Friday, January 30, 2009


This is a well-known saying among quilters.

"Quilters make warm comforters".

Sort of a play on words about comforters and quilts. Yeah, before I ever joined the world of quilt making there used to be a big downy comforter in the cabin we visited in the summers. I never questioned the word comforter back then. Just like a sofa could be a couch or even a davenport, a comforter was a warm, fluffy thing on the bed not unlike a quilt.

I've been discouraged with my teaching recently. This happens to me occasionally, most often when a student tells me he/she can't come any longer. I guess it is a blow to my pride. My mind gets into a negative mode.

"You aren't a very good teacher anyway, Tanya. The few children that come to you don't seem to be learning very much. Nobody ever seems to become fluent in English because of you. You are wasting your own and everyone else's time. Maybe you should call it quits and pursue some other line of work."

I don't know what though... and it is not that I don't enjoy teaching in general. I love being with people. I want to be a blessing in people's lives. I think I put the effort in to make classes fun or interesting. But classes get smaller, the kids who come seem locked away in their shells, and when I ask a basic English question to some of the 6th graders, like "How old are you?" and they look at me blankly, I really wonder what kind of a teacher I am! I can't get the kids to remember the basics let alone get them into communicating with English!

So many things that I do day after day, and month after month, and year after year with the children never seems to amount to anything. I know it must amount to something but there isn't a visible result of what the hour meant nor what the hours upon hours add up to. You can't see kids' brains filling up with new words or even see if ideas are taking root. I guess teaching involves patience and faith that someday it will make a difference. But probably no one is ever going to let the teacher know that.

I've always thought that patchwork is a very satisfying pastime for me and maybe for teachers in general. Sitting down and piecing for an hour and then seeing the pile of little triangles when I stand up again is very satisfying. To spend a few hours on a quilt and be able to spread it out and say, "Well look. I got another block quilted." makes me feel like my time counted for something. It comforts me. My quilts aren't just comforting the person who may use it. They comfort me, the quilter who is making them.

Right now, doing patchwork is my reward to myself after a day of teaching and is a great comfort when my brain starts getting negative.

"Great job, Tanya! You got a lot done today!"


Anonymous said...

I feel like this with motherhood - and homeschooling, sometimes - and housework, even! As many times as you do the dishes, there's always more. Maybe that's why I love quilting so much, I have something tangible to hold onto when I've put forth so much effort.
We may not see a reward for our other efforts in this lifetime - but I'll bet they're there! I know you are a blessing to me, all the way over here in the U.S., through your blog. And I'm sure you're more of a blessing than you know, to those all around you.

Amanda said...

Oh Tanya, I know what you mean about teaching. I often used to feel like that when I was a full time teacher. You wonder if anything is going in and staying there. But my reward often came on Parents' Evenings, when parents would thank me for my efforts, exclaim about how much their offspring had learnt, or grown up, or tell me the research they were doing in their own time, or what the children had taught the parents. Things do go in and stay there, it's just that they don't often go on show.

Mart Bright said...

I TOTALLY relate. It's so difficult. I shake my head in disbelief when my students can't remember which professor they had for a course they took the previous semester. Not to mention any content from the course! I still remember my profs after 30 years! But I learned I have to focus on the very few that I know get something out of it. I teach for them. It's hard though--I'm not going to say I manage to keep from feeling negative. I do, very very often. But we are giving something very important--whether students want to make use of it is up to them. I'm reaching across and squeezing your hand in empathy.

Tracey in CT said...

I'm sorry that you are discouraged with your classes. Maybe sometime in the future the students will appreciate the lessons that you have been working so hard to teach them. It sounds to me like your students just aren't motivated to be there --they only come because their parents send them. Maybe they are burned out from studying for their high school entrance exams?
Honestly, I often feel the same way as you do, and my students are my own kids.

Mary said...

Unfortunately, I don't think it's unusual to feel like we're not good enough whatever it is we're doing but the fact is we all touch people's lives in positive ways and most of the time we aren't even aware of it.

I often have feelings of uselessness, for years I defined myself by my job and raising my children and when I was no longer doing those things I thought less of myself.

I have to remind myself everyday that I AM a good person who touches the lives of my family and those who receive my quilts in a positive way, that I do make a difference!

Beth said...

Tanya, I have felt those feelings and I"m 'just' a stay at home mom! Some how cleaning the bathroom and running to soccer practice does not feel like an investment in the future! lolol Just remember that God uses us WHEREEVER we are...and in all circumstances. It is NOT God who whispers "you are not good enough and make no difference". You make a big difference in MY life.

Callie said...

I feel sure that the children you work with are learning acceptance, generosity, kindness, unselfishness, warmth and friendship from you along with their English lessons. Even if they never become English speakers, those lessons are at least equally important. They are very fortunate children to have you for a teacher. Enjoy your quilting. Be happy!

Helen said...

Amen to that! Our school year is just about to start and we had teacher-only day yesterday. It always feels like we hit the ground running in front of the steam train that doesn't stop until the end of term. Quilting is my life-saver!

Chocolate Cat said...

Unfortuantly we are always ready to complain if something isn't good enough or to say nothing at all if there are no problems but we don't often enough say thank you or acknowledge how well someone does. I suggest continue rewarding yourself for getting through the lessons with quilting and one day when you least expect it you will find out that you changed the life of one of your students and your time and effort was appreciated.

Christine Thresh said...

I hope you don't get too discouraged. You may not know for years that you made a difference in a child's life. I am sure you are teaching kindness.

meggie said...

I am sure you make a difference to those children.
I love seeing your patchwork, & you are very talented.

quiltmom said...

As a teacher it is not unusual to worry about the progress of students and take to heart the progress as a reflection of one's skills. I know I often think about whether this is the right way or if someone else's methodology would help my student's progress more quickly. I guess that is the thing that keeps us looking for better or different ways to help our students learn. Tanya, I expect you are being way to hard on yourself. I am sure that your students are very successful and you are helping them learn things that can not be measured by tests and such. I am sure you are making a difference in the ways that are important.
I love the balance that quilting gives to my life - I find it helps me go to a different place for a time - challenge my mind in a different way and leaves me feeling refreshed. When I return to my professional life I can sometimes look at my situation with new eyes. Perhaps it does the same for you..
Time for me to quilt.
Remember to save some of the kindness and caring you give to others for yourself- you deserve it too


Shasta said...

I feel for you Tanya. It would be frustrating not to be able to see the results of your teaching. As someone who has hosted Japanese students, I have to tell you that you do make a difference. The children learn about the structure of English and get some vocabulary words, and it makes it so much easier to communicate with them. They may not grasp "how old are you" without context, but I'm sure they do much better when they have some contextual or sign language clues as well.

I can also tell you that in my case I have learned a great deal from you, and you have been an excellent teacher to me. You has also made me feel less stupid when I talk to my daughter!