Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hang It (overreaction?)

I'm home, thank heaven, but I'm thinking of going on hiatus from teaching for a bit.

After I fulfill my current obligations, I don't think I'll be taking any more classes on for a while. Time off is needed. I'm feeling quite raw.

Different shops and areas seem to have different personalities. This was my first time in Kansas City (which was lovely), my first time teaching in Missouri (also lovely, very green). The folks were very nice, the classes seemed to be well received. The shop - Studio Knitting & Needlework - was filled with a lovely selection of all kinds of good yarns and needlepoint accessories.

But I had the nagging feeling that no matter what I said, it was going to be the wrong thing. I knew this came from inside of me, but it just felt so hard to get smiles from some knitters. I couldn't seem to put a foot right, I felt like I was failing miserably. It had to be me, (it must BE me), and I'm afraid unable to figure out how to be other than I am.

So with all of this soul searching all weekend - especially on the flight home - I came home to find an email telling me that I had failed as miserably as I feared.

I've seldom felt that any word, any movement, any comment I made in class might be offensive to someone - but it felt that way this weekend. Damn.

Whether this was just me (most likely), or circumstances, or the weather, or whatever, I don't know. It was an odd feeling, as though I were invading someone else's space. It's a wretched feeling.
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45 Comments:

Blogger ...e... said...

huh????

May 18, 2008 7:33 PM  
OpenID nexstitch said...

I hope everything is OK Annie. I've got that glazed-over, "Is she joking?" look on my face.

May 18, 2008 7:40 PM  
Blogger OfTroy said...

what i'm not the only one who has days where it seems i only open my mouth to change feet?

It happens. we all have off days.

i suspect you teach more on an off day than some do when they do their best.

No ones perfect and that includes you.

now that your feet have been washed with your tongue, sit back and let them dry off. they'll find your way your mouth again (but hopefull, not for a long time!

May 18, 2008 7:45 PM  
Blogger gemma said...

Dear Annie,
I would like you to come teach in my home town, and its warm even in winter ....

hugs, chin up, gemma

May 18, 2008 8:26 PM  
Blogger susanc said...

I am so surprised to read this Annie. I'm sorry that you had such a troubling time teaching this weekend. I know everyone has times like this and some times are worse than others. I'm sorry the email got you so upset/put-off. I, myself, would LOVE to take a class from you some day. Hang in there. I hope Gerry is getting some relief from the shingles and that Hannah and Max are doing well. Atticus too!

May 18, 2008 8:31 PM  
Blogger grey eyes said...

annie, i'm sorry that you were put off by that email and doubting yourself. i got so much out of the lace class and all the classes i've taken with you. i am a better knitter today because of you, and that is the honest truth. i hope you feel better soon.

love,
athena
xoxoxo

May 18, 2008 9:08 PM  
Blogger Renee said...

hang in there -- your own instincts are probably right -- take some time off from the road, get re-energized and re-focused.

Can't wait to read the book!

May 18, 2008 9:41 PM  
Blogger Gayle said...

In a past life, I used to do workshops (mine were on how to find a job, how to write a resume, etc), there are often times when you feel that you're not getting through to the individuals in the group. Often, you do get through to them but it takes a while for the information to process and work through so that they own it in their own thoughts.
But, I learned too that there are some people who no matter what you do, or what you say -- it is never enough. Or, it isn't enough unless you move in and take over and do it for them. Email is a simple way to tell someone you don't like what they did or said because the person you're "talking to" can't see you.
Don't give up -- take a break. From reading your blog you've been going and going and going -- like a bunny with super-charged batteries. Sometimes, it's good to take time to regroup and refresh.
Take care of yourself and your needs and forget those who need to blow off steam in your direction -- at least until you get some distance.
Hugs and best wishes.

May 18, 2008 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Ann (yet another) said...

Annie, for that 1 email, you'll have 10 people who were happy, but didn't email. Everyone has times when every step is wrong - the days when you just wish you had elected to not get out of bed, or have the whole day as a do over.

OTOH, if you feel like you need to recharge, then - make it so!

I'm not really a hat person, but I really love both of those hats.

May 18, 2008 9:48 PM  
Anonymous PollyAnn said...

Hey Annie Girl! The audience doesn't have an appreciation on how complex teaching really is. Teaching takes courage, strength and humor! You do not have your class for weeks, or months. Your job is even more stressful with flying in to places unknown, present and move on to the next gig. Yikes! Be kind to yourself. ... We love you in Portland, Oregon!

May 18, 2008 10:28 PM  
Anonymous KT said...

Keep in mind that for every negative comment you get, there are many more positive ones that just didn't get voiced. If you need to take time off from teaching, it's because you need time off from the people, not because the people need time off from you. :)

May 18, 2008 10:40 PM  
Blogger Moorecat said...

Annie, I assume that the email was from one person in the class, not the shopowner? OK, then...

Some people enrol in these classes because they're not hsppy in their own life and are trying to blot it out.

While this sometimes works for temporary bad patches (and we've all had one or more of those!), they can't paper over the cracks forever, and these people are self-ignorant to the point where it MUST be the teacher's fault, and not theirs because they are unwilling or unable to be present in the class and open to what you're giving them.

Take a break by all means, but you're too good a person and teacher to submit to the tender mercies of turkeys for long ;)

May 19, 2008 12:09 AM  
Blogger Gingersnaps with Tea... said...

I can sympathize with how you are feeling. for 8 years, I taught graphics software for the cont. ed department at a community college. Occasionally there would be a "bad class". I remember one student in particular. She was relentlessly negative and it spread, I couldn't get through to her, the whole class went south, she gave me a dreadful review (which went directly to my coordnator) and the worst thing was, I knew I was going to have to teacher her 2 more courses later in the certificate. The next course, was totally different. I was talking to her one night after class and said, you seem to be enjoying the course. She said, "Everything's so much easier for me now that I'm back on my medication." She was clinically depressed and had been off her medication for the first course I taught her. Some times you have a "bad class", it isn't always something you did. If you need a break, take a break, but you ARE a good teacher.

May 19, 2008 12:38 AM  
Anonymous Eileen said...

All the best teachers I've ever had - the ones that really inspired students to be more than they had imagined they could be - have been teachers who had strong personalities, and who irritated certain other students. Generally these were the students who want to be coddled and petted, rather than those who want to learn and be challenged.

It's not that there's anything *wrong* with the nurturing, gentle sort of teacher. They are nice and pleasant and you can learn from them. But it's a different sort of teaching, and a different sort of learning. It's pleasant, but it's not *exciting*, it's not *inspiring*. It's not you.

Well, you can't be both the teacher who inspires and challenges AND the teacher who never pushes or offends. And frankly, I think you'd get bored with classes full of the sorts of people who want that coddling sort of teacher.

So take a break; everyone gets burned out once in a while, and you've had a very hard year. But when you get your energy back, and your feet feel more stable under you, please don't let a few mismatched students stop you from inspiring the rest of us.

And thank you for the lace class on Mother's Day. My own mom asked how the class went, and I said:

"It was great - the teacher had a very strong personality and had us all laughing and getting rather silly. She has an independence about the mechanics of knitting that is really inspiring - I feel more confident about being able to solve for myself those problems I've been having with that hat design."

Thanks for being That Teacher.

May 19, 2008 12:58 AM  
Blogger RodgerM said...

Oh Annie, should we send you another beer from Portland to prove our undying love? I hope you know that people are STILL talking about how fantastic you were while you were here.

Don't worry m'dear, I'm fairly certain that you please far oftener than not.

May 19, 2008 2:50 AM  
Blogger Sue said...

HUGS ((((((()))))) (big ones).

May 19, 2008 4:01 AM  
Anonymous Paula said...

Annie
I just read all the comments - they have so much truth - every class isn't perfect, some students need their medication !, some don't really want to learn what you are teaching so they complain, one class that feels "off" is no excuse to throw in the towel for a while ... we in S. Cal are hopeful that you will show up soon, and as a public speaker for 30 years I know that some days no matter what you say or do it falls flat ... but then usually later something happens that is positive ... like some dolt who was half asleep waking up and saying "AH HA!!!".
Take a rest - hug your family close - design some fantastic things and keep booking classes. Your public awaits you !

May 19, 2008 6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Gayle's sentiment. As a health care professional I feel like the patient's treatment goes so much better if I can establish some report up front. Unfortunately, for whatever reason or a "it's not me it's you" thing it doesn't always happen and I, and probably they, feel dissatisfied. Don't sweat it. We cannot be all things to all people.
On the Devil's advocate side, as a student or just yarn loiterer I personally have had some off putting moments at my LYS recently. In this volatile campaign season it is easy for one to insult another's ideology out of ignorance of their opinion. One teacher blithely disparaged not only my politics but my religion when she really should have been teaching. She is a great teacher and I sloughed it off because, dang it I needed to learn how to make a lousy sock!
I am such a big fan of you and your blog which I enjoy whether I agree with you or not. Just maybe consider that an offhand comment, especially about politics, can be taken personally by some. You know, Mom always said "no discussing religion, sex or politics!"

May 19, 2008 6:59 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

Annie

Sending you many hugs and a few cold beers.

I remember the first time I had taught a particular class. I was scared that people would see right through me. One person did and the rest thought the class was fabulous. The one person got to me though and made me doubt my ability as a teacher. The only thing I could do, was go right back out there and teach again. I did so and was glad I did - the comments I received were very positive.

I'm on board with what everyone else has been saying - for every negative comment that you receive, there are dozens more positive ones. It's just a shame that one bad apple has to spoil it for all the rest.

When I took your class in NYC, I truly learned a lot, both about knitting and about life. I very much appreciated all of your knowledge and your ability to amazingly pass it on. I look forward to the next time that I am able to take a class from you.

May 19, 2008 7:03 AM  
Blogger Tora: said...

Hi Annie,

I saw this quote a log time ago but was reminded again when I saw it on Rosemary-go-round's blog today:

"A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her."
- David Brinkley

Hang in there...don't let the turkey's bring you down!

Hugs from Tora in Chagrin Falls, Ohio

May 19, 2008 7:03 AM  
Blogger Milly said...

Oh Annie, please don't let the email get you down. There is just no way to please everyone anyway. And sometimes it just happens.
I'd hate for you to stop something you enjoy doing so much. But of course sometimes we all need to take a break from things even things we enjoy.
But, we love you! No matter what!

May 19, 2008 7:50 AM  
Blogger stixchik said...

Annie,
I was in your class on Sunday, and think you did a "fabulous" (the nice way) job.

I had originally enrolled in the cable class on Saturday, and had a total brain melt down and wrote it in my calendar for Sunday. When I realized what happened, the shop owner was nice enough to let us attend on Sunday so we weren't just flushing our money down the drain. Yay for the shop owner, and yay for you for putting up with us.

So while I didn't learn what I really wanted to learn, I still came away enlightened (as did my mom). It was totally a good investment of 3 hours, whatever the person on the email said.

May 19, 2008 8:36 AM  
Anonymous Beth said...

Annie, I was in your Kansas City classes and I thought they were great. You are an excellent teacher and I learned a lot. After Cabling w/o needles, I had eyestrain and sore hands but all I wanted to do that night after class was to continue knitting. Sunday night after the drive back to St. Louis, I typed up my notes from class while they were still fresh in mind, your teaching was that good for me. Take a break but don't break up w/us.

May 19, 2008 9:03 AM  
Blogger evie said...

I want to echo the positive thoughts expressed by others.

People are more likely to send an email or letter making a complaint than they are to do the same when they are happy. It just seems to be human nature.

It could be that one person was having a really bad day and couldn't focus on your teaching. It could be that no one could have made a connection with that student on that particular day.

It sounds like you need some down time to rest and recharge. I think creative folks need to do that occasionally to keep the creative juices flowing.

I am looking forward to the day when you get back to the SF Bay Area and am hoping to get a chance to meet you in person.

May 19, 2008 9:06 AM  
Blogger belvedere beads said...

annie: as someone who has been taught by you i neeeeed to say that your class (and lecture) changed my knitting forever. you were so charming and fierce that i felt i could take over the world with knitting that night. as that initial blush of world domination faded i became a much more whimsical and adventurous knitter. my knitting was no longer just for relaxation, but also for some serious fun. i think you are an incredible teacher and will always be grateful for your lessons, both in knitting and life.

May 19, 2008 9:13 AM  
Anonymous Debra said...

Annie,
Yesterday while chatting with a fellow knitter, I mentioned how after looking at your mattress stitch tutorial I was finally able to master it and so refine my finishing technique.
Try to speak kindly to yourself,you did your best and under the circumstances that is all you can do.

May 19, 2008 11:11 AM  
Blogger Daryl said...

Another fan rooting, I love your slip stitch edging, and although I have never had the fortune to take a class with you, anyone who can explain on line the way you do, HAS to be even more fantastic in person. For once, let the many good comments outweigh the negative and dwell on your fans rather than detractors. I know how a single negative can become overwhelming, and then the cycle begins, "what kind of princess am I that I can't take criticism...etc". We all get both. You are loved, and even more appreciated and admired.

May 19, 2008 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Kayla said...

As so many have said before me - we all have off days and after reading some of these comments from some other people in your Missouri classes - you didn't do as badly as you thought. These were contented attendees.
You can't please all the people all the time. Your sense of humor will overpower some people but for the rest of us (and by far the larger percentage!), we think you are a hoot!
Shrug it off,lady, and get back to enjoying yourself.

May 19, 2008 11:38 AM  
Blogger Kathleen C. said...

Yeah. What they said. And especially what Eileen said.

I had the good luck to be able to take a class with you and I tell you straight out... you are a *good* teacher. A *very good* teacher.
But yeah, some days if something can go wrong it will. And some people probably won't take what you say the way it's intended. And not everyone is going to be receptive. And some days things will be harder and feel off and leave you down about the whole shebang.
And if you need some time to regroup then by all means... you should take it! You deserve it!
But I hope with some time will come the realization that you still have a lot to offer so many of us. And that we'd be honored to have you share that knowledge with us.
I'm glad to see the positive comments from people in the class... so it *wasn't* the class. It was a student (you really only know there's *one*). I hope that helps too.

May 19, 2008 12:38 PM  
Blogger Marnie said...

Annie, for whatever it's worth,I really enjoyed taking your class and I love reading your blog. You are an energetic and exceptional teacher and I'm sad to hear that this situation was so hard for you.

At the same time, i totally understand the feeling. Teaching really puts you out there and you can't possibly predict what everyone's expectations will be. I think you handle it far better than most but you deserve some time to decompress from the stresses involved. Maybe being away from it a bit will make you feel more ready to face it again in time. Just know you have plenty of folks out here with their fingers crossed and sending good wishes your way.

May 19, 2008 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Frances said...

please don't let one person or one group of people get to you. I have heard great things about your teaching and in fact I was looking on your website today to find when you were teaching classes next in an area near me.
You do need to take care of yourself first, though. So hugs and hope you have a much better week!

May 19, 2008 2:36 PM  
Anonymous Roxie said...

Annie, I was crushed when the lys near me cancelled one of your workshops so I envy anyone can be taught by you for more than a few minutes on Knitty Gritty.

Take heart. When I was shifting between a big corporate job and my own tech biz, I took advantage of the newness of the worldwide web to teach a bunch of tech courses on internet secuity. Even though many people returned for later classes, I was always hurt by really negative feedback. I'm sure it was just a necessary part of staying on my feet and learning confidence.

Hugs from the many of us who can judge you better!

May 19, 2008 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

Annie,

I've spent 20 years teaching at the college level, and I've mentored a lot of teachers.

Everyone has students they don't/can't reach. The nature of teaching means that someone has to sit and listen to you for hours. And if they find you irritating, they get more and more grouchy as they sit. The result is an unhappy student -- and once you get their feedback, an unhappy teacher.

The best medicine I know is sunshine. Show the email to several people you love; that removes the sting. Take a break. Have a beer. Then ask yourself if there's anything in the negative evaluation you can use to make the next class better. If your answer is 'Nope, it's just kvetching', then do your best to let go of it and move on.

You're dealing with a lot right now and it only makes sense you are feeling raw. But I promise that some of us are looking forward to upcoming classes with you!

When you visit Blacksburg for Purl Jam, I'll be in some of your classes. So will some others with lots of time in the teaching trenches. It's not teaching knitting, but it's close enough.

May 19, 2008 4:29 PM  
Blogger Lynae said...

Annie,

I grew up in a preacher's house. My grandma (also a preacher's wife) used to say that if someone was nasty to her - she just didn't worry about it....God would take care of them for her.

I never quite knew if "taking care" meant good or bad for that individual.

I can't imagine that you taught a bad class. You may have been a little off...but bad class - NOPE.

And don't change, because we LOVE who you are!

May 19, 2008 4:39 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

I've only taken a few knitting classes and none from anyone famous like you. There were times when I just wasn't "getting it" but it never occurred to me to fault the instructor. I just needed some more time to process the information. And certainly it never occurred to me to rip the teacher for it. Some people! Sounds from the comments that this isn't the usual response to your classes, so just send that email to your trash can and get the rest you so deserve.

May 19, 2008 5:48 PM  
Anonymous twinsetellen said...

"some students need their medication" - Paula put it really well.

But it could be you. Not that I think you'd do a poor job teaching, I'm pretty sure that isn't likely - you exude knowledge. Rather, what if it is that you are just so worn to the nub that an email you might have let slide off your back a year and a half ago has given you a worse time than it typically would?

I'm worried about you after your prior post plus this one. I think you do need a break. I hope the upcoming change in rhythm with the school year ending and FINALLY some real springtime weather in the Twin Cities will help. I hope we can get together soon, too.

May 19, 2008 6:10 PM  
Blogger Nita said...

Air and light have been let into both sides of the significant email at the core; I'm glad love2knit posted it. It's apparent that what one person thought was a joke, another person didn't.

It's apparent to me that each person wanted to control the other's methods, which is a losing proposition in this case.

So let's agree that humor can be perceived differently and move past this awkward event.

May 19, 2008 8:05 PM  
Blogger Annie said...

Note: The original email had briefly been posted as a comment, but I deleted.

However, I agree with Nita's comment, and I am glad that briefly it was up to inspire her POV on this.

However, the insinuation that I enjoy hurting my students was terribly painful to me, so deleted the comment.

May 19, 2008 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I gather from the comments that the hurtful email you received came from someone called love2knit. Out of curiosity, I googled this name and found it signed to a negative review of your book, posted on Amazon last summer. I'm wondering if this is the same person -- someone who didn't like your book signs up for your class and doesn't like that either. If it is the same person, perhaps she went into the class prone to dislike it (which makes you wonder why she took it at all...) In any case, as a teacher myself, I know you can't connect with every student, much as you try.

May 20, 2008 8:17 AM  
Anonymous Peglett said...

Of course you are going to react to a negative comment. You are a great teacher who wants everyone to get something great out of your classes. This person didn't. It's bound to happen. If you took a little time off that wouldn't be necessary, but it could be helpful to you. I would HATE to see you hang up your teaching hat. I have been your student and would love to sit in the front of the class again I got immeasurable growth in my knitting and teaching from you. Illegitimi non carborundum.

May 20, 2008 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Jeremy said...

I teach knitting too. Not nearly at the level or scale that you do. In these kinds of situations, context and perspective are everything. You had a bad feeling coming home and this e-mail confirmed that feeling. If you felt you had done well, you would have taken it a bit differently. I really hope you have someone who can help you reach some perspective on this. I know this is something that ordinarily gives you great joy and has done so recently. Best Wishes.

May 22, 2008 1:56 PM  
Blogger Kim-n-Cocoa said...

Annie,

Let me say this. I teach 143 14 - 17 YOs 5 days a week 200 some days a year. Some days... some individual classes will just be "off." The same joke I use at 1st period falls flat at 6th period. Heck change 1 kid from 1 period to another and the dynamics change. It's annoying. :-) Cut yourself some slack. Do what YOU do as a teacher and let the students do what THEY do. Some will love it and love you, others will be blah, and others won't get it. All YOU can do is be yourself and do your best. The rest is up to them. ::hugs:: Teaching ANYthing isn't the easy gig folks seem to think it is. ::hugs::

May 22, 2008 11:33 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

What they said! I think you're a great teacher and an inspirational designer. {{{hugs}}}

May 23, 2008 12:04 PM  
Blogger Mary Kay said...

Annie,
In the final edit of Knit with Courage you have rehashed all the unfair and painful lessons that life teaches on her 'off' day. And now shingles and back pain to deal with. You are an ace student of life and that makes you an ace teacher. My life is so much better because you have shared yours. Relax, regroup and stay fearless. Start packing for Paris!

May 24, 2008 12:14 PM  
Blogger momtat92 said...

Oh Annie,
You're post breaks my heart. It seems more and more designers/teachers are getting attacked and becoming frustrated and wary. What has happened to decency and kindness? What has happened to respect?

Shame on the one who attacked you in that e-mail. Would she/he have had the courage to say it to you face to face? If not, then it needn't have been said.

I so wanted to take your workshops when you were at the Festival here in Pgh last winter, but the classes were booked. They were well recieved by what I had heard.

Take time to take care of yourself and heal the wounds that you have recieved, be careful not to become bitter. But, do know, that there are many of us that know that you are a talented designer, teacher and author.

Take care of your dear hubby and those beautiful children. Then, when you are regrouped and refreshed, return to the knitting world and know that you have the support of loyal knitters.

"Burn, baby, Burn"

May 31, 2008 10:10 AM  

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