Learning outside the classroom

19 Jun

I have tried to learn to knit many times. It’s never worked out for me. I’ve always given up and decided it’s just one of those things people with the gift of focus get and I don’t.

Tonight my CWA group did an Introduction to knitting class.

* for those of you who didn’t grow up with the CWA – this stands for Country Women’s Association. It’s a group that is spread across many countries, also known as Women’s Institutes, and has been in Australia since 1922. You can join a local group in the country or the city – my branch is Sydney Rd Brunswick. They used to be seen as a very conservative group, known for making scones and setting very specific standards for judging baking entries at each state’s annual show. Now their diversity of opinions are more widely recognised: you can leave out the mention of God in their introductory collect, they publicise their support efforts for farmers as well as they do their jam recipes, and Victoria voted to support marriage equality last year. *
Tonight I enjoyed knitting and it seems to have finally clicked. Only dropped one stitch and the concepts seem to be sticking in my mind.

So tonight’s skills training reminded me of the importance of learning in a context of fun, openness, and freedom from pressure about the outcomes. We chatted whilst learning (knitting circles have now been upmarketed to “stitch’n’bitch”), and we were all eventually successful in grasping casting on, and the basic knit. Some of the advanced even went on to ask to learn how to purl. Our trainer was a member of the group, and several others can also knit, so we have lots of people to ask about at monthly meetings as we progress, to help us solve problems we can’t work out and to keep us motivated about the end products we can create. 
I’m reminded about creativity in the workplace. 

How often are we asked to learn something new, yet we do not have any of the fun context to engage us in the best circumstances for learning –  

  • We are not fully present for the task (we may be worried about timelines shortening back in the office)
  • We fear  what happens to our jobs if we are dammed as “failing”  
  • We are training with people we do not know, and feel inhibited about asking questions
  • We are not offered follow up support, and leave feeling we are now on our own.

There have been great library managers who have actively encouraged a sense of play in the workplace, time in schedules to learn, a culture that focuses on trying instead of failing – big shoutout to @malbooth at UTS as an example here. 

However too often I still hear a less productive belief being promoted in Library management, that seriousness is the most professional work approach, that this is the only way to deliver focus and outcomes. 

I hope one day we get to a place where we realise that both approaches have their place. 


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