesday was a free sew day. Bring your machine, your projects and sew...there were tables and it was much as you described. It was almost a sacred space, set apart, and very special. I miss how it used to be for me on Wednesdays with the Quilty Girls. Thanks for your perfect description.
Well said, Cheryl......I love when that happens.
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