Friday, June 16, 2017

Running Toward Failure: in Teaching

So, this week I presented at the Book Arts Guild meeting.

The first part was about packaging and presenting work for sale, in which we were all victorious.

The second bit was about 40 minutes of chaos where I failed to teach the Ethiopian Double Needle Chain Stitch to about 22 people.

Where it all went wrong?

At the end of that first bit.

It was about 7:45pm at this point and I think folks were tired and understandably just wanted to socialize after an hour of attentive listening to the enthralling details of hang-tags, and clear bags.

In retrospect, with only about 45 minutes left of our meeting (including clean up time), I should have just said "lets just prepare our materials this time and do the actual binding instruction next time."

Alas, I didn't grasp how little time was left, or that we could push it to a future meeting.

Plus, I had put about 40 hours and $10 into preparing and printing the instructions and project materials, so I foolishly pushed forward.

Our co-chair called folks back to attention so I could give the first few instructions of "one needle on each end of your thread, and sew through your register and up over into the cover".

But I had lost control before we even began and never quite regained it.

There were still about 8 people who I proceeded to instruct individually as they flagged me over.  Most of these folks were able to get the cover attached to the first register by the end of our time, but even though they were very polite about it, I could tell it was a rather frustrating process for them.

So, while I am rather disappointed that the binding portion went so poorly, I'm not actually disappointed with myself and my role as I would expect.  I think this is in part due to the attitude I had when deciding to do the presentation.

Let me explain...

For me 2017 is the year I "Run Toward Failure".  This mostly means taking big risks, and just doing stuff no matter how impossible, knowing I will likely fail.  Fear of failure is a huge barrier for me in actually taking the kinds of risks that will make me successful.  So, to eliminate/reduce this barrier,  I've made failure an objective - an end goal.  Then, even when I fail, I've succeeded in failing.

So, how was this failure a success?
  1. I tried new things 
    • creating an instructional comic for the Double Needle stitching, which is beautiful!
    • teaching the Double Needle stitching to other people
  2. I learned new things
    • When there isn't enough time, stop. If possible, reschedule. If not, it's ok. Really.
    • I am an experienced presenter and can easily present to various sized groups.
    • I don't have the experience, energy, or vocal ability to facilitate a chaotic large group.
    • When teaching complicated processes, my preferred group size is 3 -10 people.
    • If I do teach a large group again, it should be an easy project, or I should have a helper who is familiar with all the steps. 
Trying something new and learning new things is pretty much the whole point, so although I wish I'd have made some different choices and that I'd been able to teach the stitching, all in all I feel pretty okay about it.

In conclusion, I'll use what I've learned through this failure to make new choices as I run toward new and exciting failures.
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