Monday, November 05, 2007

Kittenish

At first I thought we just had a weird cat. He likes to dress up in doll clothes. GIRLS doll clothes. Then I got this email... Evidently it's a movement. And who's on the cutting edge of it?

Shiloh.

Yep, apparently while I'm out earning a living running all over hells half acre teaching knitting skills to stunning women (all of whom are fabulous...) he's out gallivanting at the Minnesota/St. Paul Airport, trying on American Girl doll clothes.

How do I know? He was captured by the paparazzi. Or should I say puppy-razzi...

So we're keeping a low profile. When I left to walk Max to the bus the photogs were 12 deep in front of our house. Hoping for a glimpse of Shiloh, evidently.

I Love St. Paul in Autumn
(how 'bout you?)
Being home for more than 4 days is a unique and wonderful experience, and also a chance to catch up on some work that's needed to be done. Winterizing - that's the ticket! So I'm going to run down to the nursery today and grab some bulbs and FINALLY get some into the ground before the frost comes. Or did that happen already...?

Then I can pretend that I'm sort of gardening. Last week I finally trimmed our hedges, what's next - putting the garden to bed? Folks here are serious about gardening, so I'd better get on the stick. My reward? A lovely pumpkin cake, baked in a bundt pan, which the entire family is enjoying (Thank you, L&L!)

Another thing they're serious about is KNITTING, which is one of the reasons I dragged my poor family halfway across the country to this Midwestern paradise, and I'm so gratified every time I see folks sitting around knitting at school events, coffee shops, police lineups (oops, didn't mean to mention that last one. Damn kitten.)

I taught two classes at Borealis Yarns on Saturday (incidentally, they have a cat dressed up on their webpage - maybe it's a St. Paul thing...?), and the folks there were so wonderful! It was my first time meeting Abby, the owner, who - along with Carol - took me out to the Ginkgo Cafe for lunch. Very good! I like this shop very much, and if I didn't live within walking distance of the dear Yarnery, I'd be at Borealis once a week! I may just drop by for the Tuesday night knitting, at any rate...

The Borealis classes were pretty crowded - not lots of room to move around - but we got by one way or another! It made the rules more important than ever, though.

Anyone who's taken a class with me knows my rules (yes, free-spirit Annie has rules. Obey or suffer.) So for those of you who haven't yet taken a class with me, here they are:

Rule #1
You are NOT allowed to say anything about yourself in class that you wouldn't want to hear your daughter say about herself.

This seems pretty much self explanatory (except for the time I had Joan Crawford in a class.)

I don't like folks to talk themselves down - they pay me good money to do that myself, and if I let them do it, then I'm superfluous.

Seriously, though, words have power.

Not using certain words - ie,
"I stink!" "I suck!" "I can't do this, I'm stupid!" is one way to get my students to begin to wrap their minds around the concept that they have ALL the knowledge they need already within them.

My job is to bring this knowledge together in a useful way so they can connect the dots and remember the techniques.

Rule #2
When I'm talking, I should be the only one talking.

This is from my Brownie Leader days, but it serves me in good stead. Talking is a distraction and disrespectful, not just to me, but to the other students.

I lose my place, I become distracted, and then we lose precious time while I vamp about my 5th grade sleep away camp experience while I try to remember where I was in the class.

Plus, the folks sitting next to the talker have a hard time fully concentrating. I'm doing this for your own safety, the annoyed knitter next to you has sharp objects within reach.

Rule #3
Do NOT rip out in my class!!

I don't mean that folks should NEVER rip out - I rip out frequently (I think of working through those rip-out knots as my own kind of sudoko - time consuming but fun and challenging)

My intention is that if folks make a mistake that they can't solve in class, I'd like them to let me know, and we can go over it together and use it as a learning experience. I LIKE folks to make mistakes - I often say that if one isn't making a mistake in my classes, one isn't trying.

Mistakes - if we choose to embrace them and learn from them - can be a way to discover several new ways to do something. But I have to be able to SEE the mistake myself in order to give any sensible suggestion on how something might be fixed.

Few things are as frustrating to me as having someone try to describe a mistake to me, ask me how to fix it, and see the tangled mess of yarn in front of them
(knowing that just 3 minutes earlier they had the errant swatch in their hands - and I could have really helped them quite a bit - had they not let some misplaced sense of shame force them to rip out the swatch.)

What usually happens is that as soon as I pick up a swatch and look at it
(and, if you ever take a class with me, please DO let me take the swatch out of your hand! Don't fight me, one of us will end up with the yarn, and one of us will end up with the needles...) the knitter has a mental connection and they'll understand very clearly what happened - even before I do!

Sometimes it just takes someone else looking at your work for something to click.
Improving ME /Improving YOU
I can be kind of blunt about my need for students to follow these three rules. I'm finding that lately I have less patience than I used to for folks who just refuse to help me out by following rule #2 - and patience is the most important thing to have when teaching.

So my goal as I continue teaching is to find inventive and kind ways of getting folks to follow these three rules - to make the class more comfortable for everyone, and more useful for THEM!

Knitting Update
On the knitting end, I have some patterns to write up, and some designs to work through. I think I'm getting back on track for the Historic Knits book (working title) and I have a few designs that should be out soon for sale on my website.

And I'm really digging Ravelry. I already love Flickr, this takes the whole using photos while talking about your work to a new level. Knitters are geeks - thank god.
Right now I'm working up a version of Backyard Leaves in two colors (Autumnal) for my class in Virginia at On The Lamb,

finishing a Tilli Tomas cardigan and shell,
working on a Chameleon Creations summer top
and pondering life. And Max's Heel.

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17 Comments:

Anonymous kmkat said...

Bloglines is finally picking up your blog when you post -- yay! And I love the way you PhotoShopped the knitting pix; they are worthy of framing (as is your real-life knitting, but I'm to shy to say that ;-)

November 05, 2007 12:03 PM  
Blogger OfTroy said...

YUP! Mistakes are the best thing a knitter can do in a class.. you can only make mistakes if you are trying.. and learning..

the more you try (something new) the more mistakes you are going to make.. but mistakes are all opportunites to learn.. (to learn you are human, and humams by their very nature are flawed, and make mistakes) to learn to identify mistakes (is that a wonderful day, when you can look at something, and see a mistake? at first you couldn't tell knit from purl, but suddenly you can see mistake knit (that should be a purl, and visa versa!) what an acheivement in knitting skill!

I am a great knitter, (and a good teacher) and i got this way because i have made way more mistakes than most of my students.. and each mistake has taught me something..

Mistakes are great ways to learn!

November 05, 2007 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Teresa said...

Love the rules, espically #2.

November 05, 2007 2:37 PM  
Blogger Knitting Linguist said...

I really like rule #1. I may have to try that in my classes. I've almost given up on rule #2; trying to convince college students not to talk seems to be a losing battle these days (and if you take away the talking, they head for instant messenger). I was once reduced to jumping up and down in front of a class yelling, "It's all about me now people!!" It actually worked for a while :)

November 05, 2007 3:09 PM  
Anonymous Maria said...

What a tease! You show us photoshopped photos, and leave us hanging. Sheesh!

November 05, 2007 3:32 PM  
Blogger SandraTee said...

I have reviewed your classroom rules and promise to be a good student at On the Lamb this weekend! I can get through anything this week knowing I have the weekend to look forward to...

November 05, 2007 5:54 PM  
Anonymous ellen in minnetonka said...

I laughed out loud at Rule #1 - and louder when I realized I had misinterpreted it. I thought you wanted us to keep the details of our sex lives out of class!

I like your interpretation much better.

November 05, 2007 6:49 PM  
Blogger Auntly H said...

I'm so glad you liked Borealis! Sorry I couldn't sneak into class - the to do list got out of hand - but it sounds like you had more than enough folks there.

Love the rules!

November 05, 2007 6:59 PM  
Anonymous Emily from SW Michigan said...

Max's sock is looking lovely! What tips can you offer for eliminating the gaps at the outside edges (near the ankle bones)when you first start the heel? Did you reorient your needles just for the purpose of the picture? I've just started using an afterthought heel and love it, except for the gaposis!

November 05, 2007 7:07 PM  
Anonymous Kathleen C. said...

I can't wait to see the Backyard Leaves-two colors in person. I'm very excited about this class... I've tried starting that scarf twice and neither time liked the way it looked. I think it was my yarn choices.
I'll buy the kind On the Lamb is suggesting this time.
I will try really, really, reaaaaally hard to obey the rules. They are indeed good rules.

November 06, 2007 2:16 PM  
Blogger Having a Knit Fitt said...

Thought you and Shiloh might enjoy this website - www.petoffice.co.jp/catprin/english
Cate

November 07, 2007 8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now who doesn't love dressing a cat up?


http://sweatersurgery.blogspot.com/2007/10/drunk-divorced-covered-in-cat-sweater.html

Stef

November 07, 2007 11:21 AM  
Anonymous Natasha said...

Comments on your flickr pics; the backyard leaves scarf looks awesome, I love the colour combination.
The socks; I've never seen a heel worked like that... is that in one of your patterns? Where could I find it to learn it? One of my favourite things about the knitting community is learning all the different ways to do pretty much the same thing; people's ingenuity astounds me!
The bathing suit: I ABSOLUTELY LOVE!! In fact, I can think of about 10 different ways to wear it that don't actually involve bathing at all. And I have to say, that I like the change from the usual patterns for teeny bikinis that I see. You're awesome!

November 08, 2007 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find your rules interesting and necessary. I attended your class and found your enforcement of the rules to be quite harsh. Please remember your students are people with feelings. You asked us to ask our neighbour if we were having trouble, yet threw a fit when we quietly did that. Yes we were quiet, we were whispering, and you were talking to other students.
Perhaps if you have trouble managing your temper in class you need to re-examine your reasons for teaching. It should be fun for all involved.
I felt I needed to say this.
Sorry for posting anonymous, I don't have a blogger account.

November 22, 2007 10:47 AM  
Blogger Annie said...

You don't have to post anonymously, you don't have to have a blogger account to leave your name.

But it's not necessary, I know exactly who you are. I knew when I asked you (not angrily) to please keep it down so I could say something for the WHOLE class to hear and you replied, in a rather offended manner, "Oh, excuse me!"

You had no idea of how loud or disruptive your constant (yes, constant) chattering with your friend was, and also apparently didn't catch that I'd asked several folks to please be quiet.

If you choose to take a class, please be aware that your chattering and talking - all through the class - has an impact on everyone.

And also remember that teachers have feelings, too. When you sulk or glare at a teacher through a class, it begins to wear down our souls.

I put myself out there, writing about my teaching publicly. The least you could do would be to either speak or write to me privately if you wish to remain anonymous to the public, or put your name to your rather unfair comments.

As for losing my temper - I don't think I did, but I know that I WAS firm with folks who continuously chattered in class (like yourself)

Yes, I was firm with you because it's my job to make sure that everyone in class has as good an experience as they are prepared to have. Please consider this before you take another knitting class.

I've had many, MANY emails from folks thanking me for keeping control in classes. Several folks have told me that they stopped taking knitting classes because they tend to dissolve into a loud, confusing mass of sound.

I try to keep control in my class, feeling that if folks are paying to take a class with me, they can be quiet for 3 hours. If this is too hard for you, you should definitely not take another class with me.

November 22, 2007 11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, you don't know who I am. I did not talk constantly with my friend, I did not know the people sitting on either side of me.
You were not addressing the whole class. You were speaking to a small group of 2 people.
I am a teacher as well, I know the frustration of having to teach when students are talking. I love teaching and would never speak to a student, or any other person the way you spoke to others in the group.
My question to you is, do you love teaching? Do you take joy in each class?
Faye

November 22, 2007 3:05 PM  
Blogger Annie said...

I take full joy my in classes - in just about everything I do - but I don't take joy in resentful students. The scowl on your face for most of the class was among one of the most sullen I've ever seen.

Here's a note I received last night from someone who was in the class you attended (as well as several others I taught over the past 2 days)

I just had to write and tell you how inspired I am after yesterdays class. I like the way you take command of the class room.

So many times I have paid for a class and the women chit chat through the whole thing. This really disturbs me I am there to learn, not have a gossip party. I am so glad that you ask the class to listen and not chat. It sure makes it easier on you and much more enjoyable for those of us that want to learn.

Once again THANK YOU. You are a wonderful teacher.


I usually don't post comments from students - and I do get them quite often after I teach a class - but for the most part I keep them private.

However, the tone of your comments is consistent with the attitude you gave off during class; resentful and offended.

It's hard to see how someone asking you not to chatter during a class is enough to hurt you so deeply, I think you came in looking to be a bit bothered.

Whatever your own personal experience in my class, I feel certain that had I not asked you to keep your voice down, you would have made the class more difficult for others around you.

I assumed that you did know the women around you as you kept talking with the woman to your left - pretty much non-stop - through the class.

November 22, 2007 4:18 PM  

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