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Sunday, 12 October 2014

The Intrinsic Joys of Teaching Needlework

Needlework and its myriad branches are subjects that have never failed to enthral me or to awaken the teacher, the designer and the explorer in me. I can list at least four reasons why despite being at it for well over 20 years, I still find teaching the craft captivating.
  1. I enjoy the various facets of Needlework- Needlework is a very broad term given to an amazing variety of things you can design with just a bit of yarn, implements like the humble sewing needle, a pair of knitting needles, a crochet hook, an exotic tatting shuttle etc., and your fingers. Although needlework is basically categorized into freestyle embroidery, counted thread embroidery, and lace making, each of these labels have under their umbrella, an astonishing number of constantly expanding styles. For instance, crochet, knitting and tatting fall under lace making; however, within the  category of tatting fall distinct styles like Cluny tatting, beaded tatting, split ring tatting, needle tatting etc. Exploring all of these, and developing methods to help my students understand the nuances mastering them would require, are at the same time both a challenging and an extremely enjoyable experience.
  2. I enjoy being part of my students' projects- Why would I enjoy being a part of other people's projects? As I've mentioned earlier, needlework is a very broad term, and if I were to try out every project that captivates my imagination, I would have very little time to expand my horizons and learn new techniques. Therefore, I love to participate in my students projects from start to finish and to help them explore multiple ways to use a design; furthermore, the part I enjoy the most is exploring with them how different a specific design would look when worked using different design elements, classes of stitches or styles of embroidery. These exercises satiate the designer in me.
  3. The more I teach the more I learn- Upon reflection, I realize that  teaching needlework has forced me to look at things from other people's point of view; mostly because, I've never had some of the doubts my students raise when I was learning the techniques myself.  In such cases, I have to first figure out why the student had the doubt in the first place, find a solution, and then add it to my repertoire of teaching techniques. In one instance, since I am right-handed, I found it difficult to address doubts raised by my left-handed students until one of them pointed out that all I had to do was use an image editing software to flip the images illustrating the instructions so I had a mirror image; I'd now have images suited for a left-handed student. At times, a student would illustrate an easier technique she had learned from her mom to work a stitch; even though I am the teacher, teaching needlework is never a one way street, for my students constantly motivate me to expand my teaching skills and to explore the use of technology in teaching needlework. 
  4. Teaching needlework akin to meditation- Finally, teaching needlework and meditating have the same effect on me; in particular, it's a great stress buster because when I am teaching needlework I am so into it that for brief periods of time, everything else ceases to exist. 
The joy I get out of teaching my needlework classes is an almost addictive transcendental experience.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Nurturing Self-esteem in Kids

Almost all us, have a vision of what our child's future should be like. Often, we create a tunnel vision and strive to herd our children through it. All our responses to them, both positive and negative are based on this.  Most of us don't even realise this. We start hacking at our children's self-esteem very early in their lives. This is really damaging. The hurt follows them right into adulthood and stifles their self-confidence at the most inopportune and often crucial moments.

In creating this tunnel vision, we forget one very significant fact: that our children are individuals with a fertile imagination and a host of dreams and ideas that could possibly be totally different from ours. Our job as parents is to facilitate and guide them. Instead, we thrust our views on them and expect them to simply obey. A child's self-esteem is about how a child sees himself. Whether it is high or low depends largely on how we as parents and all the adults in his life treat him. We plaster kids with all kinds of labels like, "you are a lazy guy", "you never complete what you start", etc. These seemingly harmless ones could be just as harmful as the more hurtful, "you are good for nothing".

"How then"' you may ask "are we to guide our children?". There is no truth in the statement, " Harsh words are just as necessary as medicines. They are both bitter but they make you better". There is no need to use harsh language when dealing with children. It does more harm than good.

First, let us realise that we ourselves are not perfect examples of humanity. Next, do we practice what we preach? How then can we expect our children to be perfect?

When my son was six years old he asked me,"Do I have to always listen to you because I am smaller?" That gave me pause and I started paying more attention to him when he had something to say. I realised then, that his perspective could be just as rational, though slightly different from mine. That was when I understood that children are more than willing to meet us halfway if we can earn their trust and respect.

Getting back to labels, guiding children is easier when we build their self-esteem. Instead of using general labels, we could point out specific behaviour that upset us and explain our point of view. Over the years I have realised that when I shout at my kids, they tune me out. But when I talk to them calmly, they make an honest attempt to look at things from my perspective. 

The added benefits of this approach are
  1. Their self-esteem is intact
  2. They trust us and therefore the lines of communication are open
  3. They are okay with the limitations we set for them
  4. They face challenges and peer pressure without buckling
  5. They understand their own limitation and are not ashamed of it
Their dreams may not be our dreams.  But does that really matter? All that should matter is that they grow into self-confident and well adjusted adults. It is these attributes that will help them weather the reality that is life. Building their self-esteem is the best gift we could ever give them.