Going beyond teacher as learner

We strive to be “lifelong learners”, not only in our careers but in our everyday lives. We knew that we would need to be sponges in this TLLP; none of us knew much about the maker movement, and we knew even less about how to code, knit and build. So getting mentors to teach us was definitely the way to go.

We connected with IEC Hamilton, an agency that brings career people into education. As an aside, they are also partnering with HWDSB to connect us with mentor volunteers for our coding clubs. They found a mentor to teach us how to knit and use a sewing machine. When we learned that one of our grade 5 students (P.C.) also knew how to knit, and one of our grade 8 students knew how to sew, we invited them along to our mentor training session, thinking that they could hone their skills along side us teachers.

The mentor was patient and kind, reteaching us what we had learned as kids. Using the sewing machine came back to us quickly, and really, not much has changed technology-wise. Soon we were zipping away, making seams. Success! When it came time to knit, the mentor acknowledged that sewing was her passion, but she could teach us the basics.

The knitting was a particular challenge for me. Even though my mom taught me when I was younger, I’m left-handed, so for every step, I had to visually flip it to the opposite hands. Not a simple feat. The mentor, try as she did, could not knit left-handed to show me. I was ready to take a break (ie. give up), when our grade 5 student, P.C., approached me. She tried to coach me through the steps, but I still could not knit. Then, P.C. did a miraculous thing: she taught herself how to knit left-handed. In about 5 minutes. She was able to show me, and I was able to copy her. I was knitting!

The perseverance, patience, maturity and empathy that P.C. showed allowed me to achieve my goals. I really couldn’t have done it without her. And through this experience, I learned two things. 1. we made an assumption that our mentor experts needed to be adults from the community, when really, we had a fantastic mentor in one of our students. 2. the skills that P.C. showed were that of the best teachers I know. And she’s 10. Learning alongside students is special, but it’s nothing compared to learning from students. Powerful stuff.

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