An off handed comment by someone in FB land got me to thinking about informal teaching. What do I mean by informal teaching? Thank you for asking, random internet that really is just me talking to myself before coffee.
Informal teaching, to me, is what we do in the SCA, it’s the peer (not Peer, just peer) to peer teaching in relaxed environments. It also happens in every handwork guild and stitch and bitch where people are sharing their skills with others. Sometimes it’s more on the formal end, with actual class sign ups, and actual classes and set times and tables and chairs, and sometimes it’s someone turning up where you’re sitting and going ‘Um. So. My knitting is a mess, can you help me sort it out?’
Anyhow, this lovely person in FB land echoed the sentiment that I’ve heard in many places ‘When I know enough, then I’ll be able to teach’.
Woah. I mean, I know just enough to know I don’t know diddly much of anything, and I teach. Am I arrogant for having the audacity to teach things? (please don’t answer that random internet that is really just me talking to myself)
So I got to thinking a bit more, and realized that there’s two different flavours, if you will, of teaching. There’s the one we see modelled all the time, especially if one has been to post secondary education. That’s the teaching model of ‘I am a Subject Matter Expect (SME). I will graciously impart upon you some of my decades of acquired wisdom and can answer all your questions without blinking hard.’
But that isn’t the only flavour of teaching, especially not in an informal setting around practical things. There is also the teaching model of ‘I would love to share with you this thing I just learned myself. I might not have all the answers, but I will happily bring you to how far I’ve gotten on this path, and if we need to go further, we can do it together.’
Guess which one I often fall into? Guess which one MANY handwork classes fall into?
Now of course, teaching like life is rarely as cut and dried and black and white as all this. I do teach things where I’m a lot further along my exploring path and can call myself a subject matter expert. (Although I wince when I do, cause that’s just begging someone to try and find your blind spots, and we all have them, and learning is never ever done, that’s part of the awesome about it.) I also teach things that I’m just excited to be doing, and don’t have all the answers, and haven’t spent 20 yrs delving into the theories and details and so on and so forth.
This is not to say that you should be teaching that thing that you just picked up last week and still can’t figure out up from down on. There’s a point before which you’re just too much a beginner yourself to be much help to others, but there’s also a looooong stretch after fumbling and before SME where your thoughts and skills and abilities are valuable to others. Heck, so are your screw ups, those are often even MORE valuable to others starting out. You /remember/ how awkward that tool was to hold until you got the knack. An SME hasn’t felt that awkward in a very long time, more than likely, and its easy to forget those early frustrations.
So all of that long windedness to say ‘go forth, confident beginners, and share your skills!’ You know so very much more than you think!