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Archive for January 12th, 2009

Teaching Makes Me So Happy!

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Tonight I taught my first computer class of 2009 , at Haslett Community Education. I spent about a decade as a computer professional, full time. At this point, I am down to 2 hours a week teaching computers and the rest of my work life is spent in one or the other of the arts, whether instructing, writing or performing.

But really, teaching is its own artform. I was gifted with two parents who were exceptional instructors (Mom hasn’t stopped yet). They explained well to me, and somehow I learned how to explain well to others, even at a young age.

Teaching is a lot about intuition, some knowledge, relationship and specific teaching skills. We had training sessions on how to teach when I was a corporate computer trainer, for which I am still grateful.

So tonight I had thirteen people in class. Most are retirees, 8 were women and 5 were men (that is a higher proportion of men than usual). Eight have taken at least one term with me in some previous term. I joke that in community ed, there are no grades for the students, but if I do a good job some will choose to come back again because time with me is worth the effort.

I just plain love teaching. Sometimes before I leave home, I think “I just can’t bear the thought of teaching right now.” Then I get there, and I somehow become my best self.

I become more alive, more focused, more clear every minute I’m in front of the room. It seems the larger the group, the more effective I get (there were over 80 at Schulers last week and it was wonderful). I never would have imagined this, but I am happy with the situation!

I spent a lot of years not really knowing what I wanted to do when I grew up. I’m not sure if I’m grown up yet, but I am more clear about what I do best. Sometimes I say I’m a “professional explainer.” It’s a skill not everyone has.

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The Legacy

My father taught Communications. I remember in one class he put handouts on the chairs in the classroom before any students came in, then he sat at the front of the classroom with his feet up on a chair and waited to see what happened.

The students waited until it was clear that he was not going to lead, and soon enough the students were leading their own class based on the handouts. They spent time after this experience, evaluating how the roles of different folks in the room had evolved and what roles there were in the whole process.

One year Dad explained that each student needed to do something special to help him remember their name. Someone brought him a small goldfish bowl with two goldfish in it, and they were named Rosencrantz and Gildenstern. One guy went up and kicked dad in the tush, then shook his hand and said, “Hi, my name is —-.” That was a very effective way for that guy to stand out in Dad’s mine, and he was a bit impressed.

Mom teaches children to read. She works on not only English words that are on the list required by the powers that be, but also the value of coins: a nickel is 5 cents, a quarter is 25 cents.

My Grandma Illa (Mom’s mother, photo at left) was teacher at a one-room schoolhouse in Minnesota for years and years. When she retired, they closed the school because they could not find anyone willing to replace her.

She taught every student to play piano as well as their other subjects. When she died, I remember how many students came to the family visitation and said how they really appreciated the piano training far into adulthood.

My Mother’s father also was an educator. My mom has a sister who is an award-winning educator. I tried SO hard to be a secretary or something, anything that was not what my family did. And in the end? I’m good at what I’m good at… and I’m old enough now to embrace my destiny.

No pictures of me teaching, so here in addition to Grandma is an impromptu still life photo. This was my kitchen counter last week, and I took the shot without moving one item from its place.

Mom gave me the four colorful containers in the background a few years ago. The cookie jar was a wedding gift, and the rest of the items I’ve collected over the years (except for the tea which was a Christmas gift, no breakfast tea lasts long in this house).

For the record, that tiny red globe is a tomato that started on my porch in the warm season. It did turn red but it did not look quite edible and I ended up tossing it last week. I sure smiled to see it red in January, though!

Kate Jacobs at Schulers

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Last Sunday, the 4th, Rae and I were part of an event at Schuler Books. It was the world premiere of Kate Jacobs’ new book, Knit 2. As always, we had a great time. Schulers knows how to throw a bash, and Kate Jacobs is a class act. What a fine event it was.

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There were over 80 folks in attendance, and most were knitters. We knit squares which will be sewn together as afghans, to be auctioned off at Knit Michigan with proceeds going to Breast Cancer Research.

But the big deal was not the knitting, it was the new book and the author presentation. She read an excerpt of her book which was very enjoyable. I don’t read fiction much, I’m a research/how-to/history sort of reader, but I loved listening to her read the story. That was a big treat.

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We thought we might be teaching more folks to knit, when in fact so many were already knitting by the time I did my presentation it was more entertainment than education. I did pass out handouts that echo how I teach knitting, so I think some folks were planning to use it to help loved ones learn. That was an unexpected result, and a pleasant one. It was such a fun crowd!

Thanks once more to Whitney and the rest of the team at Schuler’s. It is always a delight to work there.