I’ve been knitting for about 15 years or so. Hats, scarves, mittens; you name it, I knit it. I love the sense of accomplishment I get from creating something soft and warm out of beautiful yarn. I don’t tackle patterns with a lot of technical stitches or color patterns, but I can adapt patterns and usually knit my way out of any messes I might get myself into.
So I was pretty frustrated over the weekend when the hat I’d spent a couple of hours knitting didn’t fit. I reread the pattern to make sure I hadn’t missed a step, but I hadn’t. The hat just didn’t fit.
What to do? I really didn’t want to tear the whole thing out, although there was no pressure to finish this hat. I decided to try making the ribbing longer, but that didn’t work.
Now I’d spent about four hours on this hat. My irritation was mounting. I knew it was time to put this project aside for a while before I made a decision about tearing everything out and starting over.
I stewed over the hat through dinner and while I cleaned the kitchen. I thought about the pattern, the yarn, adding on to the ribbing. All of these choices were guided by my knowledge and experience. I’ve spent years reading magazines, studying patterns, and talking to expert knitters. I’ve played with different weights and textures of yarn. Yet this seemingly simple hat pattern got the best of me. This fact was frustrating, but not the end of the world. I’ll tear the hat out and try again. Maybe I’ll adjust the pattern so it will fit, or maybe I’ll use a different pattern altogether. I have lots of options.
This whole experience got me thinking about what we expect of our students when we ask them to write. We expect them to make decisions about words and structures, details and sentence length. I know we think we’re supporting them and giving them the practice they need, but are we? Or has the pressure we feel to get everything done by yesterday caused us to make decisions we know aren’t in the best interest of our students?
Have we given them the time they need to pore over books, to study how authors put sentences together, and really talked with them about the power of our words? Or have we judged every word choice and sentence structure? Have we made them change their words to conform to our vision of what their writing should be like?
These questions are really a reminder to myself. I know the conditions kids need to grow and succeed. But I also need to remember what it feels like to have a vision that’s just out of reach. It may be that I need a cheerleader with an encouraging word to keep me going. Or maybe I just need time to figure it out. And that’s what kids need. They need time, lots of time, to play and experiment until they find the right combination of words that are the perfect fit for them.
Thank you to Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Anna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.