Luxurious Yarns and Kits Featuring Our LB Collection®. Shop Now!

How to Be a Superb Student: A Lesson in Two Parts, Part Two

franklin_400x400Writer, illustrator, and knitter Franklin Habit joins us for his monthly column featuring humor and insights into a yarncrafter’s life.

I left you, last month, on the brink of taking your seat in the classroom. If all has gone well, you are equipped with the correct needles, notions, and yarns. If the teacher has asked for homework, your homework is complete.

Let us begin.

Part Two: In the Classroom

  1. Dress for Comfort. A fiber arts classroom may be anything from a deluxe hotel suite to a livestock barn. I have taught in both. No matter what, I promise you this: the room will be far too hot for half the class and far too cold for the other half.

Dressing in layers is vital. A student in a shirt, sweater, and small shawl or scarf can adjust to a variable microclimate. A student who wears only a bra under her snuggly hand-knitted merino pullover is going to suffer when the radiator starts to glow.

  1. Arrive on Time. On time is slightly early–anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes before class is due to begin. Earlier than 45 minutes isn’t punctual, it’s pushy. The teacher needs time to arrange the classroom (and himself) for what’s to come. If you cannot sit outside (i.e., it’s snowing hard, there’s an angry mob in the street, the yarn shop is entirely surrounded by a moat stocked with alligators) please have mercy–quietly choose a seat and let the teacher prepare.

Do not ever (ever) show up very, very early and attempt to wheedle a free private lesson out of the teacher before class beings. You will not enjoy what happens next.

If you must arrive late, slip in quietly and take the nearest available seat. No explanations necessary.

  1. They’re All Good Seats. If you have a physical condition that requires special accommodation, please let the venue know in advance so they can take the necessary steps.
    If you do not, choose any open chair. You’ll be able to see. You’ll be able to hear. The seats in the back are fifteen feet from the teacher. It’s a crochet class, not a Who concert at Yankee Stadium.
  1. Silence the Phone. Period.
  1. Silence Yourself. Your classmates have paid to learn about cable knitting, not your dinner plans. When the teacher is addressing the class, conversations on your phone or with your table neighbors should–indeed must–be taken out of the room.

If you simply can’t wait another minute to catch up with the bosom friend you haven’t seen since the day fifty years ago when you left her for dead on a blood-soaked battlefield, please consider that perhaps my class on the history of lace knitting is not the ideal place to do it.

  1. Ask Questions. But that is not to say you must never utter a word. If you have questions about the lesson, please ask. That’s what the teacher is there for. Questions make us feel useful. We want to help you; but as we are not your mother, we cannot read your mind.

If you are afraid yours is a stupid question, ask anyway. I promise that three other people in the room are wondering about exactly the same thing at exactly the same moment.

  1. Don’t Bug Your Neighbor. Note that I mean you should ask your questions of the teacher. The person sitting next to you is not the teacher. Do not treat any adjacent classmate as a substitute teacher. It may appear that she does not mind. She may even say that she does not mind. In fact, she is silently calculating which of her needles would most readily penetrate your neck.
  1. Don’t Appoint Yourself as Co-Teacher. A good teacher will have planned her curriculum so that information will be shared in small, readily digested bits. The second part of the class will build logically upon the first, and so forth.

If you pipe up in mid-lesson with, “Hey! Can I show you a better way of doing that?” you are not, in fact, helping either the teacher or your classmates. You are liable to throw more timid students into a panic, and cause a cascade of confusion that may persist through the rest of the session.

Listen to me. There are many different ways of doing everything in needlework. The method taught in a class may not be the “best” method–if indeed there is such a thing. But it will be the method that the teacher knows from experience is most readily learned, by the largest number of students, most of the time. It will be the method she knows well, and is therefore qualified to teach.

If you prefer the method you already know, that’s fine. Continue to use it. If you feel compelled to share it with the teacher, do so quietly either during a pause in the class or outside of the class. I have learned a great deal from students in this way over the years, and I truly appreciate it.

However, if what you would really like is to be a teacher, then get a classroom. Your own classroom.

  1. Don’t Try to Eat the Whole Cake. This is by far the most common complaint I hear from students about other students, and is also a common cause of quite good teachers giving up teaching forever.

Let us imagine that the class to be taught is a cake. The teacher has prepared a wonderful cake–deliciously flavored, perfectly baked, and splendidly decorated with the finest sugar flowers.

Every student is entitled to one piece of the cake. Every student’s piece is the same size.

You may, and you should, eat up your piece of the cake.

You absolutely may not eat your neighbor’s cake.

It does not matter if you think your neighbor isn’t as hungry as you are. Keep your fork out of her plate.

When you have questions, ask. When you need help, ask. But remember that the other students also have questions and need help.  Keep calm, wait your turn, and allow your classmates to have their fair share of the teacher’s time.

If you want to eat a whole cake by yourself, arrange a private lesson.

  1. Be Kind to Yourself. I am flabbergasted at the number of students who have come up to me before we begin just to say, “I’m never going to be able to do this.” Or who constantly berate themselves as they work: “I’m so stupid, I’m such an idiot, I never do anything right.”Please don’t do that to yourself. You are not stupid. If you were, you wouldn’t be here. If you want to do this, you can. You may not love it after you give it a fair try; but that’s okay, too. The point is to grow. The point is to have fun.

My opinion–and it is just my opinion–is that nothing worth doing at all is so simple that you can pick it up in three hours without making a whole bunch of mistakes.

Postgraduate Lesson: After Class

Likely you are leaving with a handout from the teacher. It may have taken the teacher months, at considerable expense, to create it. It is a vital part of the teacher’s ability to make a living–to put food on her table, clothes on her back, and a roof over her head.

That copy is your copy, for your personal use.

Do not share copies of the handout with all your friends. Do not post the handout to Pinterest or Ravelry or any other online site. Do not make copies of the handout for your entire guild back home. Do not copy the handout to teach the teacher’s class in your own yarn shop.

To do so is to steal, plain and simple. To do so is to injure one of our community, and what injures one of us ultimately injures all of us.

But…

 Nope. Sorry. Stealing is stealing. I can’t stop you from stealing, but I won’t tell you there are times when it’s okay, because there are not.

Thus Endeth the Lesson

 The second part of this guide was tough to write. No matter how I’ve tried to soften it up, I still sound alarmingly like a certain tough-but-caring Franciscan nun who commanded my fifth grade homeroom as though she were steering a battleship. We loved her, and she loved us. But she wasn’t exactly cuddly.

Remember that all of this has one goal in mind: to give you and your classmates the best possible experience in a classroom. And all the many rules boil down to one: remember that everyone is a human being (including you) and act accordingly.

I do hope to see you in class one of these days–either as your teacher or possibly as a fellow student. I’ll try to remember to do my homework. If you ask nicely, I always have extra stitch markers and spare scissors.

—–
Writer, illustrator, and photographer Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008–now in its third printing) and proprietor of The Panopticon (the-panopticon.blogspot.com), one of the most popular knitting blogs on Internet. On an average day, upwards of 2,500 readers worldwide drop in for a mix of essays, cartoons, and the continuing adventures of Dolores the Sheep. Franklin’s other publishing experience in the fiber world includes contributions to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Cast On: A Podcast for Knitters, Twist Collective, and a regular column on historic knitting patterns for Knitty.com.

These days, Franklin knits and spins in Chicago, Illinois, sharing a small city apartment with a Schacht spinning wheel and colony of sock yarn that multiplies alarmingly whenever his back is turned.

Tagged In:
  • Deebee

    Franklin: Lighten up. People attend yarncraft classes to relax and have fun, not to stress out. I've attended lots of yarn classes and have not experienced the kind of behavior you describe

  • WYknitter

    I hate to disagree with Deebee, but I've seen nearly ALL of this behavior. I intend to share Parts I and II with the guild membership. I think this information MUST be shared because so many people are clueless about common courtesy when taking a class.

  • Marie Stanley

    Sensible advice for class room; board rooms and most social situations . I understand and agree with all of this , excepting only the spare stitch marker. I usually don't have one .

  • Barbara Brown

    I love this, and loved part 1 as well. It should be required reading for all who attend classes to learn a technique. I am sure that many students have never thought how their behaviour impacts the others who have all paid the same fee...maybe this would open their eyes.

  • disqus_j4lMZMJKmB

    So true! Having taken classes coast to coast over the last 8 yrs. this would be great precast advice.
    BTW- I am the student who ALWAYS FORGETS to bring scissors.

  • Caryn Uebelacker

    Franklin, I agree with you wholeheartedly. There's been countless times where another classmate has completely monopolized the entire class, and ruined it for everyone else. I hope you don't get too much backlash from this, because everything you said here is true :-)

  • Lindy Barnes

    Franklin, thank you, thank you. I'm a retired public school teacher (4th grade) and am now both a knitting instructor and a knitting class student, the latter as often as possible. I have encountered nearly every one of your examples - even the woman who tripped over her cat - she broke her ankle so no excuses. When I am a student I work hard to "be a correct, proper, and friendly student who always does her homework, etc. As a teacher I would love to be able to send this entire article to each of my registered students prior to the start of class. I definitely do not teach knitting for the money. If I didn't love to knit as much as I do and if I didn't learn as much if not more than my students about knitting I would not be teaching. Thank you again for being so candid, sarcastic (love it) and funny. I printed this article out and it will go into my file.

  • ReneeinCA

    All so helpful. I did go to a class late one time (too exhausted from day before to get there on time), and just slipped in, and then checked in with the teacher at the break to make sure I wasn't disrupting things. Certainly not asking neighbor to fill me in, although one did without me asking.

  • pdxknitterati

    Spot on, from both the teacher and student view. Thanks for writing this, Franklin! I've enjoyed your classes. You're one of my favorite teachers, and I take your classes as much for learning teaching style as well as learning new techniques! Nice to see you at Madrona.

  • Allison

    Bravo, Franklin!
    The only thing that would make these posts better, if if they were recordings of you reading them. You have the most delightful voice!

  • Catherine Freedman Myers

    You've read my mind! That said, I sincerely hope I haven't committed any of these faux pas in your or anyone else's classes. If so, I humbly apologize. (My most likely screw up is talking.) Where is this yarn shop with the moat, anyway?

  • Beverly Button

    Spot on! I've seen these behaviors many times.

  • Gepgelmik

    Great post, Franklin. I recently attended a festival and was really, really, really angry about people and their phones. Not only did many let their phones ring in class, they actually answered and had conversations while the teacher was teaching. Even when the instructors asked us to turn them off beforehand ! That's just rude, trashy, and selfish behavior.

  • Queue Q

    This couldn't be more spot-on if it was a Dalmatian.

    Franklin: I love you. (In the least stalkerish, most non-skeevy way possible.)

  • Brian Balk

    Well said, and with good humor and wonderful imagery. And, completely applicable to any instructor led class, on any topic. All I can add is, "Rinse and repeat." Thanks much!

  • Margaret OConnor

    Thank you for #7. I have 2 friends with whom I will no longer take classes because they both neglect to listen and then expect me to catch them up. Last class I explicitly said, "You must ask the teacher. I am not the teacher." Ach!