Be A Beginner

Instead of writing posts for the last two weeks I decided to spend my writing time learning something new. I stumbled into a yarn shop by accident and ended up signing up for a knitting class. My only goal going in was to have a break from being home all day with the little and to finally learn to knit. What happened was a bit of magic.

As you can see by the pictures below, I went in knowing nothing, came out a week later with an ability to create random, non-symmetrical shapes with yarn and after another week of work, I can now knit beginner patterns. I feel like I actually learned a skill that I have coveted in my friends for so long. But on top of that, I realized two things – first, its really exciting to be a true beginner at something and have a great teacher. And second, it really helped me reflect on the differences of how I learn new things and how my baby learns new things.

I feel like I have been working in my area of expertise for so long that I forgot how wonderful it is to truly free my mind and dive into a new skill. It is also a fantastic challenge for me to set aside my stubborn “the way the teacher is teaching this is dumb” attitude and just shut up and listen. Being an instructor, I seem to have an internal critic that can sometimes drown out the learning experience. Just as people have different learning styles, we also have different teaching styles and I really need to give people a chance.

Being new at knitting is freeing. There is no expectation that I do a good job right off the bat. I am expected to mess up and am encouraged to make mistakes to help the learning process. Hours of practice made a visible difference in the quality of my output. No one did it for me. No one watched over my shoulder and told me when I was making the wrong move. I had access to an expert to make corrections. I had to do the work and it paid off.

There aren’t many other areas in my life where I am treated to such freedom to be a real beginner with no expectation for quality – maybe this needs to change?

Just when I was thinking that I need more of this in my life, it dawned on me. I have a LOT of this in my life now. Its just that I’m both the teacher and the student: I am teaching our daughter the basics of human communication, functions like eating and drinking and all of the wonderful things that our world has to offer. I am also the student in this class called parenthood that doesn’t seem to have an instructor other than google searches and calls to family and friends.

From my instruction background, I know that the way adults learn (andragogy) is different that the way children learn (pedagogy). My knitting class was a reminder of how it feels to not have any basis of experience in something and start learning from scratch. Adults often have experience that you can use as a learning tool where as children don’t often have the benefit of built-up experiences. Also, I chose to take this knitting class, whereas I did not choose to take social studies as a child nor did I choose to learn to hold a spoon. As a child, I was told what to learn in order to achieve some desired action or skill level necessary to advance to the next step. These differences make learning and teaching adults and children really different.

Being a beginner in this class helped me to remember that our daughter is literally starting from scratch, so I need to be deliberate in our activities and not scrimp on the descriptions and advice on why I chose to do something a certain way. It helped me remember that she is going to make mistakes and she needs to make mistakes in order to learn to do things for herself. She needs to find her own way. This class helped me remember how frustrating it can be to learn something for the first time, but that its worth it if you want it and you stick with it. These were all great reminders that I am taking with me as I start to teach our daughter more and more things.

As a bonus, this class also taught me to knit and I made a bad ass burp cloth!

Have you had any examples of how you adjusted your mindset in order to be an effective teacher to your child?


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