Becoming a quilt teacher—part 8
No matter how prepared you are, there will be things that you can’t control and you’re going to have to go with the flow. Don’t let these issues put you off; rather think about how you can deal with the situation if it comes up.
You may have students with a disability or a situation that needs catering to, such as older students that need to lip read or have better lighting. I’ve had students with a missing finger, are deaf or have no depth perception. To accommodate these students, I will sit the deaf/lip readers close to me and make sure they can see my lips. If they have a bluetooth hearing device that needs to be placed near me or worn around my neck, I will do that. Deaf people can feel isolated or stressed in classroom situations when they can’t get everything that’s said. My mother is quite deaf so I speak from hearing about her experiences. Keep background noise to a minimum as deaf people may not be able to distinguish background noise from the speaker. For those with no depth perception, keep a very close eye on them as they will have the most difficulty in judging the distance between their fingers and the needle. Ask them questions about their condition so you can adjust the techniques to suit them.
If it’s hot in the classroom, you may need to schedule more breaks which cut into teaching time but it’s going to be best for everyone.
Check students are breathing. All FMQ beginners hold their breath. I get them to breathe slowly through it.
Then there’s the person who has to talk all the way through your speech, has to answer the phone, goes way off topic or tells you about another class they took where the teacher said never to do something the way you’ve just taught it. What can you do? Do you wait for the student to finish their speech hoping they’ll realise they’re disturbing the class, ignore the person on their phone (as they hopefully go outside), try to bring the class back to topic or encourage the person to try your way and see which way it works for them? Ask all students to put their phones on silent (on the requirements list) and if they need to be contacted in an emergency, they can be contacted through the shop’s number.
You will always have late-comers and no-shows and people that can’t stay for the whole course because they need to have lunch with the mother-in-law. I give people a five-minute grace period to show up. This is fair to the rest of the class who showed up on time and it doesn’t cut into my teaching time too much. I have found classes scheduled for long weekends or special days like Mother’s Day don’t get the numbers you think they’d get. It may be different in your area but I have found this all over Australia.
If someone can’t make it for one of the sessions, is it possible to offer them a private session at another time? In a jam packed class, it is impossible to teach a catch up session as well as what is scheduled to be taught at the same time. You may find in longer courses, more drop out towards the end due to other commitments. While can be frustrating, there’s nothing you can do about it. They’ve got to make the decision as to what’s important to them. If you know in advance, it may be possible to give them a five-minute head start after class so they can do that sessions work at home.
In all my years of teaching, there is always at least one person in each class who didn’t get the right presser foot for their machine or didn’t get one at all, or their machine plays up the whole course. While you want to help these people, it just isn’t practical to spend all of your time trying to fix the problem. Some people have never cleaned out the lint from their machine, their tension is playing up, they have cheap cotton or the most common problem is that they are using bobbins from another machine that don’t quite fit their machine. I learnt early on to take my spare sewing machine with me to class if possible and set that up for them. I know they’re not going to be able to learn how their machine works with quilting by using my machine, but it is the only way to quickly solve the problem. Sometimes you have to ask someone else to let them have a go on their machine when they go on a break. Everyone is most generous with their machines when that happens, bless them!
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