The self-taught student becomes the professor

Last weekend at Potrero War in California was nice. No laptop. No work. No writing. No working up patients. Just spending time in the “current middle ages,” cruising Merchant’s Row, and learning a new embroidery stitch.

I got some new embroidery floss while I was there. Okay, so I didn’t need new thread–as is evidenced by the above photo. About 20-30 are new skeins or partial skeins. The rest? Aside from about a dozen new skeins I bought to match threads I used on a new project I started, those were all ones I previously had. I just mathed it, and I had approximately 180+ skeins or partial skeins of cotton embroidery floss–some gifted, some purchased secondhand, some purchased new. I might have a problem of sorts.

On the plus side, I have plenty of floss to hand out to the people who show up for my class Saturday at Atenveldt’s Kingdom Collegium. It’ll be my first time teaching any kind of class, and my first time teaching embroidery. Am I nervous? Hell yeah, I am.

Let me back it up a bit. I’ve always been one of “those” people who pick things up fairly quickly. Almost doesn’t matter what the subject was in school or in the work field, I just absorbed whatever I saw and went on with life. This brings me to my first, biggest concern about teaching: I don’t know how to teach. I learn differently from most people, so I don’t know how to disseminate the information in an instructive manner. Take the embroidery, for instance: I have learned nearly all I know about embroidery from looking at pictorials or video tutorials on Pinterest. Yeah. Like I said, I’m one of “those” people. The annoying ones who didn’t have to study for tests and just kinda skated through school and stuff.

This learning advantage puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to teaching things. I know how to look at a how-to photo or video and recreate the thing and do it. But I don’t know how to explain what I just did. And I’ll have to explain roughly eight different stitches to up to ten people Saturday. Eight stitches that, for the most part, I learned by looking at pictures.

Now, I do have a handout prepared…with the photos that I, myself, found most useful on Pinterest. Are they going to be useful to the people taking my class? I have no clue. I’m hoping and praying they are, or at least that I can supplement the photos with my own explanations of how to do the things.

I’ll have a few things to my favor: I’ll be in person, able to show each “student” hands-on how to do the stitches. I’ll be able to take my own embroidery hoop with fabric and demonstrate the stitches. (Note to self: Prepare a hoop for my own use during class.) But will I be able to impart knowledge that I kind of assimilated?

Another concern of mine is my cursed stammering when I get nervous. And with as many as ten people sitting in and listening to what I have to say/teach, I’ll be nervous. I’m hoping they’re all nice. Last thing I need is a heckler in class. Finally, add in a generous helping of social anxiety and I’m on edge. I’ve been able to distract myself with preparations so far, but now that I’ve got all that floss organized, I’m back to reality.

This is all for a purpose, though. To advance in the path of the Arts in the SCA, teaching is kind of part of the package. It’s one thing to make art, but it’s quite another to teach it to others. Sharing knowledge is important on the path to becoming a Laurel, which I hope to someday be.

Yeah, I’ve only been embroidering for about a year and a half, and I have almost zero formal training. (I did learn a new stitch in the class I took at Potrero, so it’s not 100% untrained.) Yeah, I only got my first Arts award a month ago. But I have to remind myself that I was good enough to be approached to work on garb for one set of royals in the SCA (and to be allowed to work on garb for another set). I was good enough to help my husband with largesse for another set of royals. I’ve been asked to take part in some rather important embroidery projects for my Barony. I’ve even done the Pelican embroidery for a good friend’s elevation mantle. I may have picked it up quickly, but I have learned quite a lot, and I think–I think–I can impart this knowledge on others.

I got this. It may be intimidating at first, but once I get into the classroom I’ll just have to tell myself that I have things to teach, wisdom to share, and, hopefully, the skill to share that wisdom and help others learn a new skill…and possibly a new favorite art.

Published by AJ Mullican, Author

I'm a New Adult author who has written both urban fantasy and sci-fi/dystopian. My publisher is RhetAskew Publishing, and my novel ABNORMAL is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Wal-Mart online, or you can request it from your local bookseller or library. Look for Book 2, ESCAPING THE LIGHT, coming soon! :)