These hints are gleaned from 30 years of teaching knitters …
FIRST: Keep the class small – perhaps only four students unless there is more than one instructor.
- When beginning knitters get “stuck,” they should be confident that you will be with them within the next few minutes — not wait in frustration knowing there are 11 people before them waiting for your help. This will help them avoid resenting their knitting! (Ideally knitters should not feel that they are fighting a war with their needles and yarn.)
SECOND: Do not mix skill levels. Be sure the new knitters are truly new knitters. That is, they are there to learn casting on, knit stitch, purl stitch, and casting off.
- When advanced beginning or intermediate knitters were allowed into beginning knitting classes, they took up the majority of my attention. This leaves the truly beginning knitting feeling left out – rightly so, as they were left out – bored, and/or inept.
- Advanced Beginning and intermediate knitters brought projects that were just slightly beyond their reach and so, of course, needed help!
- The help advanced beginning and intermediate knitters needed required more time than basic questions from the beginner knitters.
- The beginning knitters sit and try to wait patiently staring at their two and a half rows of garter stitch, dropped stitches or tangled yarn, not knowing what they did wrong or how to fix it, while they watch the instructor walk the advanced beginner through basic seaming or intermediate knitter through the Kitchner stitch in the toe of a sock.
THIRD: Anticipate Complications.
When I taught for yarn stores, I noticed that when I spent the majority of the time with the beginning knitters (keep in mind this was in beginning knitting classes!), the intermediate knitters (all of whom were regular store customers and many quite formidable and demanding), had no problem complaining (whining?) to the store owner that I didn’t give them enough attention.
- My response was that as it was a beginning knitting class, my first responsibility was to teach and help beginning knitters.
- I also pointed out that while the intermediate knitter felt free to complain, the new but discouraged knitters will simply drop out, rarely to be seen again.
FOURTH: Class Management.
Remember that you, as the teacher, are responsible for ensuring a positive learning environment for the intended student. The mixed-level class is further complicated when advanced beginning or intermediate knitters offer to assist or correct beginning knitters. While the intent is wonderful, the result can be disastrous. You need to anticipate and control this before it happens.
The problem, I think, is that yarn store owners endeavor to meet the needs of customers who had already gone through the beginning knitting class. That’s understandable enough. Perhaps there either weren’t enough advanced beginning or intermediate knitters to make a class or the time of the beginning knitting class was more attractive. In retrospect, I would hazard a guess that intermediate knitters needed support and encouragement more than they needed actual instruction. Or perhaps they just enjoyed the fellowship of knitters (who doesn’t?!).
FIFTH: Stick to your proverbial guns!
- Keep the beginning knitting class for beginning knitters.
- If there are only 2 or 3 intermediate knitters who want a class, charge more for that class and assist them through more complicated projects.
- Alternatively, offer a few “drop-in” times where knitters of any level can come by with projects, sit at the table, and knit.
- If the yarn store owner and you disagree about the classes, don’t teach for that store.