A couple of conversations with colleagues during the last few days have taken a similar path, leading to a common conclusion. Though we spend our days “facilitating”, “enabling” and “supporting”, in our hearts, what we love to do best of all is “teach”. We acknowledged that there is nothing quite so satisfying as watching our students progress and flourish, even if the thought of starting work with a new set of students working at a higher level than we’re comfortable with might be scary.
I guess you’d say we recognised and acknowledged our vocation.
Last year, I taught a group of women who had taken on the challenge of becoming WI Craft Judges. Already skilled in many crafts and hugely experienced in at least one specialist subject, they were keen to share their enthusiasm and to do what they could to encourage others to have a go and rise to the challenge, doing what they could to support local shows and competitions. The course involved compiling a portfolio, indexing and cross-referencing their work with the set criteria and learning outcomes familiar to today’s students but for many, a new and bewildering challenge. They were a delight to teach and all were successful in achieving their qualification as a result of a great deal of hard work and a few drops of midnight oil.
One of the group comes from Gloucestershire and when nominations were called for this years learning awards, I had no hesitation in adding my support to a proposal in her name.
It was a real pleasure to go to the “Distinguished Learner Awards” today and acknowledge Marion’s achievement in a ceremony in our Council Chamber. We sat and heard the stories of a few people who had overcome remarkable set backs to achieve success in their studies. Some had found themselves unable to help their children at school and so returned to classes to keep up with them. Others had been unable to fulfil their potential because of disability, family or financial circumstances. It was great to watch as they proudly stepped forward and collected their awards, enjoying their time in the limelight.
But I’ll lead another round of applause here, for Marion. It’s true to say that she didn’t face as many obstacles in her path as some of those people. It’d also be true to say that qualifying as a WI Craft Judge won’t transform her life in quite as dramatic a way as say, learning to read with confidence will change that of a young Cheltenham woman. But I don’t think that’s enough of a reason to overlook Marion’s achievement in any way.
To embark upon a new and demanding course of training after some years takes courage. Faced with a set of challenges, the possibility of failure and a commitment to upholding a professional standard it’s easy to see how some may feel daunted. Evaluating our own work alongside that of others adds another dimension and it takes a great deal of courage, confidence and knowledge to not only identify the skills involved in a particular entry, but also to be able to offer advice and encouragement too. In her work as a Craft Judge, Marion will find herself in a position to share her love of crafts and her incredible knitting skills and I, for one, was thrilled to see her achievement recognised today.