*Authors note: I started this blog post a couple of years ago and now have no clue why I started this post, though I have some suspicions. The longing to be a better teacher will remain constant, as well as the longing to learn more about quilt making in all it’s variations. This is NOT a serious Look, nor is it meant to be.
I long to be a better teacher. There are some very practical things I know I can do to achieve that goal, tweaking handouts, listening to my students, reading comments, and simply teaching. Part of this is understanding what I do better from the practical and technical, to the artistic, recognizing that I don’t know everything, that there is more than one way to piece, and quilt.
In this wondering how to be a better teacher an experience has come right to my doorstep that has really had me reeling, in a way that is similar to the experience of learning to machine quilt. This has brought back not only those experiences to the forefront of my brain, but going further back to school. There were times that I just could not wrap my head around a concept no matter how the teacher/instructor explained.
Perhaps the first 10 years as a quilter the progress was subtle, the learning curve not quite so steep, because the goal was to simply quilt. Watching Alex Anderson, attending guild meetings, participating in message boards, and reading blogs were the greatest source of education. Each quilt built upon the next with subtle changes along the way. I had time to learn the language of quilt making in a way that made sense to me, that engaged my brain, allowing me to process information about the hows, whys, and wherefores of the quilt making language, there was time to learn the colloquialisms and subtleties of the language that give greater understanding of the whole of quilt making. All of this puts me, currently, squarely in high school tutoring the younger kids.
It also puts me back in kindergarten learning how to color. Okay that’s not exactly right, not all the way back to kindergarten, but more like when I was first learning to machine quilt. Those moments when I really wanted everything to just go smoothly and come out right the first time, and it’s just not happening. There are things that need to be tweaked and changed and I need to know what they are in order for those changes to happen.
In a way it’s a simple thing however, having the right teacher use the right language makes a huge difference.
There are a few components that make it easier:
1) having the right teacher,
2) being willing to learn, and
3) a willingness to admit/accept that you’re not in the right student teacher relationship. I know I’m not the right fit as a teacher for everyone, however I submit that we can all learn from each other. I do have a lot to offer in part because I teach both the “rules” and “break the rules with reckless abandon”. I teach these types of classes because of my own experience as a quilter.
As a beginner quilt maker, I needed to learn the Language of Quilting, which like English, which is an incredibly complicated language with it’s nuances and colloquialisms, most are dependent upon the country, state, and region. There are a lot of commonalities that make communication possible. The opportunities for learning to communicate well are endless, as long as we’re willing to learn.
Once you “get” the Language of Quilting things become so much easier and complicated in the same moment. Easier in understanding the steps to take while making a quilt and knowing how to ask questions to get the answers needed to complete the quilt desired and find the region of quilt making that is “home” for us. Some quilters float easily between regions learning local dialects, giving them a broad range and understanding of The Language of Quilting.
The Language of Quilting is, like Latin, the foundation for language formation in the Western world.
Tradition! – Tradition! has a wide range and is, like Latin is the foundation for many Western language, the base language of The Language of Quilting. This is where most Quilters begin to learn the language and where a lot stay. Tradition! is the most easily understood, and like English the most complicated (though, enough) with phrases like “scant quarter inch seam”, “accurate quarter inch seam” and “personal seam allowance” all having similar meanings but clearly different pronunciations. A quilter does not need to have a full and complete understanding of Tradition! to learn any other dialects.
ArtSpeak – has a wide range of dialects that are interrelated and varied. This dialect has as its foundation Tradition! and a strong relationship with “Art Speak” in the every day Language. With colloquialisms such as “color wheel”, “found objects”, “what is a quarter inch seam”, “flowing line” and “this quilt is meant to hang on a wall” ArtSpeak has an eclectic air about it. ArtSpeak is an essential dialect as it keeps Tradition! on it’s toes, broadening it’s understanding and depth.
AuthorEase – This is the written language of Tradition! with nuanced Pattern Writer and Quilt Blogger dialects. AuthorEase becomes complicated in the substructure, rather than in what we hear and read in it. Pattern Writer and Quilt Blogger are essential components of this dialect as they add to the overall understanding of The Language of Quilting in general and AuthorEase specifically. Most quilters encounter AuthorEase through Pattern Writer and Quilt Blogger.
Teacher – This is the interstate dialect. Not everyone can speak Teacher as it incorporates all other dialects and is dependent upon the speaker pronouncing and the hearer listening closely. In reading Teacher it is a warm, welcoming dialect that sometimes sounds a lot like ArtSpeak and AuthorEase as Teacher makes full use of these dialects. Everyone can understand Teacher, though I’ve heard there are exceptions to this rule.
FreeMotionMachineQuilting – this is a dialect that many quilters want to speak and can. It is at once quite common and esoteric incorporating the base of Thread, Needle, Tension, and Other Factors*. Many quilters find this language frustrating to learn, however once the speed and rhythm slow down it’s quite easy to speak. There are two approaches to learning FreeMotionMachineQuilting – home sewing machine and long arm quilting machine. Some Teachers (and speakers/quilters) of the language know both as there are so many commonalities. FreeMotionMachineQuilting is highly expressive, vibrantly colored, and a joy to listen to.