“So what did you think of blacksmithing?” friends ask.
“I loved it,” I say. “Though it was one of those classes I could have loved or hated based solely on the teacher’s ability to convince me I could actually do it. Thankfully, I had an encouraging teacher.”
In my ten weeks here at the Folk School, I haven’t just been studying blacksmithing, or cooking, or writing. I have also been studying teachers, and myself as a student.
During my years of “traditional” schooling, I learned to do what was asked of me: memorize information, spit it back out. I was also one of those kids who wanted to please the adults in my life – namely my parents and teachers – and so I did what it took.
My education here is a little different. First, there’s more freedom for creativity to flourish. But you can’t memorize creativity. Needless to say, I’m still working on developing my creativity muscle.
Secondly, though I’ve mostly gotten over my need to please other people, sometimes that fear of not doing “what the teacher wants” rears its head. Holding the beginnings of what would hopefully become a hook, I asked my blacksmith instructor (Matt Jenkins) what he thought of my work so far. “Well, do you like it?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said, wondering what that had to do with anything. “If you like it, it’s good,” he said. Wait – I determine what’s good here? At first it was a little alarming. I don’t know what I’m doing. How do I know if it’s any good? But then the idea started to grow on me. After all, I was the one who was going to take this hook home and use it.
Later I told another student what my instructor said. “That’s what so great about this place,” she said. “You’re not trying to please a teacher – just yourself.”