Patience is a Great Teacher

I had an interesting experience last month. I was invited to teach a Girl Scout troop how to knit. I’ve taught kids before and had great success with it, but this was the first time I’ve taught a large group of kids at once. The experience humbled me and am giving thanks to all those fifth grade teachers out there who do this every day.

This troop consisted of ten girls who described themselves as “urban scouts.” They never went camping, or hiking, or even to a state park as a troop. They earned their computer badge. They did service projects at the mall. They learned about international cultures. They wanted to learn to knit.

So they invited me to teach them. I decided to keep the lesson short and just get them going on a garter-stitch scarf. This would be easy enough for them to do, or so I thought. The troop leader allocated two hours for me to cover the basics of casting on, knitting, and binding off. While most of the girls caught on quickly, there were a few that got frustrated. This is where my patience comes in.

I have a two-year-old daughter. She always tries my patience, but in a very different way. My daughter is frustrated because her body can’t yet do all the things her mind wants it to. These girls were frustrated because they couldn’t make their hands repeat what they just learned.

They could get the stitch down once, but the next one didn’t work. They could cast on, but then would forget the next time we tried it. It even got me a little frustrated because I watched the girls do the stitches correctly and then when I returned to them, they had forgotten already.

It took a lot of patience and understanding to help these girls develop a repeatable skill. They wanted to learn, and I wanted to teach. We just had a patience problem in the middle.

As with all girls that age, they compared themselves with their peers. As one or two of the girls would be off and knitting, the others felt like they were failing. They were far more willing to quit and just say they didn’t want to knit so they wouldn’t feel inferior to the others.

The troop leader and I took these girls under our wings and gave them the skills. We offered teaching that was personalized to them. We worked one on one with them until they gained the confidence to shine. I think there are a few who have taken the experience and started knitting something on their own.

I suspect there are a couple who may never knit again. But all of them found out something about themselves. They all recognized that they can learn something new. They found they can appreciate the things they make themselves. They found they can share a skill with others.

The most amazing thing happened about a week after this class. I received a thank you card in the mail. All the girls had made it after I left. They said they were a little frustrated while they were learning, but they all look forward to learning more.

I still have that card. I am planning to keep it with all my important business papers so that I can always look back on that card and remember the day that it took all the patience I had to bring a group of ten girls through frustration to appreciation. I know that I am a better person because of that class, and I hope that the girls remember the day as one where they learned how patience can get them through life’s challenges.

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