Teachers and Criticism

Version 2

Mug Rug Class Project

In the past, I’ve gotten praise for my teaching.  I work hard at trying to present things clearly.  I spend a lot of time drawing diagrams and re-writing captions and trying to present things as clearly as possible in handouts and my newsletter, and also in classes.

I recognize that I’m not perfect in this endeavor; sometimes my attempts to explain things fall flat and I have to figure out another way to present a skill.  I’ve had some failures…which have made me feel pretty bad.  Not everyone grasps a technique in a quick class that I’ve sometimes spent days (literally) working on and figuring out.  And sometimes I haven’t realized when I’ve done something that isn’t generalizable to other circumstances, and present it to students as if it is.

And, sometimes I’ve been “nice” and let too many people into a class, and then I don’t catch students’ mistakes early enough because I don’t have time to visit each person after each step.  When students realize that they’ve made a big mistake early in the class… and have to undo a lot of work to make it right… they get frustrated.  So do I.  I’ve made a commitment to keep class sizes limited.

But I try, I really do.  I try very hard to be a good teacher.  Nothing makes me happier than when I see someone use a technique that I taught them and then branch out and figure out their own way to make it a beautiful braided project.

This past weekend I worked with Carolyn Newcomer and Pat Beltz on the Gathering of the Guilds in Harrisburg.  They’ve renamed it Fiber Fest or something but I still call it the Gathering of the Guilds.  Mary Emrich also helped us out (thank you).  We taught two classes, utilizing a rather time-consuming-to-make little mug rug kit, and most although not all people finished the project in the class.  I briefly got to see some of the other guilds that were there (basket-makers, wheat-weavers, knitters, crocheters, quilters, rug hookers, embroiderers, etc).

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Trivet that I’ve decided to sell at the Fort Hunter Museum needlework exhibit in May.

There was one woman who showed up just as the morning class was starting.  She was very disappointed that the class was full and asked if she could be squeezed in.  Because we already had squeezed in one other person, and had 11 students, I said no, but that there were plenty of spots open in the afternoon class; maybe she could take it then.  She said she couldn’t take it in the afternoon because she had already signed up for an afternoon class.  She left very angrily, muttering loudly that she had skipped a funeral in order to come and learn rug braiding.

She then proceeded to go up and down the hallway, telling everyone she encountered about what a b—- I was.  The students in the afternoon class (which also filled) all had heard her angry descriptions of our interaction, which was presented a bit differently from how I just presented it.  Even the next day, Carolyn continued to hear about how awful I had been from people this woman had talked to.

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Another trivet that I’ll be selling

I wrote to the woman who runs the Gathering of the Guilds, and she essentially told me not to worry about it:  you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and she knows that Carolyn and I have a good history with teaching there; she hinted that maybe this woman wasn’t the easiest for her to deal with either.

My Dad — I stayed with my folks this past weekend — quoted our old minister from growing up, Pastor Spiegelholder.  I’m not a particularly religious person these days, but he was a big figure in my life when I was a kid and he was one of those terribly kind but firm men who could make you feel okay, even when he told you that you were screwing up or just plain wrong.  I don’t think I ever heard him raise his voice, even when he was clarifying arguments and settling them.  In my childhood mind, he and Abraham Lincoln and Mr. Rogers were all mixed together in my mind as just about the same person:  tall, slender, reasonable, moral, kind, and intelligent.

Anyway, Dad said that several times he had heard Pastor S. say that if you weren’t being criticized, you probably hadn’t been doing much of anything lately.

That quote made me feel a little better, it really did.  We all are going to be criticized, no matter how hard we try.  We all are going to tick people off from time to time, even if it’s unintentional.  And we all are going to have some angry person tell everyone they know about how awful we are.

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A 6-braid trivet that I also plan to sell

In the meantime, Carolyn and Pat and Mary and I taught 22 people how to braid this past weekend and I think a few students enjoyed it enough that they might pursue it further.  I’ll just have to focus on that.

Freedom and Twisted Centers

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Friends Dianne and Kris, outside of Cushing’s Dye shop on a recent visit to Maine

I just dropped my husband off at the airport.

Let me repeat that statement, and this time as you read it, infuse the sentence with a strong sense of relief and joy and just maybe the tiniest bit of guilt:

I just dropped my husband off at the airport!!!

First, let me reassure you that 95% of the time, I am happily married. Both of us have our quirks, but I think we muddle along fairly well together, and we are tolerant of each others’ (mainly MY) foibles and flaws. He is a good and kind man and I love him.

BUT, he has this annoying tendency to become irritated when wool fabric covers every available surface in the house. I can’t imagine why. The other day as he cleared a space on the dining room table so that he could use his laptop, he dropped a stack of wool about 2 feet high into my lap. (I had just finished washing and folding it, so I had placed it on the table). Then he quietly and dramatically sat down in his chair and opened his laptop, and said nothing… but the criticism was heavy in the air:  I could feel it.

So every once in awhile, it’s nice to have all of the silent censures removed. I have 48 hours in which I am completely free from criticism and can cover every surface in the house with wool with impunity.

However, I think I will have to spend some of my censure-free time clearing off the dining room table.

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Maple Leaf in Progress

In the meantime, I finished another twisted center flower sample for the class I’ll be teaching at the VF braid in. I have also been working on the maple leaf for the Rug Challenge “Four Seasons” this year. Yes, I know, my autumnal maple leaf represents only one season, but…it will have to do. In any case, I have been finding that the twisted center technique that I’ll be teaching is very useful for filling in strange little narrow spaces between some of the maple leaf edges. Here’s a small example, see photo below:

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Twisted Center technique used to fill in the narrow and elongated triangle between braids

I am enjoying the colors in the leaf, and I’ve been looking forward to starting this heathery red/orange row. I am just a little nervous about having enough of this fabric to finish a row, so I’ve been filling in odd spaces between leaf veins with the prior orange color. Some of the spaces I’ve filled in have been very odd little triangles, and I’ve had to be a bit creative to get them filled. I have thought of allowing a few holes in the leaves… don’t bugs chew holes in leaves sometimes? But I decided there would be no hungry insects for this leaf, and that’s that. Besides, it’s sort of fun to figure out how to braid the weird shapes.

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Weird triangular shape created to fill a space

The list of braid in attendees is up to 34! So if you’re thinking of going to the Valley Forge Spring Braid In, please sign up soon! We can accommodate up to 50 people. A couple classes have filled, but the majority of classes still have openings.