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What I learned in 3rd grade

Starting last Friday, I’ve been spending an hour in 3rd grade, teaching kids in my son’s class to knit.  We started out a week ahead, making knitting needles out of chopsticks, and they had fun, and did pretty well!

Last Friday, I wound several mini-balls of yarn, made some extra needles for the kids who were absent the day we made them in class, copied knitting instructions, and was ready to go!  I was excited I was going to share my talent with the class, and teach the kids a new skill!  I could do this!  (After all, I was a teacher, and I am a knitter, and I am a mom.  Surely these three things qualifies me to teach a group of kids to knit!)

That excitement was short-lived.  I had 6 kids, all of which said, “I can’t!  This is too hard!” within the first 5 minutes.  Some before we even started.  I tried very hard to be encouraging and patient, but the fact is, teaching 6 kids at the same time just wasn’t working.  The minute I tried to work with one, the other 5 started yelling, “I need HELP!  I can’t!!”

So, I changed gears.  “Let’s put the needles down!”  I suggested.

I started teaching them the MUCH easier method of Finger Knitting using one finger.  Success!  I had them making looooong chains in minutes.  Suddenly I felt better about myself, my skills as a teacher, and my relationship with the students themselves, as they had much better attitudes once they achieved some success.  One girl finger knit a chain about 5 feet long by the time we finished.  After the session, the teacher asked me how it went, and I told her the details.  She suggested if I had another 5 weeks to give, that we’d do finger knitting for the first session and needle knitting for the second.

Today I went in knowing that needles would probably not be an option, but they brought them anyway.  I was nervous before we started, when I had to ask them to hand the needles over to me so they’d stop playing swords with them.  Also, one boy in the group made me a bit nervous.  I’d been in the class before, and he was always a bit challenging.  Right away he told me he would suck.  He repeated this mantra several times.  I braced myself for him to tell me I was stupid, or knitting was stupid, or a myriad of other options, but I tried to be as positive and encouraging as I could be, and low and behold, soon he was on a roll.  Soon, he was making a chain that was as long as the room, and he used up his entire ball of yarn.

Since we still had about 20 minutes left of our class time, I aksed him if he wanted to try using the needles.  I thought this might work because a) he was doing so well and seemed to be ready to try it and b) everyone else in his group was occupied with their own work, so I could give him some one-on-one time.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when he knit the first row with my help.  I stood with him and was there to help pick up stitches if necessary, but he was knitting!  By the end of that twenty minutes he had finished several rows on his own!!

I learned that sometimes the kid you think will challenge you the most will be the one who surprises you the most.  I sent him home with his needles, another ball of yarn, and a half-finished bookmark, along with the written instructions to knit so his mom could help.  I realized he could knit and knit, but when he got to the end, he wouldn’t know how to bind off and finish it, so I let him and his mom know to leave the stitches on the needle and I’d get him those directions for next week.

I left 3rd grade elated.  I may have only taught one of 12 students to knit, but it’s one more than I thought possible after last week’s class.  I also left feeling good that this kid proved me wrong, and that I could maybe still impact children’s lives, however small the scale.

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4 responses »

  1. Thats awesome, Gen! You will likely have a larger impact than you realize. Just taking the time to teach the kids something new is meaningful, too. ❤

  2. This post makes me smile. What a difference you’re making. Such a cool volunteer and mom!

  3. Wow, that’s awesome! How did the rest go? (I came here from your comment on Ravelry.) I’m helping a friend teach middle schoolers, and we go together and cast on for them all ahead of time, and looking back, I think we should have knit the first row or two as well, those are always the hardest!! Now a bunch of them are into it, but many of the boys are just putting in time until they can be free of this impossible-to-master filler activity that interferes with their chatting, or so it seems. Sigh. They do keep plugging away in between shouts of “SOS!” over dropped stitches, though, and a few boys and most of the girls are doing great!

  4. Thanks! It’s going pretty well! I’ve had at least 1-2 knitters in each group so far. We started our second round of groups, and there’s only one child who hasn’t tried the needles. Granted, a few of them just aren’t getting it, but most of them are learning, and trying anyway!

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