Last week I launched a free five-day challenge I call the Fleece through the senses challenge. Every day for five days the students get a text lesson where I reflect over an aspect of working with fleece, some examples and a task to fulfill with their own fleece as a case study. The lesson and the task takes around 15–30 minutes a day to finish. In the challenge I inspire the students to take notes of what they find when doing the tasks.
Over 200 people have enrolled in the challenge and I get new students every day. This is mind-blowing in itself – I am so thrilled that so many people are taking this opportunity to spend time with their fleeces. But in this case there was something more going on than an accepted challenge.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the response in the comments. So many students have shared their thoughts and experiences with the rest of the class. They read and get inspired by each other’s comments and I learn so much about what people are struggling with and what background they have with fleece. The classroom is packed with knowledge and experience!
It seems like students have been inspired by the previous comments to write more than they thought they would. My impression is that many students have taken the tasks seriously and spent time and energy to do the tasks thoroughly and mindfully.
The teacher in the classroom
When I teach in-person classes I love being the teacher. Discovering each student’s learning style and watching them develop and blossom fuels my teacher’s engine. As a course creator, though, I spend a lot of time creating the course, but once I launch it the students are to a large extent alone in the classroom. However, from the comments in this challenge I have been able to take part of the students’ individual journeys through the challenge. I get to be with them as they discover their fleeces and I get to be the teacher in the classroom! So thank you for letting me in!
Confidence to start
Many students in the challenge say that they haven’t felt they have had the confidence to start working with a fleece. This is something I have seen on a larger scale too. Some say that a fleece has felt overwhelming. Others say they have spun from fleece but have seen the pre-spinning part as something they want to skip to get to the spinning part.
I think that this feeling is quite common, especially if you have learned to spin with commercially prepared fiber. But spinning from fleece is a wonderful way to get to know the fiber, regardless of your spinning skill level. When I started spinning eight years ago I didn’t know anything about spinning. I certainly didn’t know a thing like commercially prepared fiber even existed. I got a box of newly shorn wool in my lap, a spindle and a pair of hand cards. Now, getting to know the fleece is to me an integral part of spinning that I love just as much as shaping the fibers into yarn. I can’t have one without the other.
During my spinning career I have made lots of mistakes. But I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t made those mistakes. Doing something that looks good tells me that it looks good. But by making a mistake I can learn why the mistake happened and how I can avoid it in the future. I have said it before and I say it again: Your mistakes are a map of what you have learned.
Respect your learning process
It is easy to get frustrated by a perceived lack of knowledge. But there is knowledge! All the students in the challenge are spinners at some level. They know how to spin and how to work with the wool. Working with fleece is an opportunity to get to know the wool from the very start. And when you do take the time to get to know it, it will teach you how it wants to be spun. Or, as a student wrote, “To jump in where you are and begin learning Is the best place to start. This means right now today”.
Teaching intermediate students means dealing with the frustration many students can express when they think they should know one aspect of a field just because they are experienced in another. But I think it is important to respect your own learning process – you can’t know all about a field from the start. You can build on what you know but you can’t take your knowledge for granted over the whole field.
Read your mind
Many of the students in the challenge have been fascinated by what they read when they take notes of what they discover in their fleeces. This happens to me every time I write a blog post. By making notes of my thoughts I need to articulate them. The thoughts become more clear in writing and when I read what I have written I make more realizations. This seems to have been the case for the students too. They have been very clear in their descriptions of how they experience their fleece and by that they have been able to make conclusions or explore further aspects.
During the course of the five-day challenge many students seem fascinated by the transformation of the fleece from a mass of locks to something that can actually teach them something. By listening to the wool they discover the potential in the fleece and learn to understand it.
In this there also seems to be something of a personal transformation. A lot of the students say they have a new way of looking at fleece after the challenge. They see the potential of the fleece. Or, rather the potential of a potential that they will discover if they take the time to explore it. This new perspective will have a significant influence on how they look at fleece in the future. Students say they will continue to take the time to listen to and get to know the fleece and let it lead the way.
I hold this transformation particularly close to my heart. The seed to this course is the love of fleece and what it can teach us. If the challenge has helped only one person to this transformation I am over the moon.
Confidence to continue
While many students have expressed a lack of confidence to take on a fleece in the first lesson of the challenge, they also say they have a new confidence in the fifth and final lesson. I feel they have gained a new respect for themselves as learning beings. With open minds they show a curiousity about what their fleeces can tell them. They know that every new fleece is a journey of learning that they now are more than happy to make. And that truly warms my woolly heart.
My friend Sara wrote a blog post about her participation in the challenge together with her Gute lamb Elvis. You can read the post here.
Are you tempted to join the challenge? Find a fleece and come to the Fleece through the senses classroom!
Next week I plan to make a big announcement!
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