Cramming everything you want to teach into a time frame is a jolly hard thing to do when you’ve got to give your students time to digest and practice those techniques. You’ve got to allow time to go around to every student to help them with their problems and make sure they get it. It becomes easy to pick up a blank, panicked stare when you’re explaining something. Schedule breaks so their muscles don’t get sore, they can get up and walk around, have some morning tea and lunch. Their brains will a rest from your constant stream of information. Get the class to drink lots of water and take breaks when they need them (to some extent)! Warn them in advance that they may be overwhelmed by the end of the day but once they go through everything they’ve learnt in their own time, they’ll be right.
The only three rules in my classes are: to have fun, be safe and go with what works for you and your machine. No one goes home with 9½ fingers! Not everyone retracts their rotary blades after every cut so go through a few safety rules before class if needed.
Do you or the venue operator have a first aid kit? Does the building have a dedicated first aid officer? Do they have a ‘must call an ambulance’ if you hurt yourself policy? Some larger institutions do (if you’re renting a room in their building). Check this before renting the room and if so, place a note on the requirements list recommending ambulance cover.
I always ask the student to take their foot off the pedal when my fingers are near the needle. They need to keep their fingers one inch away from the needle at all times when quilting too.
I recommend on the requirements list that all students wear covered shoes. I don’t want someone dropping scissors or a needle on someone’s toes—they’re liable to be mine!
Number of students
Look at having a minimum amount of students and maybe a maximum. Teaching 15 people is different to teaching five or six. You may not be able to spend quality time with everyone. When teaching machine quilting, I go for a minimum of three and a maximum of six because I like to make sure I constantly check how everyone is going with every concept. If teaching at a local shop, they may not have the room for more students anyway. You’ll probably be able to teach more students in a patchwork or appliqué class as you won’t have to check how everyone is going all of the time.
In one of the few classes I was a student in, I had another lady sitting at my table who sewed at the speed that made the table vibrate so I couldn’t work. This made the workshop less enjoyable for me and was a tough subject to broach with her. In an ideal world, everyone would have their own table. In my classes now, I ask people to be mindful not to sew at that speed if possible so they don’t disturb their neighbours. With older machines that sew fast, you may not have a choice.
If you are teaching at home, make sure your insurance covers it and check with the council if they allow it. They may require you to have a certain amount of car parking.
Leaving the room set up overnight
The big dilemma. Do you risk leaving your classroom set up overnight? Is someone going to sleep there to mind it? Does the building insurance (or your contents insurance) cover everything left in the building? The shop and teacher are probably not going to take liability for anything left there by students. Talk to your students at at the end of the day about it. If they do decide to take their gear home, ask them to come in early the next day to set it up again so it doesn’t delay the start of the class.
Do you stay at someone’s house or get a hotel for the night?
Guilds and shops may try to save money and offer you accommodation at someone’s house. This can be a good or bad experience. There may be noise during the night such as a crying baby or a very old bed to sleep in. While they are generous with their hospitality, you may want a hotel for the night especially if you’ve travelled and are tired.
Taking photographs for advertising
If you want to put photos of the class and the students’ work online or use them in promoting the class, get permission from everyone involved. They may return the favour and pop photos on their social media pages to say they had a great time in your class!
Happy quilting and teaching,