Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why am I Learning How to Sew?!?

My friend Penny came over tonight to show me how to make a quilt for my new nephew. We didn't get very far. I inherited my grandmother’s old Singer sewing machine (I'm talking seriously old) when she passed away five years ago last month. Millions of thoughts overwhelmed me in the hour we focused on sewing. Amongst the most powerful: I miss my grandmother. Why am I doing this (learning how to sew)? How can people actually enjoy this?

I was pretty emotional as I was exploring the sewing machine that my grandmother had last touched. As I was learning how to insert the bobbin (Google it....it’s too hard to explain), I noticed that there was red thread peaking through the tan thread. I asked Penny about this and she assumed that my grandmother had needed tan thread and didn’t want to waste the red thread so she put tan over the red. I knew my grandmother was frugal, but wow.

Some side notes: I didn’t have any thread in my house so Penny had to run home to get some; hence, I have had no use for thread until now...if something rips, I throw it away. Secondly, we had a problem getting the thread loose from its packaging (I have no idea what the proper term for that is) so I mindlessly cut it in the middle and as a result, I wasted yards and yards of thread. And my grandmother couldn’t throw away one yard of red thread...what does that say about me? (That is another post for another time.)

While learning how to thread the machine, I first watched Penny do it; then I attempted it on my own while trying to follow the seemingly impossible instructions in the musty manual. I’ve always detested reading instructions. Plus, I never believed I was any good at it; however, over time, I've realized that I’m not good at reading instructions for things I lack passion for. Why should I learn how to sew if I am not passionate about it? I can buy my nephew a quilt.

This made me think about education. After reading this post from Will Richardson last weekend, I’ve wondered a lot about what I should do to make a bigger and positive impact in education. I can no longer sit back and tolerate the traditional philosophy for why we, as educators, do things. NO. It's not right. Schools were designed for the population of students from a long, long time ago, longer than before my grandmother's sewing machine was made. Right now, most schools are trying to make children adapt to our "old" schools rather than changing our schools to fit in with today’s children. This has to change.

If our goal (as educators) is to create passionate, life long learners:
- Why do our students need to memorize names and dates when they can find the answer in seconds with Wikipedia and spend their time becoming deeper thinkers?
- Why do our students need to read a boring story and answer the tedious comprehension questions found at the end when instead, our students can enjoy books they're interested in and become better readers and thinkers? (I became masterful at quickly answering the questions without ever reading the story. What did this teach me?)
- Why do our students need to learn the same math concepts at the same time when they can do so at their own pace with Khan Academy?
- Why do our students have to learn how to write a five paragraph essay when they can learn how to write a quality blog post for an authentic audience, thus an authentic purpose?
- Why are our students confined to learning scientific concepts through drab, outdated text books when they can learn the scientific process through inquiry?

Our students can learn anything, anytime, from anywhere and without any bounds. Watch this video my Powerful Learning Practice group created for our school district's new Responsive Use Policy.

Perhaps if I lived in my grandmother’s generation, I would learn how to sew to save money. Because I'm not passionate about sewing, nor do I obtain an authentic purpose, I don't think I should. I can buy clothes and blankets for less money than I would pay for material, patterns, and sewing materials. Plus, my time is priceless and I’d much rather help reform education.

Disclaimer: I am not bashing the art of sewing. If I were patient enough, I may find it therapeutic. I've seen many quilts Penny has made; she is brilliant as she has created amazing artwork. I wish I was naturally artistic and/or patient. I'm not. (Yet another post topic.) Nonetheless, I will finish my nephew's quilt (with a lot of guidance from Penny) because I still cherish the quilt my aunt made for me when I was a baby. I want my nephew to cherish the quilt I will make for him. Now that is an authentic purpose, but I need not become an expert sewer...


  1. Ahhh...so it is time for a revolution! That is what I keep thinking and saying! What can we do is the question? I want BIG change, not just little bits here and there...
    My sense is that the entire system is going to implode upon itself!! Love reading your stuff! Keep writing!

  2. The idea of 21st century learners is so obvious, and yet it is not. I ask my teachers to blog and for many you would think I was asking them to cut off their right arm! For the younger teachers it is a snap. For many who are older it is a constant struggle and a string of complaints. And blogs are old news at this point!
    Great stream of videos too!