Apart from teaching the techniques, the most important thing is to get the students having fun with learning, accepting that they are going to make mistakes (and that’s okay—unless they run over a finger) and believe that with practice, they are going to be great machine quilters. You need to be brimming with enthusiasm, inspire them and be very generous with your knowledge without going off topic too much. With any quilting, there is always more than one way to do things. It’s always disheartening to hear students say that a quilt teacher made them do something one way only or they were made to feel bad if that way didn’t work for them. If you really want students to try something your way, encourage them to try it but give them the option to tweak it so it works for them. After all, it is about teaching them. There are no silly questions in my classes and if they are wanting to ask something, chances are, someone else has the same question so give them plenty of opportunities to ask and be respectful in your answers. I’ve had a few people ask, “What is machine quilting?” and I always answer it.
Engage with every student, coax them out of their shell, encouraging them to let go and just enjoy the learning process. Once they relax, they learn more quickly. Some people will be there for the social fun of doing a class and aren’t there to seriously become the next best machine quilter on Earth. They may be there to just have a break from looking after a loved one who is ill—you don’t know. You never know who is going to be the one to take what you teach them and run with it.
Get everyone to be objective about their work, compare where they started at the beginning of the day to where they are now. They need to be able to analyse their “mistakes” and practice the technique to avoid doing the same thing again. I use the word mistake loosely as there are no mistakes in the learning process.
The only thing some people will learn is to let go of perfection. This is a huge lesson and once the penny drops, they’re fine.
Students will have varying skill levels with their machine quilting. They’ll range from not knowing what machine quilting is to having done a course or two before with several hours of practice. In a small class you’ll be able to work with everyone at their level and give them activities to do that improve their weaknesses or try a more challenging design. In a larger class where you can’t get around to everyone, you may need to say that if they get this design, try this design afterwards as the next step in difficulty… Some quilters will need to spend most of their time on getting the basics and then they are off and racing. Some quilters will pick up the basics quickly and will race ahead of the class. This is also hard when you need to explain the next step because it’s a different technique, and you want to do that for the group as a whole but you don’t want the student to get bored.
What’s the best advice a teacher has given you? Has there been a situation in class where you felt awkward or didn’t get what the teacher was talking about? Was the teacher racing through a technique too fast for you? Do you like taking your own notes in class as well as having the teacher’s notes to refer to? Remember these and view your teaching from the students’ point of view. It will make you a great teacher; knowing how to encourage people and situations to avoid.