Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Hanging out with grown-ups

This year I haven't done any kids crafting, actually not much crafting at all. We are moving after 25 years, to a town about 12 hours drive away, so I have been preoccupied. I did hear about a community project with the aim of teaching various crafts to the women of the town as a way to increase income. I asked to join the classes as a way to improve my teaching by observation. The classes started while I was out of town so I shrugged my shoulders and forgot about it. Imagine my surprise when the organizers called me and asked me to present a class! The teacher they booked was unable to continue due to family troubles, and they asked me to teach crochet with plastic bag yarn ('plarn'-- there are PLENTY of tutorials available!) Of course I said yes, prepared a booklet, and made some practice items.

I've done a lot of teaching kids: holiday crafting club, girls' club, Sunday school, parenting, even peer tutoring when I was a kid myself, but not so much with teaching adults. And adults here are a different story especially when it comes to language and culture. English is usually a third language for anyone born before independence in 1990, which means anyone over 25, and still a second language for most. After 25 years, at least I know a bit and can tell if the interpreter is getting it wrong!

Kids are funny and fun to work with. They are brutally and embarrassingly honest, have an unexpected perspective, automatically think you know both everything about the world and nothing about them, and can really move a conversation around.
Adults are a bit different, slower to bring out their personality, But still funny if you have an eye open for enjoyment:

  • They are quieter. Which means if they don't understand something they will just guess and continue, like a machine that's stuck 'on'. Miles and miles of crochet chains. MILES!
  • They don't like to ask for favors from their classmates. Not even 'pass the scissors, please'. They will sit idle until you notice they are idle and go to help.
  • They don't want to stand out. Seriously, some of these ladies know how to crochet. but when they see their neighbor struggling will pull out their own work and ask how to do it, too.
  • They are out to get as much as they can. I've seen this in kids, too. It's part of the culture here that I find irritating in large doses but funny on a small scale. They clearest example, for kids and adults, is cookies. If you have ten cookies and eight girls or ladies, one will do everything in her power to get both extra cookies and consider herself the 'winner'. If you have 30 cookies, the first ones will take 3-5 cookies each, leaving one cookie for the last 3 ladies to share. If the person that was the'winner' last week is one of the last three this week, there will be loud and bitter complaining. Otherwise there will be disgruntled mumbling and plans for revenge next week
  • Some of them know how to knit and try to knit with the crochet hook. Luckily I saw this with kids first because I don't knit and they were able to explain the weirdness. I think this looks hysterically funny but I do show them the proper way before letting them continue their way. After all hobbies are more about fun than perfection

I have especially learned that, kids or adults, my preferred teaching environment is gentle chaos. Those 2 hours go by so quickly, the facilitators have to chase me out every time.