The holidays are just around the corner and I was determined that this year I would make gifts for a few family members. I headed to Pinterest to find an easy craft and since scarves are all the rage this season, also a personal favorite of mine, I looked for an easy scarf to make.
I quickly found a video for arm knitting. According to the video in just over 30 minutes I could have a beautiful infinity scarf. After several weeks of procrastinating, I bought the yarn and later that day set myself up with yarn and iPad ready to start the project. The first step was making a slip not. God, how could making a knot be so difficult? I watched and re-watched the video 4 times just to figure it out. I should have know at this point that making this "30 minute scarf" was not going to be as easy as I'd hoped.
The most challenging part of the process was the casting. I watched the video example SEVERAL times, but I couldn't figure out how to make the first cast. After 30 minutes of trying to do the FIRST cast and constantly failing I walked away from the project. Maybe just maybe I would buy the gift instead.....but the project nagged at me and I wanted to conquer the scarf.
I did finally conquer the scarf.... 2 hours later. At some point, I realized that in order to persevere I had to employ my own learning strategies to finally make it happen.
Here's what I did. Since I couldn't figure out the initial stitch with the first video I searched for another. Ha, simple right. The second video "Arm Knitting For Beginners" gave me more hope. The video was shot from a different angle and slowly showed how to cast. Still I wasn't making progress. More determined than ever I watched a third video "The Basics for Arm Knitting." The third video was the charm. The presenter used a simple technique of forming a triangle and showing the step-by-step process that I could finally visualize and process. Success. I was able to cast on and make the stitches and was finally on my way to making the scarf. I did eventually go back to the first video and used it to finish the project. After I was done I felt enormous pride and satisfaction in having the first gift complete. This feeling of success lead to the making of two more scarves that afternoon.
After reflecting on my scarf experience I realized my struggle mirrored the struggle students have learning new information. I often hear from teachers about their frustration with students who struggle to learn. These teachers think learning comes naturally and it doesn't. They expect students to hear information once and than be able to go home and complete a new homework assignment or read a new concept for homework and then be able to apply it the next day. This is foolery. Students, especially those whom already struggle academically, need time, scaffolds, and learning strategies to figure things out. If we don't give them this we set them up for failure. The goal of learning is to find that feeling of satisfaction when we finally get it. When we can say " Yup, I didn't get it the first time, but I knew how to use the appropriate tools and worked it out." This type of learning experience is not just memorable it's powerful and changes the mindset of students who struggle. As an adult trying to figure out how to make a scarf I knew I could learn to do it. I knew that I just needed to be patient, apply my strategies and persevere. When we do the same thing with students we teach them the feeling of success and in turn empower them to tackle the next challenge.
Teacher, leader, curious observer, explorer of the world and everything in it, passionate about new experiences, and making connections with people.