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Getting Started (Part 1: Getting started as a local needlecrafts teacher)

If you’re thinking about becoming a needlecrafts teacher in your local area, you should know that I was in your shoes just four years ago.  Now that I’ve taught over 100 beginners to crochet or knit, plus many other students to move beyond the basics, I am happy to share some of the things I wish I knew when I started in this series of posts.

Getting Started as a Local Needlecrafts Teacher: Part 1 Getting Started on Underground CrafterUpdate: This series is a great introduction to teaching, but since I originally wrote it in 2011, it has become outdated. If you’re looking for a more robust (and updated) approach to teaching, check out my book, Make Money Teaching Crochet: Launch Your Business, Increase Your Side Income, Reach More Students.

Do I have what it takes to teach?

Teaching something and knowing how to do something are actually not the same thing.  Has an expert ever tried to explain something to you and you just didn’t “get it” but then later, someone else explained it and it was very clear?   When I first began teaching crochet, I thought it was enough to know how to crochet myself.  After about an hour of mutual frustration with my first student (I couldn’t explain and she couldn’t understand), I realized there is much more to it.

To be a great needlecrafts teacher, you will need certain skills.  Let’s start with the essentials.

  • A solid foundation in the basics of the craft you plan to teach.  This means you absolutely know how to do everything basic without referring to a reference guide or another source.  While as a teacher you don’t need to know everything (especially if you teach beginners only), you should have total command of the basics.
I am a self taught pattern reader, so I used to keep a cheat sheet for myself with the names of different basic stitches. Tip: Learn the names before trying to teach them!
  • Some understanding of the next level (beyond the basics) in the craft.  You probably do not need to have the highest level of expertise, but remember that even in a beginner class, you will have some students who come in with basic skills.  You will need to teach them as well :).

In addition to skills in your chosen craft, there are certain personal qualities that help a lot.

  • Patience.  If you don’t  like to repeat the same thing multiple times, teaching may not be for you.  At the very least, you might want to avoid teaching beginners :).  Remember that many of your students have never tried (insert your favorite needlecraft here) before.  Other students may have had some unsuccessful attempts to learn from another teacher, a book, a video, or online before.  Your lack of patience could turn them off entirely to a great craft.
  • Confidence.  A good teacher needs to be able to project her/his voice, to admit when s/he don’t know something, to resolve conflicts between students, to deal with a disruptive or monopolizing student, etc.  All of these social interactions require confidence.  If you feel very shaky about yourself and your skills, it will come through to your students.
  • Organizational skills.  Structuring a class takes organization, whether it is for one student or a group.  You will need to prepare your ideas and materials, meet your student(s) on time, and have the right amount of content to cover.  Depending on the situation, you may also need samples, handouts, or other materials.  Careful pre planning is required, especially in the beginning when you haven’t done it before.
  • Energy.  When you have a class scheduled, you will need to have a reasonably high level of energy.  For needlecrafts, you don’t need the stamina of an aerobics teacher.  On the other hand, you can’t be dozing off in the corner.
Some times I need a boost before a Saturday morning class.

It also helps to have a lot of passion for the craft.  Your enthusiasm and interest will be visible to your students.  And if you are teaching adults, diplomacy is also a must.  You need to be able to gently redirect someone if they are making a mistake.

Who do I want to teach?

Some needlecrafts teachers chose to specialize.

Age

  • Will you teach children or adults or both?  If both, are you teaching them in the same class or do you teach kids separately from adults?  Children often get bored during a class which might seem too short to an adult.  If you are teaching mixed groups, you may want to set guidelines about whether children need to be accompanied by an adult, establish a minimum age, and monitor the discussion topics of the adult students.
  • If you are only teaching adult students, you will also need to think differently than your favorite grade school teacher.  Most adults take a needlecrafts course voluntarily.  If you don’t cater to the learning needs and preferences of adults, they may let their feet do the talking.  You will probably need to keep the course lively, remember not to assign or expect too much “homework” outside of class, and understand if people want to take breaks, arrive late or leave early, and chat with their friends.
  • If you are teaching children, you will want to consider developmental issues like how advanced are their motor skills and what is their reading level if you plan to use handouts.
Some teachers specialize in classes for seniors.

Level

Some teachers love to introduce new students to their crafts.  They love seeing a beginner finally perfect a foundational skill.  Others want to teach more advanced techniques and don’t have the patience for the basics.  Other teachers are comfortable teaching multiple levels.

What do I want to teach?

In every craft, there are cycles of popularity.  If you teach (insert currently popular technique), you may be in greater demand.  On the other hand, maybe you are so passionate about a particular technique or project and have no interest in the latest trends.

I love Tunisian crochet but beaded crochet – not so much.

Miscellaneous stuff

If you plan to charge for your classes, you will definitely want to stand out from other teachers in your local area.  Yes, needlecrafts are also part of the capitalist market economy (the horror!), and people will chose other teachers over you if they are cheaper, more fun/interesting/prepared/skilled, etc.  You may want to think about what other strengths you have that can add something to your lessons for your students.  Maybe you are a great baker and cookies are included in each lesson.  Or you are a graphic arts wiz so your handouts are gorgeous.  Perhaps you are a very good writer and all of your instructions are extremely clear.  Bring those unique things which make you special into your teaching.

Getting started as a local needlecrafts teacher

Getting Started as a Local Needlecrafts Teacher, a series of articles on Underground CrafterUpdate: This series is a great introduction to teaching, but since I originally wrote it in 2011, it has become outdated. If you’re looking for a more robust (and updated) approach to teaching, check out my book, Make Money Teaching Crochet: Launch Your Business, Increase Your Side Income, Reach More Students.

Recently while updating my email contacts I discovered that I have taught over 100 people to crochet or knit since 2008!  That is pretty awesome (to me anyway), considering that I work full-time in another field and also have a part-time academic job.

I’m in several teaching groups on Ravelry, and the topic of how to get started as a local needlecrafts teacher comes up periodically.  To celebrate the breaking of the 100 beginner student barrier, I’m writing a series of posts on starting out as a local needlecrafts teacher.

Feel free to contribute if you are currently teaching needlecrafts or dreaming of teaching needlecrafts!

Part 1: Getting started

Part 2: Credentials, or do I really that certification?

Part 3: Location, Location, Location

Part 4: Drumming up business

Part 5: Preparing for class

Part 6: Staying creative and current