Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Knitting Disability

One of my hobbies is knitting.  I first learned how to knit when I was ten years old and in Girl Scouts. We learned to knit a pair of slippers.  I may have tried it a few times after that, but I didn't really knit again until January of this year, when I found and made that very same slipper pattern.  Since that time I've been enjoying taking classes, learning new stitches and improving my skills.  I am fascinated by how each stitch works together to create the fabric, and then finally a beautiful usable item.

Yesterday I took a class to learn how to knit a shawl.  The pattern is called Highland Fling.  I had met the instructor before. I knew her to be a very skilled knitter with a brusque style.  At that first meeting she asked me why "I knitted like that", and had I thought about "changing."  Last night she told me I knitted "funny" and again reiterated that "I should change."

You see, I have a knitting disability. I am left handed.  I didn't really know it was a disability until I began taking classes.  After all, I have been left handed all of my life, as are about 10% of the population, so it seemed natural to knit left handed.  Apparently, most left handers adapt and learn how to knit right handed.

Knitting left handed does have its challenges, because all knitting patterns are written for right handed people. The left hander needs to analyze and reverse all the directions.   When given time and quiet to think about things, I have been pretty successful in doing this.  This shawl is the most complex pattern I have tried.  Given time, I know I can do this, but being yelled at because I don't understand immediately was not very helpful.  Nor was being asked to change who I am.

While I did think about gathering up my things and fleeing, I'm glad I stayed.  It was a good experience for a teacher to have.  Every now and then, we need to be on the other side of things.  It made me think about what our kids go through, especially those who struggle. I want to become more sensitive to my students who process and learn differently than the majority.  We need to give kids the Quiet (see my previous post) and space to learn and think.  

How many kids feel secure in their own uniqueness at home, only to lose that sense of security once they enter a classroom.  Kids should not have to change who they are to be successful  at school.  Nor should they be humiliated because they don't learn or process in the same way or as quickly as others.  Increasing our time for small group work in both reading and math is an important way to respect this uniqueness.  Also providing students with a variety of ways to demonstrate their learning will be helpful.  

Most important, I need to slow down, listen, and monitor my own tone of voice as I am working with students.  How many kids withdraw and shut down because of the sarcasm or irritation in a teacher's voice.  Last night's experience was a reminder of that. When it comes to fight or flight, I always pick flight.  I'm going to make sure my kids don't have those feelings because of something I do.  I rededicate myself to making my classroom a safe place to learn.

There is room for all of us in this world, even those of us who are left handed knitters.  

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