My students, eleven of them, came from all walks of life and from all over. There was a high school student from Nanaimo, a nanny who drove from Hoboken, New Jersey, a vet from Saskatchewan. Someone travelled down from Yellowknife. Everyone was delightful; I spent the week telling everyone I met that I couldn't have had a better group of students for my first time teaching Level 1 if Olds College Administration had hand-picked them for me. None of them knew each other before the class. Long before week's end, they were a team and it showed in their work. They were experienced spinners who were open to new things and those who were more familiar with some material helped others who were not. It was a beautiful thing to watch.
I love teaching anyone and anything, but I especially like teaching people who are fairly new to whatever path they're walking because those people teach me the most about what I need to know. I usually teach people who may not want to learn what they need to know, children and people who are brand new to the fibre world. I talk a lot (which is the usual mode for me when I'm out in the world, but I talk more when I'm teaching) because I'm concerned that I'll miss something that people need to know and fully understand. I jump in to solve every problem or anything that looks like it might become one. I micro-manage because my experiences have taught me that it's necessary given the material and people I teach. This class was not that.
I learned that I don't need to solve every problem NOW or even at all. I learned that students are perfectly capable of organizing themselves and working out solutions for what they need to learn and doing a better job of it than I can in many instances. I am the facilitator with the basic knowledge, plan and guidebook. I'm there to get them going, to provide the general map and to help them navigate the rough patches, but otherwise, I can step back. By mid-week, my mantra to them was, "You've got this." And they did.
I also learned a lot from the Administrative Team which has taken over the Fibre Week programme. Zach, Kori, Judy and the rest of the team were new to Fibre Week and new to fibre, but they did a great job of organizing (herding cats, really) for both students and instructors. If I had a problem, they helped me solve it as soon as possible. They patiently did everything asked of them and more. They cheerfully participated in the after class events when I'm sure all they wanted to do was go home and get some sleep. Between their team and my class, they demonstrated how well things flow when everyone works together. That is a very valuable lesson.
What might my students have learned from me? I will be receiving the evaluations from the class and I've asked them to be kind but frank because I need to know my strengths and weaknesses should I teach in this programme again, but I think I may have shown them that, as much as I love fibre and I'm passionate about what I do, not everything has to be SERIOUS BUSINESS. It is possible to laugh and study and work at the same time. (Except during the surprise pop quiz. Then it is not.) It is important to do the required work to the best of one's ability, but the world will not end if you or I make a mistake. I certainly made my share of them during the class and that's just fine. All was well in the end and everyone still discovered what they needed to know. Sometimes, mistakes and accidents are learning lessons. (Ask me about the hands on lesson in HazMat Safety we had at the beginning of dye day. I'm always happy to be the cautionary tale.) There must be Joy in whatever we do; otherwise, why are we doing it?
I'll end with a few photographs and a big "Thank You!" to my students, fellow instructors, Zach and his fine team, Olds College employees, volunteers and everyone else who made Fibre Week 2014 such a wonderful experience. For privacy reasons, I'm not going to identify people in the photos, but you know who you are and what you did. We've got this!
|My poppy beds are still spectacular!|
|The view from my townhouse door, around 9:30 pm on Tuesday. It stays light long into the night.|
|The campus grounds are beautiful. This is a shot of one of the calla lilies.|
|Team work: sorting mordanted skeins.|
|More teamwork, more sorting.|
|How to dye safely|
|Bubble, bubble, this is no trouble.|
|From white yarn to this, using natural plant dyes!|
|End of dye day. Note the difference between the colours in the middle bunch, which were handspun yarns, and the colours around it, which were commercial yarns. All are beautiful, but the handspun yarns took the dyes far more intensely.|
|Last day: are we happy?|