Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Learning from my 8 year old self

Someone ran into the back of my brand new car today. I was annoyed. It will need a new bumper, and I will have to claim on the insurance. I needed to cheer myself up.

In the corner of my parents front room there hangs a macrame hanging basket with beautiful green foliage that drapes towards the floor and gives the whole place a bit of a continental feel. It was made by me. Or, if you ask my twin sister, it was made by her. When we were 8. Whoever made that particular hanging basket, Gemma and I spent much of our childhood making stuff. Clare, our big sister, often looked after us and taught us different crafts. Origami being one, macrame being another. 

After my traumatic moment with the car, I decided I needed a project to focus my attention on something completely different. I am house sitting for my parents. So, I pulled into the garden centre and bought some brightly coloured string. I drove home, took down the plant hanger in the corner and looked at it. Anything my 8 year old self can do, I can do too, right? 

It is funny how your learning comes back to you. I did not know what I was doing when I unravelled the string. But, the smell of jute twine brought the memories right back. I cut eight long lengths, about 5 yards each (too long as it turns out, but I was re-learning), and two shorter lengths. I naturally folded them in half, and made a loop at the top. I wanted to get that hook shape at the top of the basket. My attempts were instinctive, and I had to have a few goes - but I got there in the end! The chinese crown knot at the top of the basket was tricky, I could not figure how to make those square knots. Then, after a few moments of just sitting still with the twine in my hands, it came back. I could see how the collection of cord in my hand was supposed to move and come together. 

Each time I got stuck, I had to go back, mentally, to my eight year old self. I had to sit on Clare's bed in the downstairs room at Kingsley Road. The bed was by the wall next to the radiator, and it faced the fireplace. To my left was the door to the corridor near the kitchen; behind it, the piano. To my right, the french windows onto the driveway. Juniper, our present cat, was playing with the cords. In my mind it was Saoirse, our first cat here in the UK - his name means 'Freedom', or Lucky, the rescue kitten I persuaded my Ma to come home with one day from the RATS shelter.

The twisty bits were easier. I instinctively put the two central cords I was working with between my teeth. The taste of the twine, and the feel of it, helped me know how to move the cord. Once I started on that bit, I knew I would finish my project in under an hour or two.

All this has brought me to one conclusion: the things we teach people when they are young really do stick, and stick hard. I can honestly promise I have not so much looked at macrame since I was 8 years old. But, the moment I felt, smelt and saw the twine, I knew how to form it into a hanging basket. I had seen it done, I had been taught to do it. As a teacher, discovering something like that is frightening. As an RE teacher, it is terrifying.


Silvana said...

Commiserations on your lovely new car... and congratulations on learning from your best 8 yo self (ie not throwing a childish tantrum!!)
Macrame hangers all round for Chrsitmas..?

Anthony Radice said...

This was fascinating to read. Especially interesting is how it is the tactile memory which brings back what you learnt. We can learn from that as teachers. We need to use as many of the senses as possible, which is what traditional Church methods have always done. I blogged about this a couple of times recently: and