So I never liked Yoda. The first time I watched The Empire Strikes Back (I was a kid) and I thought Yoda was a stuck-up jerk-face. The second, third and probably fifteenth time I watched Empire (I was still a kid), I told on-screen Luke Skywalker to stop wasting his time with the green puppet and get his skinny butt back to his friends because they were getting their skinny butts kicked by the bad guys without him. To this day I maintain that Yoda was a poor replacement for Obi-Wan Kenobi and George Lucas was dummy for letting his single best character ever get killed off in the first movie.
I realize that I’m the only human being on planet Earth that doesn’t like Yoda. I’m okay with going it alone on that issue because little-kid Jenn was right: Yoda is a stuck-up jerk-face.
It was only years later, some of those years spent in a classroom, that I realized Yoda was a lousy teacher.
“Do or do not. There is no try.”
That is the single worst thing I’ve ever heard a teacher say to a student. I’ve taught lots of people lots of stuff. Formally, in a classroom, I’ve taught everything from 6th grade to community college. I’ve taught math, science, English, History, and how to be a public water system operator (yep, that is a thing). I’ve trained employees. I’ve taught seminars for free and for money. And I’ve taught people how to knit. I never, not ever, told them “hey you’ll either get this right away or I’ll just give up on you and go back to living in my swamp”. That would be a pretty cruddy thing to do. That would make me a stuck-up jerk-face.
So where is all this coming from? I’ve been plagued with a rash of frustrated students who really berate themselves for their mistakes and I just can’t seem to convince them that mistakes are okay. Mistakes are a part of learning. Mistakes are opportunities to get better. I seem to be on the receiving end of knitterly anxiety quite a bit these days because they, my students that is, are not master knitters. They are… are you ready for this?…. still students.
It is completely unreasonable that anyone should expect to go from beginner to master in a short time. I acknowledge that. I’m pretty sure that most of my students would acknowledge that. Learning takes time. So where does all the frustration and disappointment come from? Why are my students kicking themselves so hard?
Then, just the other day some perfectly innocent person tried to motivate me by saying:
“Do or do not. There is no try.”
I gave that person a very dirty look and they probably didn’t deserve it. Sorry. Also their little gambit put me in mind of the green jerk-face and I suddenly had some insight as to why people are so hard on themselves for every little mistake. We as a society seem to have bought into the idea that if you were meant to be a knitter/astronaut/sharp-shooter/sunday school teacher you’ll be awesome at it right from the start. And if you’re not awesome from day one and stay awesome all the time then you suck and should probably just move on to something else.
I’m a pretty good knitter. I knit all the time. I spend more time knitting then anyone I personally know. I’ve seen lots of improvement in my knitting. At this point I can make almost any stitch and work almost any pattern without any false starts or mistakes. But only because I practice! I wasn’t born knowing all this. I didn’t pick up a pair of needles and discover I was an awesome knitter. I picked up my first pair of needles and thought “how in the world do people keep the stitches on these freaking things?”. I’m only good at knitting, and crochet, and handspinning because I’m stubborn. I screw up and I try again.
So to all short, green puppets living in swamps I would offer this counter bit of wisdom:
“I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.”
Michael Jordan said that and he is tall, handsome, and has a great smile. Also, he is not a fictional character made up by Hollywood. Michael Jordan is a real-life success, a mega star, and it turns out he worked hard for his talent. He practiced and practiced. I always did like Michael Jordan.
Michael Jordan would make an excellent knitting teacher.