Be sure to read The Evolution of a Teacher, Part 1 first! This post will make a bit more sense!
Yesterday I started telling the story of my teaching & left you at the point where I had observed Kathryn teaching.
I went home & had a serious discussion with myself on how I taught & how I could possibly move forward. This is what I knew:
1. I didn’t like how my current classes were going. The students didn’t own their work & it seemed to me that they weren’t looking forward to what they could make in the future. I feel that education should spur the student to take the lesson, make it their own & move forward. That wasn’t happening.
2. I could tell that the kids I was working with had a lot of stresses put upon them. They also had a lot of “this is how it’s done.” And in a way, my project based class was just adding to that burden.
3. I wanted the students to love sewing, & I didn’t feel that they were falling in love with sewing. Yes they had a good time & enjoyed class, but I didn’t feel they loved sewing so much they wanted to convince their parents to buy them a machine & again, own their sewing experience.
So I sat down thinking how I could change the class. I wanted them to love the medium of sewing. I also wanted their creativity to come through & for them to own their projects. I knew that collage was a large part of Kathryn’s studio work (have you read Collette?) & quickly realized paper collage can easily be translated into fabric collage! Thus the Fabric Collage Class was born.
The first class was a hit! It was so much fun & drastically different. I began by giving the sewing machine rules & then guidelines/suggestions for how to make their collage & then I let them go. We started by using 6″ squares of white fabric. I’ve included pictures of their work throughout this post.
The class also just ran smoother. There was more listening & fewer distractions. They were more willing to focus to thread the needle. There were fewer needles that became unthreaded. It was a completely different class from the project based classes.
I also was strict about us having clean-up time & Celebration time. There were fewer clean-up protests, & Celebration time allowed us to stop & talk about their work. There’s more I want to say about Celebration time, but I’m going to leave that for another post.
The next series I taught was 3-D Creations. Here I went through the basics on how to add dimension to our fabric pieces, mostly using the technique of adding “stuffing” or poly-fil. Here was struck me was that they didn’t just create art, they also created elaborate stories as they worked. The art became bigger than just the fabric- it became part of something else- something entirely theirs they needed to bring to life & share with the world.
I love how this method of teaching inspires the students to act on their own. I love how given the chance to have reasonable responsibility, 8-10 year olds are able to safely & efficiently use the sewing machine. I love how this encourages to ask “what next?” They are constantly evaluating their work and asking how can it improve.
The greatest gift I received was this past May when I had two repeat students & on the first day one told me all the things she had made over Christmas break (a sewing machine cover, an infinity scarf, more dolls & all of these weren’t from patterns- she knew what she wanted & planned out from her ideas how to make these!) & another told me she had asked for a space in the basement where she could keep her sewing machine up at all times, so she could easily go & sew whenever she liked.
These students are learning more than how to sew. They are learning to work through problems thoroughly. They are learning to be present while working. They are learning how to ask questions & search out answers themselves. To deal with challenges as they arise. They are telling stories in a new way. They are using math & applying design techniques and evening learning some physics along the way. And they are doing all of this through intentional play.