Thursday, May 7, 2009

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Beth Conky, Gwen, Mary, Sarah, Elaina, Faye Lewis, Cindy, Lois K, Summerset and Becky for talking back to my confession last Friday! I brought up the topic of teaching sewing and mentioned that I have a difficult time letting my students figure out things for themselves, as I always want to jump in and “fix” everything.

If you teach or are thinking of teaching sewing, then I definitely recommend that you take a minute to read the original comments (here), as these women shared a TON of helpful advice and many interesting stories!

But I’ll try to summarize (although it could be argued that brevity is not one of my strengths!) ;)

Summerset explained that, at a high level, teaching sewing is like teaching just about anything. You should start with a simple project and then progress to more and more challenging projects. (Elaina pointed out that “simple” includes the fabric – no taffetas or chiffons on day one, please!) At each stage, it’s important to set achievable goals for your student and make sure that YOU are prepared.

Others also mentioned the importance of knowing the patterns and machines that you’ll be teaching with inside and out; although Elaina also pointed out that she always lets her students know that no one is perfect and even with years of experience she still has the occasional “wadder.” Also, Beth Conky mentioned one disadvantage of being so much more experienced than your students – sometimes she forgets to go over steps that are now automatic for her.

Several people, like Sarah, recommended some variation of this strategy that Mary laid out for introducing each new skill or technique:
a) Show and explain (Gwen emphasized the importance of explaining WHY, not just how…)
b) Do it together
c) Let your student do it alone

People like Cindy and Elaina described a wide variety of teaching experiences and mentioned differences between teaching adults versus children, and girls versus boys. But what I found really interesting was that, even within one category (such as women), several emphasized the importance of being sensitive to individual differences across your students and adapting to each student’s learning style, speed, skill level and even standards. In fact, a couple mentioned that one of their biggest challenges was finding the right pace for each student – making sure that the lessons were neither boring nor overwhelming. Apparently in sewing lessons, as with clothes, there is no perfect “one-size-fits-all”!

Getting down to the specifics of what to teach, a couple of people mentioned how important and challenging it can be for students to master the vocabulary of sewing.

People also talked about the importance of “raising” independent sewers. Lois always teaches from the pattern instructions, so that her students learn to (and how to) use the pattern instructions when they are back at home and on their own. Elaina forces herself to let her students experience the process of making mistakes and fixing them themselves (if possible), although she and several others are careful to not let people get too overwhelmed and discouraged.

This is definitely an area that I need to work on, although it was reassuring to learn from Faye and others that I am not alone in my need to jump in and do things for my students! ;)

Finally, one last recurring theme – how wonderful it is to share this passion of ours with others and the joy and rewards that people receive from teaching sewing!

Thanks again to everyone! I wish I had asked this question before I started my lessons!

Photo credit: WorldIslandInfo


Zep said...

True - There is a "no one size fits all". This is why I let my students make what they want. I don't tell them what they have to sew. I also let them make their own schedule and pay as they go. We are all different humans for sure. A good teacher has patience to work with all levels.

Thanks for these posts! I've enjoyed them.

meredithp said...

Not a teacher of any sort (can't picture how I would do that), but I wanted to comment on the picture. I love it...I got such a laugh, all the little gomorahs? studying the geography of Japan.LOL