Learning to do something new can be extremely frustrating. For the past month or so I have dedicated a good chunk of my leisure time trying to learn how to knit. Why you ask? Well, I am someone who likes to be prepared for things ahead of time and with both my children now married I am looking forward to the next phase of my life which I hope will be “grandparenthood”. While there is no reason to suggest that this will be happening anytime soon I am determined to be ready for when it does. That said, what kind of grandmother would I be if I didn’t know how to knit things for my grandchildren?? I have to admit that I have contemplated outsourcing this task to someone who was already proficient in this area but have decided against it, instead seizing the opportunity to expand my repertoire of skills.
My first step was to ask an expert for advice and fortunately one of the talented teachers at Cedars, Mrs Walker was willing to help me get started. Armed with knitting needles and a few balls of hand dyed organic Australian Merino wool I was instructed on how to do the simple garter stitch. My first few rows of stitches were completed inelegantly as I grappled to manipulate the two needles and yarn to form the stitch I had been shown. I was slow, awkward and my work was full of errors. I found myself having to say each step out loud as I struggled to get the hang of this process but over the next week my speed increased and my errors were fewer. Throughout this time I had to contend with a few critics and those who mocked my efforts but by in large my peers were supportive, even if somewhat bemused by my middle aged ambition. By the time the October school holidays arrived I was reasonably confident that I could knit on my own without the support and feedback from Mrs Walker.
As I continued my knitting project during the term break I could see that I was making progress but continued to be frustrated each time I made an error. After a week I was at the point where I could recognise when I had made a mistake but realised that I didn’t have the knowledge of how to correct it and as a self-proclaimed perfectionist, this was my biggest source of annoyance. Thus, I found myself unravelling all of my hard work and starting over time and time again, hoping that this time I wouldn’t make an error and my knitting would be perfect. Yet even though my mistakes were now few and far between they still happened, so I reluctantly decided to push ahead regardless – errors and all! After three weeks the end product was a scarf that I had intended to make for my husband but have since decided that it would be better suited to my dog as he seemed far more appreciative.
This endeavour has definitely given me a renewed understanding and appreciation of what it is like to be the learner rather than the teacher. The acquisition of any type of skill requires a level of motivation, patience and engagement from the learner. But it is just as important to have access to expert instruction. During this process it was also obvious that having the opportunity to receive feedback and external support throughout my learning journey, not just at the start, would have been even more beneficial to my progress. In the early stages of learning any new skill, we may quickly discern when we have done something incorrectly but it is only the expert who can recognise why the error was made and how to correct it. This is what I found I desperately needed in my knitting, someone who was on hand to look at my work, show me where I went wrong and then how to correct it myself.
At Cedars we place a tremendous amount of emphasis on providing ongoing feedback to our students. By gathering data on students, both formally; through tests, assignments and examinations or informally; via observations, group work and class discussions we aim to close the gap between current and desired performance. This data helps us to know where out students are at and then provide targeted feedback and support as to help them move through the next steps in their learning journey.
I am looking forward to starting my next knitting project soon, and when I do I will definitely make sure I continue to tap into the expertise of someone like Mrs Walker, whom I am confident can help me to realise my unfulfilled potential as a knitter!