Friday, April 11, 2014

Knitting and learning...

Those were my first stitches since I was a teenager.  I decided to take knitting lessons.  This is something I had thought about for sometime.  After all I had spent years marking while watching TV.  I thought I could substitute knitting.  And I liked reading books about knitting...

When I was last unemployed 33 years ago, I took quilting and photography lessons.  I actually quilted.  I made a vest and a jacket but when I was working, my idea of relaxation was reading a book not sewing.

I often like the idea of things more than the actual reality.  For instance, swooping down a hill on powdery snow is not quite the same thing as heavy ski boots that pinch and icy falls.  And at one point I decided no more handicraft lessons as I had too many unfinished projects in my attic.

But I do like taking lessons (almost as much fun as teaching school) so I decided that I was going to knit.

I began my first lesson having difficulty trying to do a slip knot.  I haven't had to tie many knots lately, I guess.  And then the casting on method was so confusing to me, I had to take a picture of how to hold my thumb and finger with my iPhone to refer to.

I went away and  I practiced my knitting and purling-no doubt I should have practised casting on but I just kept knitting…

Lesson two we learned how to do moss stitch which wasn't too bad though I did seem to get a bit confused when I looked at my knitting sample.

The third week we moved on to circular needles to begin our hats.  I think I took half the lesson just casting on.  I went home and things seemed to be okay but by Monday, the following day I realized I was in trouble.  The pattern which was supposed to be in ribbing was definitely off.  I phoned my knitting expert friend, Sandy, and she redid the whole thing for me.  I went home and realized I had told her I needed 102 (which wouldn't work so we had 104)  stitches when I really needed 72 (I think the glass of wine I drank prior to the knitting remediation may have caused a memory problem).  She was out  so I was left to my own devices.

I practiced my casting on and rib stitch with other needles and wool.  I finally understood what it looked like when I purled a stitch or when I knit so that I knew what to do next if I lost track rather than have to count stitches.

Tuesday I had to go on a field trip, but after that I was back at Sandy's where I made her observe my cast on method to see if I was doing it correctly (yes but too tight) and she helped me again get back on track!

I was feeling quite confident and even took my knitting to show off a bit Thursday to friends, but then I realized that something was wrong again.  Some parts of the row seemed to be longer than others and my pattern looked right on one side for the last few stitches but not on the other side.

Back again to Sandy's this morning.  It seems that I was not going in a circle but often mixing up when I put it down and picked it up again and going in wrong directions!  Knitting on straight needles is more straight forward!

Once again she got me straightened out and then while I sat there knitting I managed to twist it somehow so that even she couldn't figure out so once again unravelling had to occur.  The only way that I am going to get done what I have to do for Sunday will be due to help from Sandy.

Conclusions… There may be a reason I haven't knit for over forty years!  We all have learning difficulties!  Well at least I seem to have.  I definitely should have empathy and sympathy for students who have problems learning.  And a patient mentor is a godsend!  And it's easy to want to give up when things are not coming along easily.    When I told a friend I was stressed out over my knitting, she reminded me it was only knitting.  It's hard to be patient with myself when I am not progressing as quickly as I think I should.
I read somewhere we need to teach kids to welcome challenge and one way to encourage someone to overcome difficulties is to remind him or her  how he/she did so in the past.  I mean I can ride a bike easily  but I remember initially crashing into a tree.  I was afraid of water until I was about 12 but now swim quite nicely.  Learning to read was not a problem but not everything has come as easily…

So learning is such a continual process and often not a smooth path… And maybe I day I will overcome circular needles…or just stick to straight needles…

Post Script!

And yes, I did finish the hat and am actually happily wearing it now!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Musing about school after a holiday...

I have been away the last couple of weeks on holiday.  It seems a bit strange to go on a holiday when you are retired but there you go.  I have to say it was really lovely going to Florida and on a Caribbean cruise and enjoying warm weather and lovely scenery.  I met friends from Montreal in Miami and we spent a day sightseeing there as none of us had really been there.  Then we were off on a Caribbean cruise and although it wasn't our first cruise it was our first cruise in the Caribbean.  We followed that up with four days in Fort Lauderdale, just about 45 minutes north of Miami airport.  My friend, Linda, and I had spent a week there in 1977 and hadn't been back since!  All told it was a great trip with my friend from university, her sister, and their amazing mother (at 87 she even went snorkeling with us).  I am in the process of writing this all up in my travel blog.  So if you would like to hear more and see a few pictures just click here.

I felt badly deserting my basketball team in mid season but working out schedules made it difficult to do otherwise.  I missed their last couple of games but they continued on with the PE teacher and help from the grade seven girls.   One of my true surprises in life has been discovering that I really enjoy coaching teams.  I am not particularly athletic and have never even ever really played basketball.   When I started teaching at my previous school I said I would help the girls' soccer coach with her team.  As an adult I had played one summer on a women's team.  It actually was an experience I quite enjoyed.  We even won a trophy (I assure you not due to my brilliant playing).  Anyway Bonnie encouraged me to help and then I helped with basketball and soon I actually would coach my own teams.  Now I often borrowed grade seven boys to help demonstrate various skills and being a large school we sometimes had some quite talented players and did fairly well.  But more importantly girls who often didn't get to participate in community teams were able to have a good time and learn some skills.

It's always also most fun to teach kids what they are most motivated to learn.  And you get to see kids in a totally different context.  I often enjoyed being able to cheer on one of my problematic boys as he played well in a game.

I returned late Wednesday night.  When I woke up Thursday morning I had two choices-to go to school to at least work with the grade ones until recess or start in on unpacking, doing laundry and cleaning up my house.  I decided to go to school and walked in on the first graders writing a letter to me in response ot the postcard I had sent from St Thomas in the Virgin Islands.  Of course the hyper boys were up giving me hugs as soon as they realized I had arrived.

I planned to leave after recess but I was there until lunch time because this is a class that can easily keep two adults very busy.  One little boy was upset over something that had happened at recess and two peer helpers came in with him to explain to his teacher.    Shin Mei told me how well the junior girls had done (despite losing their last two games) and how they had helped coach them.

Can you tell why I love to go to my old school?

I wrote this last week and I should update as this week included a field trip with the grade one and kindergarten students to Science World.  A field trip with first graders is a bit different than seventh graders.  They had a wonderful time especially in the lego exhibit but keeping track of them was not easy!  They had lots to write about in their journals Thursday. This week  I just had to go watch the  two  zone final games with the senior girls.  The girls won the first game by three points and lost the second by one point.  They were real nail biter games and both their wonderful coach, Deb, the PE teacher, and I were very proud of the girls, my last year's team.

I really wish the government and public would appreciate the hard work that teachers do!  Many teachers have just finished report cards which used to take me more than two weekends to complete (try writing report cards after teaching all day).  I also don't miss having to plan lessons when I was sick and going to many meetings nor the helpless feeling of maybe going on strike to try to get a decent contract with a government that doesn't show any real appreciation of your work or has even been judged in court to not honour a past contract.  Sigh...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Filing cabinets-attempting to sort and declutter

uncluttered view in my attic...
I have a book somewhere that tells is how creative people can be organized.  I think one component is that you are supposed to be able to see your "stuff".  Well if you go up to my attic you can see lots of my "stuff" as I have files in three open cardboard boxes from school, just in case.  I also have a real (not very good) two drawer filing cabinet.  I also have two accordian type file boxes...There were also other files just laying around from the last time I needed some document.  One goal before I retired or at least moved what I wanted to keep of my school "stuff" home, was to clean out said filing cabinets and there was also an idea of getting rid of this filing cabinet and getting one that was better.  Hmm... well that didn't exactly happen. 

I am going away soon for a couple of weeks so that this inspired me to get to work on cleaning out the filing cabinet.  It started Saturday afternoon and continued Sunday afternoon.  And now there is a lot less in the filing cabinet but the other files are still in those cardboard boxes.

There is a feeling of liberation as you put work from the past into the recycling.  And a freedom of getting rid of articles you never read and now feel no need to read.  You let go of materials for workshops you never plan to give again.  You let go of materials that might have been good if you wanted to write a research article but know that time has past.

You find teaching reports, letters of reference, letters of commendation...I make sure I keep at least one copy.  It is always nice to read nice comments about your ability to do your work (the most amusing is when someone has said I am organized?!)

There is the divorce decree, the house ownership papers, the record of insurance claims, ten years of income tax records, the cat's medical history and the car's.

You find things that you vaguely knew were there.  I read the essay I wrote about Stanstead County when I was in grade eight and the letter that  the newspaper editor of the local paper wrote to me when my principal/teacher sent it to him.  There  is the little history of my hometown that four of my fellow students also later wrote that was published as a small book.  Now that was kind of a remarkable teacher. 

I find writing that I did in a couple of intensive writing courses I did summers long ago.  As I read over one piece I am reminded of a kindness long ago by someone with whom I have recently reconnected. 

There are the letters I wrote to my ex-husband when I went to Japan, China, and Hong Kong with a friend now dead...There is the journal I kept on my trip to Australia, New Zealand, and the Cook Islands.  No time to read today but definitely later.

I find family history material from both sides of my family. 

As I get rid of some "stuff" I begin planning to maybe revisit this writing, write it up, maybe share, maybe even do a bit more research.  

It's kind of mentally exhausting doing this kind of "work" and not sure why I chose a sunny afternoon to do it though it was pleasant in my attic office workroom.  And I really hadn't spent much time at home this week.

The problem with filing cabinets is you can't really see into them and it's easy to keep them closed and somewhat forgotten until there is an emergency of some sort.  I had two full sized four drawer ones in my classroom now reduced to those three cardboard boxes and now there actually is one empty drawer available in the attic.  With computers you really probably don't technically need physical filing cabinets  but for now I do and hopefully open them more often...