I was recently on a forum where someone wrote a post asking what they needed to know to teach a crochet class.
Rather than give a short answer on the forum, I thought I would write a post on what I feel is important to know about teaching a craft. This won’t contain all I have learned from my many years of teaching in schools, to groups or in my shop. This is a little guideline for the things I feel are most important to know.
Understand we are all different.
You don’t have to be a qualified teacher, it certainly helps, but it’s not a necessity. What is a necessity is for you to understand how people learn. Not all of us learn in the same way. Some of us need just to be told, others need to be shown, others need to do. Each of us is unique and we all learn in unique ways. As a teacher there will be students who will not understand what you are teaching, so you need to find other ways to help them. Enlisting others in your group to peer teach is often very effective. Someone, who has just learned a skill, will sometimes have more insight into why another may be struggling to understand.
Don’t focus on what you teach, focus on who you teach. Your students deserve your patience, respect and kindness. If the lesson isn’t going the way you want it to, that’s ok, change direction. If it takes 20 minutes to do 10 chains, then it takes that long. Don’t teach unless you love it!
Don’t be a teacher if you can’t drop your ego, if you can’t let others help you teach. Don’t teach if you believe there is only one way to do something. There have been a number of students who have come to me with stories of how they failed, because they didn’t hold the hook or yarn in the way their previous teacher had instructed. I’ve had stories of hands being smacked! Children in many ways are a lot more resilient to failure than adults and as a teacher you need to be gentle, encouraging and flexible.
There a huge amount of frustration being a learner and a teacher. You need to manage your own frustration and try not to communicate it to your students. Be assured the peak of frustration happens just before the “AhHa” moment for most. When 10 minutes into your hat class and 3 of your 5 studenst tell you, they are never going to ‘get it’. Take a deep breath, be reassuring and try another approach. Don’t throw up your hands or express your own frustration. Whether they are adults or children they need the assurance that their teacher is calm and knows what they are doing and has faith that they will learn. As a teacher you are guiding them on their path, not leading them on a chain.
Start at the beginning.
If you’ve been crocheting for years, you may no longer realise what you do to crochet, it has become a muscle memory and you will need to break down the steps for a beginner. Research is your best friend. Get on YouTube and watch others teach crochet. Yes, you know it all already, but you might be surprised with what you pick up.
Study how you yourself crochet. Do you turn the hook down? How do you hold the hook? How do you hold the yarn? Do others hold it differently? What are the advantages to how you do it? Are there disadvantages? I hold my hook from underneath, many of my students are more comfortable holding above the hook. Neither is wrong. Tensioning yarn is incredibly hard to do as a beginner and explaining how you do it won’t help many. Insisting people do as you do, may slow a learners progress down. I never focus on tension when I start new crocheters. I focus on making the stitches. Tension is something that is unique to the individual and something that is developed with time and practice.
Be prepared to demonstrate diferent ways of working. Learn to crochet with your left hand. It’s amazing how it makes you focus on the basics and will mean you are able to work with left hand students successfully.
When demonstrating change your position often, move around the students. Demonstrate from behind the student, in front of the student, beside the student, from as many different angles as possible. Be consistent in the language you use. Be repetitive. Say each step as you do it. Have diagrams of the stitches available, some learn better from iconic representations than seeing the stitch worked.
if you need to pull out a students work, ask first. Be encouraging and quickly work them back to where they were. Try to avoid adding to the frustration by making them repeat more than they need to.
Skills over Projects.
Focus on teaching skills. ‘What will I make?’ is the first question that gets asked in many of my beginner classes and we all like to have something to show our achievements. Try to stay focused on the skills. A simple chain can be a nice hair tie or used to decorate a gift. A cute little hair band can be a simple project of double crochet around a hair elastic with chain loops added. Dishcloths make great first projects, even if stitches are a little wonky they are still usable.
A class should be sequential in skills, one skill built upon another.
I teach a crochet hat workshop which I have taught to people who have never crocheted before! The skills to make the hat are chains, slip stitches, lots of trebles and working in the round, It can be a challenging class to teach but the product at the end is well worth the frustration level.
BE ORGANISED. – yes I am shouting this one!
I was once the project officer for Territory Craft and after working with many artists this would be the most important thing I can stress to you
Write a lesson plan, practice it. Find a guinea pig to practice on before you go and teach a class. Ensure your lesson plans are flexible and allow ample time to complete each step. If you are accepting payment to teach, you are a professional and you need to be professional.
- Be on time
- Have all materials to hand.
- Supply notes.
- Look professional
- When working for a third party ensure you tell them what you require, do not leave it to the last minute to tell them you need rulers for each student. ( Can you tell this happened to me as an organiser?)
- Be approachable, allow students to contact you.
- Follow up on anything asked or needed.
- if you say you will do it, do it.
- Be mindful of working with each student, don’t leave someone out.
- When you demonstrate ensure students are looking at you and have nothing in their hands, that will distract them.
- Try not to let one student dominant.
- Have more able students reinforce they’re skills by helping those who struggle.
- Praise, reassure.
- Check the quiet students, adults can be shy to ask for help
- Keep an eye on the over confident, they tend to speed ahead, its sad when you have to pull out half their work.
- Keep positive and calm.
Hopefully this has been helpful for you.