WHE Handwork Teacher Development Program Graduation Closing Words
from Shellie Smith12-11-22
It’s hard to believe we are actually here at the end of this 2 year handwork journey together. I am quite sure that Elizabeth and I have learned as much from you as you have learned from us. Thank you all for being our inspiration. We would not be here today if it weren’t for you. And thank you for your flexible spirits and your enthusiasm as we have continually “trimmed the sails'', so to speak, of this program over the last two years. Every teacher holds a special place in their hearts for their very first class, and we will always remember you as our nearest and dearest.
I don’t think anyone could have imagined how much a group of people could bond over zoom, thousands of miles apart, spread out across the world. But we truly are all together as one in the wilderness of handwork education. We are a unique constellation of people who have come together for a shared purpose and it has been so wonderful to spend this time with all you
I recently had the experience of participating in our school’s holiday fair, leading the beloved tradition of candle dipping. I was overwhelmed with love and joy to see so many of my former students come back. Many of them have graduated high school, some have graduated college and have families of their own.
So many of them had stories to tell me of how they continue to do handwork. One shared that she sewed curtains for her first apartment and she still has her cross-stitch needle case from 4th grade. Another crocheted hats for every member of their graduating class. So many years later, their hands remember what to do. I thought, wow! How beautiful!
But it is also so much more than that. As lovely as that is, our goal as handwork teachers is not to ensure that every child becomes a lifelong knitter. We know we are teaching so much more than handwork skills.
One of my favorite memories is of my nephew Milo. He is in college now, but when he was around 5th grade, he and his best friend had a great idea! I was quietly listening, you might’ve called it eavesdropping, but I quietly watched and listened as the two of them were so excited about this project they would do. All the ideas of the highest intention, and the most ideal ways that it could turn out and at one moment his friend paused and said, “Wait! Do we know how to do this?” And Milo said, “No! But I’m sure we can figure it out!”
That was it. That’s the moment.
That is what I hope every child you teach walks away with, a creative vision for making something new, and a deep certainty in their hearts that they can learn to do anything, learn to make, learn to create, learn to succeed with anything because they have experienced learning so many new skills with you.
What we are really teaching children is that sometimes life is hard, sometimes we fail or get all tangled up with problems, but we never give up! We take a closer look. We problem solve. We back up, take out a row, and we try again and again until we see it through to completion. And then we celebrate that success!
This is one of the most important life lessons we can bring to our children and handwork is the perfect vehicle for learning because the fruits of our labor are tangible. We watch it grow and we hold it in our hands.
Do not underestimate the impact you have on the lives of each child in your care. You truly are shaping the future of humanity. You may never know what fruits will come from the seeds you have planted, but you really are making a difference in the world, with every lesson you teach, you are making the world a better place by teaching children to use their hands, to seek beauty, to think creatively, to imagine something new that has never been seen before, to problem solve, to set intentions, to have the endurance to see a project through to its end, and to know the joy and satisfaction in completing a job well done.
We know This two-year handwork teacher development journey has not been an easy ride for you. It’s been a lot of work on top of the work that you are all doing already, raising families and many of you teaching full time. But you did not give up. You saw it through to completion and for that, I congratulate you and celebrate you and I hope you feel the joy of that success in your hearts.
Now I’m not going to quote Steiner but I will paraphrase what he said - If you ended the year as a teacher thinking everything was just great and perfect, well it probably was not. But if you ended the year as a teacher and look back, carefully reflecting, and think - I see now how I can do this better next year, or I look forward to changing this and improving on it next year, well, that’s the mark of an excellent teacher. We are never done learning and growing on our own paths of human development. I look forward to seeing you all continue to learn and grow into the future.