Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Strange Days

The Powel House in Old City 
As has been pretty clearly documented here, I'm doing many different things to try to keep myself out of a traditional 9-5 office job.

Today was definitely something different.  A close friend has another friend who is involved with the historic sites in Old City Philadelphia.  She texted me a few weeks ago to ask if I'd be available to teach an embroidery class.  I said yes, without asking for more details.  (Hey, a job's a job, and embroidery beats lawyers.)

I soon found out that I'd be teaching a group of kids who were attending a history camp at the house.  Most of them had been coming for several years, and they wanted another period-appropriate craft besides the weaving class they already had.

Now, I may make things for kids, but I don't have kids.  I don't have that much contact with kids.  I'm not really comfortable with them, especially in groups.

Eliza Powel's ballroom / drawing room, set
up for the class.  
But I said yes anyway.

Then I found out that in addition to teaching the class, they wanted me to do a 10 minute presentation to the combined group (about 15 kids and 4 adults) beforehand.  "Just a little something about embroidery generally and in the period," they said helpfully.

As Dr. Seuss would say, I puzzled and puzzed til my puzzler was sore.  What to say?  I certainly have the information, and I thought it was a nice angle for the girls that no matter what they personally feel about going to school, their counterparts who would have lived in Philadelphia at the time they were studying probably wouldn't have been allowed to attend school.  So embroidery and other "feminine" skills were really all that a lot of girls had to occupy their time, unless they had progressive parents with money.

They told me there were boys, too, so I made a point of looking up all the trades involving sewing that would have existed in Philadelphia at the time -- tailor, sailmaker, bookbinder, shoemaker.  Not to mention the fact that soldiers and sailors, away from home for long periods, couldn't run home to mama if they lost a button.  Sewing was just a practical skill that nearly everyone had.

Corner of the ballroom 
But for all my research and thinking about it, I never got around to making an outline of what I wanted to say until yesterday afternoon at the office.  I drafted something, but I spent more effort making the outline function work properly in Word than I did on the contents.  Then I put it in my bag and forgot it until this morning, when I forgot to review it again, shoved it into my other bag and took it with me, and slipped it under some of the other materials on the table in case I needed to refer to it.

Thankfully I didn't have to -- I winged the entire 10 minutes somehow -- but when I went to put my outline away later, it turned out that it was actually my 2 page to-do list for what I need to get done before my next craft show.  So a fat lot of good that would have done me anyway.

I told Mario when I got home today that I wasn't sure what surprised me most -- that I'd managed a group of 8 kids (6 girls, 2 boys) for 2 hours with no problems and no overwhelming urge to bite, or that I had spoken to a large-ish group of people without having the urge to projectile vomit in a historic house.  

Children and public speaking have always been things I'm massively uncomfortable with.  I had to do an oral report in English class in junior year, and while I did it, I also threw up afterward.  Mario suggested that what I feared in school wasn't public speaking but the judgment of the other students, which makes perfect sense.  Now.

 But isn't it strange when you realize you've just accomplished something you thought you were afraid to do, without thinking about it until afterward?

Class continues Thursday, and I'm looking forward to it.  The kids were fun, they caught on quickly and the two boys -- both around 10 years old -- did really well.  One did hands-down the best work of the group, and the other worked the hardest.


Unknown said...

Brava! Speaking from the vantage of 35 years of teaching, I think you were successful because you really wanted these kids to "get it," to enjoy something that means so much to you. I bet the hours they spent with you will stay with them a long time. We never know how we touch others; we can only continue to reach out and share.

Graca said...

Wow, what a wonderful read first thing in the morning. I'm so happy that everything worked out and that it was fun time for all!

Valerie said...

Congratulations on another big breakthrough! You'll start questioning all the other things you thought you couldn't do! This is huge!

Andrea said...

I also had the public speaking phobia (and also don't have kid skillz, come to that) but have to do more speaking in front of groups it in my current job. I've found that being too damn busy to worry about (either about doing it before, or whether I did it well enough after) has been the best antidote. *But* I hope you had fun as well!

Anonymous said...

That sounds awesome! My experience with my Girl Scout troop showed me that kids these days are considerably kinder and more polite than in my day.

Re boys: they have no idea that sewing is a girly thing. They just think you're teaching them how to make stuff, which they don't get enough of in their wired lives.

The Slapdash Sewist said...

" (Hey, a job's a job, and embroidery beats lawyers.)"

Hey now, we're not all that bad. `-)

This sounds like a really fun class! And congratulations on conquering your public speaking fear.

Lisette M said...

So glad it went well and that you enjoyed it! I think Mario is a genius, you can tell him I said so ;-)