Thursday, August 8, 2019

Lessons from a Crocheted Jellyfish

For the last several years, I have wanted to create amigurumi. Even if you don't know this term, you have probably seen these small crocheted creatures and objects, typically about 4-6 inches tall and always adorable. I can't explain why they appeal to me, and I don't do any handwork crafts like that, but I have always wanted to give it a try. I did some research a couple of years ago; I read that it is helpful to already know some basic crochet stitches in order to make an amigurumi something. I tried in the winter to learn to crochet. It was a dismal failure.

My sister Paula visited me last week. She taught herself to crochet by watching YouTube videos a couple Christmases ago, so I told her that I wanted her to teach me. She said she was willing, but she only really knew how to make granny squares (she didn't know amigurumi). Twenty-four hours later, I had a crocheted jellyfish and some of my summer's best professional development, a reminder of things I need to think about as I head back to school.

Lessons Learned from a Crocheted Jellyfish

  1. You need essential skills before you tackle something big. Paula only knew how to make granny squares so she demanded (literally, demanded) that we make granny squares. A few rows in, I put my hand work down and proclaimed that I was ready to make the jellyfish. She handed my square back to me and told me to finish. Paula knew that I wasn't ready, that I needed to practice more before I tackled something bigger.
  2. You won't always understand what you're doing at first and you have to trust the teacher to get you there eventually. She kept telling me to count Vs and stitches and I often had no idea what she was talking about. I asked her to show me over and over again. After hours of trying, I started to see the patterns that I was blind to at first.
  3. Practice creates automaticity. I was guilty of wanting the end result without putting in the practice. At first, I was using my fingers more than my crochet hook. My sister kept firmly saying, "stop using your fingers." By the end of the jellyfish, I could crochet by just relying on my hook, but it took hours. There is no shortcut for putting in the practice.
  4. It helps to have an enthusiastic and supportive teacher. Learning something new, something totally out of a wheelhouse, is hard. I quit a lot of times. I berated myself. I cursed a lot. I kept saying I was incompetent, that I couldn't crochet. Paula just kept handing my work back to me and telling me I could do it. She wouldn't let me quit. I finished because she told me I could.
  5. When learning something new, you will make many mistakes along the way and if you fix them, you become better. When I graduated from granny squares, I started the jellyfish. In fact, I started it around seven times because I just kept tearing it out and starting again when it didn't look right. On the sixth time, Paula tried to stop me from tearing it out, but I knew it wasn't right.
  6. When you complete the task, you will feel accomplished. My jellyfish isn't perfect. It's far from perfect. But it looks like a jellyfish. And I made it!
None of this is earth-shattering. As you read this list, you might be thinking that this is pretty basic stuff. It is. But, as teachers, we know this but we don't always feel it or experience it. We know learners need to practice and learn in chunks, but when we have to be the learner, it crystallizes these ideas in a way that only learning something new can.

I'm taking the jellyfish to school this year. I'm going to start on a duck that I hope will join the jellyfish. I hope they will serve as a reminder of how hard it is to learn and how important it was to have my teacher-sister encouraging me. If you have a chance to learn something totally outside your wheelhouse this year, I hope you'll take it.

1 comment:

  1. I’m famous!!!! I’ll add we were in stitches (see what I did there) laughing while learning. Learning something new can and should be fun. :)