Beginners, New Beginnings, and Beginning Again


Beginner

My sewing story begins at age nine when I was introduced to sewing by my mom as she taught a children’s workshop in a summer program at my school. I continued to develop my beginner skills any chance I had by practicing at home with scraps of fabric leftover from my mom’s many projects. When I reached junior high school, I was able to receive more formal instruction in my junior high Home Economics classes. A specific and special memory stands out from my 8th grade sewing class. After weeks of instruction we were finally ready to sew! Mrs. Walker explained that we needed to pay close attention as she demonstrated laying out the pattern so we would have enough to cut all of our pieces. With equal parts of excitement and self-assurance, I barely paid attention and, well, let’s just say my mom and I made an extra trip to the fabric store that night.

What stands out in my memory of that experience is not that I was embarrassed by my mistake or reprimanded at home. What stands out is that Mrs. Walker actually complimented me on the things I did well and assured me that these things can happen to anyone. I won’t belabor the point with other stories of mistakes made by overconfidence. There are many.

New Beginnings

Fast-forward several years when I stepped back into that classroom and became Mrs. Walker’s student teacher in my Home Economics Education program at the University of Illinois. Mary Lou (as I was now instructed to call her) was first my teacher, then my mentor, and finally my colleague as I became her co-teacher for my first year of teaching. Mary Lou made a choice all those years before and continued to make that choice throughout our relationship. She chose to be kind. She chose to be patient. She chose to build me up and not tear me down. Not to be dramatic, but the encouragement she gave that day literally changed my life. A different response to my mistake would have likely discouraged me and changed the course of my education and career. It also provided a meaningful example for how to respond to my own students’ mistakes. Mary Lou attended my wedding, held my babies, and became my friend. All because of a momentary choice to be kind. I will never forget her.

Beginning Again

After that first year of teaching, I stayed home to raise our four children until our youngest was in school full time. After over 15 years, I was going to step back into the classroom and begin my teaching career again. This became a series of beginnings: three different schools and a Baker’s Dozen (LITERALLY 13!) different courses taught over the next nine years. During this time, I became a student again when I went back to school for my Master’s degree. About the time I was settling into a nice, comfortable routine, it seemed my “Beginner” days were not over and my husband’s new job took us to Louisville, Kentucky where, you guessed it. I started at yet another new school. Two years later came another new job and another move, this time to Knoxville, TN.

The Beginning of the Rest of the Story

Things seem to be settling down and I’m loving this slower-paced Tennessee life outside the classroom. But, because of my own experiences of “learning to sew”, “learning to teach”, and “learning to begin again”, I have always had a soft spot for beginners. New students, new moms, new babies. And during this time of pandemic, I am reminded by a favorite influencer, Emily P Freeman, in her podcast episode, "What to do When the World Shuts Down": We are all beginners now. Not one of us has lived through a pandemic before. We are all learners and I am trying to extend grace to myself and to others as we continue our learning together.

What about you?

When have you been a beginner? What are you learning now? What is on your bucket list to learning in the future? How will you embrace the new and give yourself (and others) grace on that sometimes difficult learning curve?

I'd love to hear all about it. Please make yourself at home and share your thoughts in the comments below.

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