Monday, September 17, 2007

Teaching the Teachers - The Afterglow


For the past 18 months, I have been part of a committee of 7 rug hooking teachers who came together to lead the annual continuing education workshop (START) for the teachers’ branch of the Ontario Hooking Craft Guild.

Our preparation began 18 months ago when the committee came together and we loosely defined our objectives and what we wanted to achieve with this program. We wanted to do something that was outside the box of conventional rug hooking - something that would challenge us as individuals, teachers and artists.

It turned out to be a journey that taught me far more than I ever could have hoped for; about myself, about my fellow committee members and about the teachers who became the students. Throughout the 18 months, we worked incessantly. We were in constant touch via email. We worked on individual projects and group challenges as well. We got together for numerous all-day sessions to share our challenges, review our work in progress, massage our workshop content and agenda and marvel at the learning we were enjoying.

The journey culminated in an amazing workshop weekend where we got to share what we had learned with 18 eager students, many of whom just happen to be the ”best of the best” in our art form.

Our committee was comprised of very talented women who ranged in age from mid-fifties to 80. Our experiences levels, both in rug hooking and in teaching, were as diverse as our age range. Everyone’s creativity was celebrated, each voice was heard, and we walked into our course on Friday evening with clearly defined roles and responsibilities - not necessarily an easy thing to achieve when you put 7 strong women together on a project.

The reactions of our teacher students could not have been more enthusiastic. They were as excited about the challenge as we were and they rose to meet and exceed our expectations. Each student was asked to hook an expressionist face - not a portrait - during the weekend.

The 18 faces that began with a set of lips on Friday were proudly displayed, in various stages of completion, at “show and tell” on Sunday. There were 18 pieces of incredible work - each one truly unique. Some teachers' faces had turned into people from their past. Others had become masks to give strength. Some had become celebrations of survival - both physical and emotional. And every face challenged the creativity of its creator. Best of all, each and every student experienced the same exhilaration that the committee had - something that we were so fervently hoping would happen.

As one of our members said in her closing comments to the class:
“We had 18 months to make this journey. You have had two days and one evening. We pushed you to the edge of a cliff and pushed you - and you jumped willingly, bravely without a single scream.”

I can’t imagine how the weekend could have been any more successful than it was - for either the teachers or the students. Every hour I spent on this during the last 18 months has come back to me ten-fold.

I feel very proud not only of my own personal growth, but also of the contribution we have made as a team to the teachers who came to our workshop. At the end of the weekend, I am in a state of bliss.

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