Why I knit in Class

May 24, 2013

I knit in class. When I was a child, I would never have dreamed of knitting in class, or doing anything outside of coloring or daydreaming during the school day. Now, I walk into classes of various natures, check the notes left for me, wander the room, hoping to notice where some of the things I’ll need are located. The most organized teachers have ninety percent of my needs on their desk. Some put something in each corner. Each day has become an adventure.
Some days are adventures in a dull sort of boredom, Image     unless the students require your attention or are testing. If you are not an expert on the subject, you will be bored and may need something to do to keep from being a disruption in class yourself. After all, some days, you send more students than other days to the principal’s office for exactly that.
What is a substitute teacher to do? This one knits. Some read, some may crochet. I have not found I can give enough attention to writing or much to reading in a roomful of students. Some days, I don’t touch my bag of tricks. Other days, when I can’t find the book the teacher wants me read-aloud, I pull out my own book. Some days, I get a spare ten minutes at the end of the day, and I take out my knitting and demonstrate for the kids. Other days, I can only knit on breaks. But it keeps my hands busy and fills my time, and gives the students a buffer in order to approach me.
Of course I smile, but a shy student may forget they’re shy when they just have to know what you are knitting. Or another student may raise their hand and ask once they notice. Then we can have a short discussion about knitting, including the inevitable, “Will you make one for me?” to which I must answer, “No,” as gently but firmly as I can. In the meantime, I can use knitting to teach history-they used to make all their socks this way; multiplication–I have seventy-two stitches in a row, if I knit fifteen rows, how many stitches have I knit. If I get big enough numbers, I can show them how socks are 1,000 little hugs for my feet, or more. When I create video game characters, I observe interest in a craft some generations try to forget. I also teach reasoning through following directions, even if they are the same over and over again. I am sure my knitting will help me find other forays into teaching, including one-day, after school classes in my classroom. Since more than one student has told me they wish to learn to knit, I think it could become a useful after school class to work with fine motor skills and how to follow a pattern written in knitting shorthand. This is beginning to feel like algebra for socks, complete with complex equations: How much will I need to knit this? If a fourth or fifth grader has experience figuring out equations like this, imagine how much easier Algebra will be for them in a couple to a few short years.

I had one student in a Special Ed class look at me and say, “I wish I could learn to knit.” I told her she needs about $5.00 for a pair of knitting needles and she should watch a video on you-tube on how to knit. It’s really just wrapping the yarn around a needle after inserting it into a stitch and moving the needle in order to make a new stitch. I long for my own classroom on days like this, so I can follow-up on tips like this. Some days, as a substitute teacher, I get lucky and return to the school, or the classroom even, but I don’t always get time everyday to say, “Did you get some knitting needles or would you like me to find a pair?” I don’t know if I’ll remember to bring a spare pair and a simple pattern with some yarn either. I don’t even know if that student will be there. But I wish to have my own classroom and my own after school knitting club to talk about things women would have talked about in each period of history (a different one for each month) as they sat around homes and campfires and knit. I wish to show students who don’t have a prayer’s chance of passing that they can have a purpose in this world, no matter how simple it seems. I simply want to make a difference in the life of a child the only way I know how: through my experiences and showing them they matter enough to share my experiences with them.

ImageP.S. Anticipation of a toe should be published next week, unless another topic hi-jacks my post once again.


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