Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Quilting as a Metaphor for Teaching

When Kara (now age 14) was born, I took up the hobby of quilting.

I did this for a few reasons...

1.  It was therapy for me.  I did some of my best thinking with fabric and needle in hand, the hum of the sewing machine drowning out screaming kids.  Or maybe it was that I COULDN'T think while quilting -- for fear that I would sew my finger to my fabric.  It's probably the second one -- quilting forced me to forget all things except the very moment at hand.

2.  It was a creative outlet.  Being a stay at home mom didn't allow for much creativity aside from which Thomas the Tank Engine layout Ryan would ask for assistance to create every day.  Let's see...do we put the bridge after Cranky the Crane or before him today?

3.  I felt productive.  I could see the small pieces of fabric come together into a beautiful whole.  It felt good.  It made me proud.

4.  It was challenging.  I never shied away from a difficult pattern.  I taught myself how to quilt and hand applique. I could look at a pattern in a magazine and figure out how to piece the block.   I'm happy to say that I think I was pretty good at it.

Now that I have been teaching for six years, I'm sad to say that I don't do much quilting anymore.  Most nights, I am asleep on the sofa around 8:30 or my Puggle wants to sit in my lap which doesn't make it easy to stitch.  I find myself needing more instant gratification.  Some of my best quilts have taken me over a year to create and quite honestly, I just don't have that kind of time these days.

There are times when I find myself really missing my quilting.

And then I got to thinking...

The same things that drew me to quilting, also drew me to teaching.

1.  It is therapeutic.  Sure, there are some rough days.  Really rough.  But there are also lots of days when I leave and can't wait to come back the next day.  Thankfully, the good out weigh the bad.  Nothing feels better than hearing a student say "Ohhh...." when they finally "get it" or to hear the "YES!!" when they do well on something.

2.  It nurtures my creative side.  Creating for my classroom -- whether it be a unit of study or a poster -- brings out my inner child about to begin a project with a new box of crayons (the 64 pack with the sharpener on the back, of course!)  Ask my teammates -- if they need something "cutsiefied," they call me.

3.  I feel productive.  Flipping pages in my lesson plan book from week to week is not enough for me.  I also am constantly challenging myself with professional reading and with staying in touch with other professionals through blogging.

4.  It is hands-down the most challenging thing I've ever done.  Each student in my class is an individual with unique needs.  My goal is to reach every learner and give them what they need to be successful in our classroom and beyond into life.  I guess you could say that they are the fabric squares that fit into my larger quilt.  Sure, some are not quite even, some may even be raveling, but it is my job to work with them until I make them fit together into a thing of beauty.

And that, my friends, is what it's all about.