Last week was my second class for the “Fiber Arts: Woven Memories” class I am teaching at the at the Grand Coalition of Seniors. We started macramé in this class in anticipation of creating plant hangers, and, probably, wall hangings.
It was so hard that I was completely engrossed in helping the students and did not even think about taking a photo. So I have no photos, which is sad because everyone looked amazing working hard on their notes.
I told everyone at the beginning of class that they were going to need patience and someone said “Did you bring any?" which made me laugh because usually when I teach macramé there is wine, which is basically liquid patience.
Some of them knew the first knot, but most were doing this for the first time and I learned a lot of things that are different about teaching seniors vs. teaching young adults. While eventually everyone in my class did get the knots, there was a period where they were frustrated (and they will let you know) and I immediately felt terrible and apologized but then realized that most people get frustrated when learning macramé, so then I felt a little less terrible. Obviously I want my students to have a good experience, and I want to make sure things push them a little bit but aren’t actually too hard. This is difficult to determine with a mixed-skills group of seniors who have very different physical and mental abilities and it is hard to anticipate what someone may (or may not) need more help with. I did my best, and I learned a lot.
Some things I learned:
Seniors can’t get up and move around as quickly or easily as young adults and we shouldn’t expect them too. At one point in class I said “Come around and I’ll demo” and then I realized, shoot, this class is set up in a way that would make it very hard for them to move around and also it may be hard for them to move around and it also may take some time. So, instead I opted to go to each section of the room and demo at their stations. This worked, but left some of them waiting for me for a while. I think a projection may have also helped. The Ipad definitely helped, but I could only show it to one section at a time. I will also try a new setup next week.
Never underestimate the power of handouts. I usually give handouts at the end of class, if at all, because I want my students to learn by doing and not reading a handout. However, when working with seniors I found it was hard to give everyone the attention they needed and if I had the handouts ready and gave them to them ahead of time they could review my diagrams while waiting for me to come over. It also may lessen anxiety and impatience.
Setup matters. I don’t know why I lapsed on this, but for some reason I thought I could cut the cords as I was introducing macramé and that was a big mistake because it took too much time to get them all the materials and that increased in their wait time for me to come demo at their station. I am usually pretty meticulous at this, so I’m surprised at myself. I’ll do better next week.
Embrace the eager ones. There’s one student in my class who wants to do everything immediately and she was cutting cord and going a step ahead and I really needed her to wait for instructions, but then I realized, hey, maybe I can use her help! I asked her to do things that basically assisted me, which kept her busy and also helped me get set up for each new knot faster. I think I’ll ask if she wants to be an assistant every class because it helps me and I think it keeps her from getting bored! She clearly is faster than some of the other students at some things and I don’t want her to feel dragged down.
Ok, now I have to prep for tomorrow’s class!