Saturday, October 25, 2008

On Knitting and the Meaning of Life

I've been knitting a lot. There's still a sleeve and a half, plus a button band, to go on the Purple Cardigan that Would Not End, but I finished a pair of mittens today (Christmas knitting) for someone who shall not be named, and downloaded the pattern for the Yarn Harlot's Unordinary Hat, just in case. There's also the pretty cashmere hat for the baby who was born far too soon, and the lovely scarf in the wave pattern (the yarnovers of doom) which will surely end sooner or later.

"But why, dear, are you knitting so much?" I can hear you all asking. "What is driving you to this frenzy of yarnitude?"

I'm so glad you asked.

It's all because of that dude I worked with a couple of years ago, who I shall call Joe.

One day at lunch, Joe and I were discussing teachering, and writing, and reading, and fun stuff like that (he was a poet; I kid you not). Then he said these words:

"My grade 11 English teacher changed my life."

This is why I am knitting. Because I want, with all my soul, to be the teacher who changes some kid's life. I want one of my kids, my adolescent, crazy, silly, wonderful students, who howl with mirth when they hear the word "abutment," to look back and say "I am who I am today because of her."

But part of my first year teaching includes an evaluation process, which has just begun, and which is scaring me half to death. Not because I'm doing anything awful in my class (we do human sacrifices in the second semester) or because my principal is evil (he is, in fact, so good at his job that I think he should be cloned for the betterment of the human race) but because I want so badly to be someone who is good at this teaching gig, who changes the course of a student's life, that I can't bear to think that a person I respect very much indeed will be looking at my teaching and saying "hmmmmm.... well, I guess she's got some potential."

Knitting is easy compared to this. Knitting is a couple of stitches, a bit of yarn, the right-sized needles and the ability to read. Knitting is something that you can screw up six ways from Sunday and still end up with a product that is vaguely useful. Your sweater will not say to you "I hate English because of you." The mittens that you knit will not inflict third-degree burns on their wearers, or force them to despise poetry for the rest of their days. That scarf will never remember the hurtful remark you made without even thinking; the cardigan will not ever want to burn you in effigy.

Worst case scenario? If you screw up your knitting, you rip it back and start again.

I'm knitting up a storm this weekend because knitting is easy. But teaching? Teaching is hard.

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