Teaching a large group of people with lots of different levels of expertise can be a challenge. I must admit, when I was approached to teach a class here on scroll sawing, I felt a little intimidated. After seeing all the beautiful projects here from so many talented woodworkers, my first reaction was to wonder what I could possibly teach them.
I was first asked in March, just before leaving for the show that I lectured at in Saratoga Springs, New York. At that point it had been several years since I had taught a class, and I had never been asked to lecture previously. That was all new to me.
Even though I had taught decorative painting classes over the years, I had never taught scroll saw classes. Once I was asked to do a demonstration at a scroll saw club in the Chicago area, but that was also quite informal and it was only to about ten or fifteen members. The group was very casual and many of them I had come to know throughout the years and considered them friends. I had actually almost forgotten about it, as it was woven into a time in my life when things were quite busy in other directions. It was more of a one time event, and I never really pursued it further.
I have always maintained that teaching is a wonderful way to learn more about your skill. As we become more competent in what we do, it is inevitable that we begin to take many things for granted. I believe that is a natural part of the process. Things that used to be a struggle for us become easy and almost second nature, and we sometimes forget to give ourselves credit for what we have accomplished. By working with others who are new to the skill, our own sense of ability is reinforced. The mere act of sharing what we know with others is a great way to look at how we do things and take inventory of our strengths and weaknesses. It is also a good way to build confidence in ourselves when we come to the realization that we do have much to offer others.
Saratoga Springs was a good example of that for me. In the process of lecturing and teaching several different groups of people – all with different skill levels, it forced me to be aware of what knowledge I had gained over the years and had taken for granted. Many of the things that I considered second nature in the process of scroll sawing and woodworking were new and exciting to the newcomers. I would have never realized this had I not chosen to accept these invitations to lecture and teach. Through the intelligent questions that were asked of me, I came to understand that I had more to offer people than I initially thought. And that was a good feeling.
The best part of the whole thing was that I learned a lot too. In speaking with people and discussing things, many things were brought to light that I hadn’t heard of or considered before. And that was very exciting. It made me look at myself and at other woodworkers in a much different way.
I found that one of the most enlightening part of the class was the questions. When a student asked a question, it gave insight to some areas that perhaps I wasn’t covering completely enough. When a question was asked about a particular technique or process, it brought to my attention that perhaps I had assumed something that I should have explained a little better. Perhaps it was one of those points that I had done many times and taken for granted. In any case, by clarifying things for the student and answering the question, it helped me understand my own abilities better and raised my own confidence. If I didn’t have a clear answer for them, there were certainly others in the class who were able to offer advice and answers from their own experience, and we all learned. It was a good thing for everyone involved.
In preparing for the class I am teaching here on Lumberjocks, I have been pulling on all that I have learned over the past several months from others. Since teaching in Saratoga Springs, I have become much more aware of my own abilities and what others are looking for in a class. The questions asked, both in New York and subsequently from customers and people here on this and other forums, give me a sense of what information people are seeking and how I should present it. It has helped me tremendously in the preparation and decisions of which material I need to cover and also to what extent.
If I were doing this a year ago, I don’t think that it would be the same at all. I don’t think that it would be a bad class, but I think that perhaps it would not be as accessible for someone who is just beginning. I would probably be guilty of assuming many things that I now realize are necessary building blocks in the foundation of many of the processes we will be doing.
Woodworking itself is so dimensional. Each division of woodworking is like the side of a multifaceted stone. While a person may be expert on one or even several of the different types of woodworking, there is always more to learn and explore in a different, yet related field. Many divisions of woodworking can overlap each other to make incredible things, and it is rare that only one process is used. I believe that is what makes it so exciting for all of us. The journey of learning new processes and techniques never seems to end. There is always another challenge on the horizon for us. That, along with teaching others is a very fulfilling part of many of our lives. I believe it is why we are all here.
Yesterday I posted the first real lesson for my scroll saw class. I have decided that the lessons would be short and focused and I am gearing them to those who have never worked with a scroll saw before. This is not intended to talk down to those here, but after receiving many messages from people who wish to participate in the class and have little or no experience on the scroll saw, I feel that it is the best way to proceed.
I realize that this pace may seem slow to those who have some knowledge of the process of scroll sawing, but in mapping things out and seeing what I want to cover in the class, I realize that it is a great deal of information and I want everyone to be able to digest it slowly and easily. I also realize that many who are following have busy lives filled with families, jobs and other things. I believe that going at a slower pace will offer the greatest benefit to all. For those who are more experienced, I also welcome their participation and thoughts. I have seen this occur already, and I think that it will help enhance the learning experience.
As for myself today, I have plenty that I am going to do to keep busy. Although the 72 sets of skating figures are done, I need to cut out 72 rectangular ponds. Although this shouldn’t take too long, any time I do 72 of anything it will manage to eat up a couple of hours of my day. I will be printing the patterns while I am doing that. I received my order for the bags which I am going to package the patterns in so I have everything I need to complete things and get them ready to ship.
I also have been saying for almost a week how I want to get some work done on my new painting design. It was one of those weeks where other things have taken priority and my paints and brushes have sat here untouched for days now. It is time to move that up the list and make time to finish it. (I may even take them to the beach and do it there, weather permitting. It would do me good to get out and have a change of scenery.)
I am looking forward to a good weekend. I have already received a good amount of response from the lesson that I posted last night, both privately and on the comment section, and I feel that we are all going in the right direction. I appreciate the opportunity given to me very much.
I hope you all have a wonderful and creative day.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"