Teachers and Criticism

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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.

14 thoughts on “Teachers and Criticism

  1. Christine!
    Dianne here. She DIDN’T criticize your teaching. She criticized not being let into the class. She didn’t sign up or was late. I put that on her. When I usher at Mondavi and have to keep latecomers out until classical pieces are over, they complain but they were late.
    You are a great teacher, diagrammer, writer AND friend! Concentrate on that and let her go! XXOXX

  2. I’m so glad you stood your ground Christine and didn’t give in to her huffing and puffing – I think you’d have felt much worse if you had agreed to let her enter late. If you had allowed her late entry, the experience might’ve turned out bad for the entire class due to her toxic character. Good for you – that was a sound decision to protect the ones who arrived on time and ready to learn.

  3. Christine you must remember that some people are not used to being told no. They probably get their way most times in their life. They have a responsibility to be prepared, when you ask a question, to expect yes or no and deal with the answer. Her problem.

  4. There are people in this world that believe that rules are made for everyone… except them. You can’t beat yourself up, she was wrong. You played by the rules and did what was best for the students in your class that signed up for the class when they were supposed to, arrived on time and were ready to learn.

    My mother used to tell me that there are people that are happy only when being miserable, complaining, and making life unbearable for those around them. I’ll bet that this ‘lady’ falls right into that slot. Be happy you sent her away.

  5. Christine, some people are rarely told no in their lifetime. When she asked you if you could squeeze one more in the class she should be prepared for a yes or no. This is not your problem, it is hers. You go above and beyond teaching and are continuously finding new ways for us to learn which helps me immensely.
    Thank you Cheryl

  6. No one puts in more time and helps all than you.  The woman should not have blamed you – some people feel “entitled” to be allowed to do or have whatever they want. They do not deserve to be allowed any entitlements. I’m sure that this was not her first and won’t be her last nasty complaint. We all feel privileged to know you and all you do. Shirley

  7. I cannot add anything to the comments you have all ready gotten from your loyal fans, of which there are many…and have you ever heard this quote “those that put their head above the crowd are the ones that get shot at”….that mean woman is the one with the problem…and she may even have early dementia. As you know, I have had some disgruntled students over the years and one was even going to sue me. Let the experience enrich you and stick to your standards! Nancy

    • Oh dear Nancy…sue you? That must have been an experience! You have put yourself out there for sincere learners and bless you as well Christine for what you each have done and continue to do.

  8. Christine, I’m sorry you had to endure this woman’s cruelty. It hurts to be treated with disrespect and whatever the reason is, it feels like a direct attack on your character, that hurts!! It will take time but you will realize what a great teacher and person you are. We are to learn from people and situations we go through but it’s normal to feel angry or hurt. Next time, cause there are those times all through life, say to the person–you seem a little upset, have you had a bad day? That usually diffuses them, and if that fails–say you sure are upset, did someone drop a house on your sister!! Then laugh and turn away! You proved you are the better person, and she showed her true character! People who join her aren’t worthy to be called your friend.
    Jackie

  9. One more thing?
    Your trivets are really cool!! They should sell really fast!!
    Take care
    Jackie

  10. I have noticed a trend toward people not getting what they want these days becoming very nasty about it, in general. Maybe it’s our historical emphasis on individual rights rather than community responsibility as in other countries. At any rate, this was just a nasty woman; push your ‘ignore’ button!

  11. Oh Christine I’m sorry as I know we teachers try to please our students. You said “no” with grace and kindness and that is the best we can do. I think we all get in situations where we don’t realize how we impact others and it sounds like she was defiantly not as aware as hopefully she is in other situations. I’m glad you wrote on this topic-hard to talk about but important. Thank you and hugs to you! Kris

  12. Great post!!! I’ve realized we can’t make everyone happy, but it still stings when they aren’t happy.

    Pam

    Sent from my iPhone

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  13. It is so neat to learn you taught at a Meeting of the Guilds and were included with some pretty high skilled crafts and received a respectable attendance. That in itself is very admirable. Your father reminded you of a very good quote and it is true. Keep in the teaching battle! Perhaps you can have a plan B for those who get turned away…like the next opportunity will be at ____ Braid-In or here are book and video resources (a handout).

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