Head of the Class
by Marcia Barker, Vice President of Education for Quilts, Inc.
In search of
I love classrooms. Walking into a classroom as it is filling with students is much like walking into a live theatre as the orchestra is tuning up or an event where the spotlights are zooming around the audience. There is a sense of anticipation in the air as everyone arrives. Oddly, for most of us, much of that anticipation stems not from what we know to expect, but from knowing there is always more than we expect.
I attended a keynote presentation recently on the importance of "serendipity" as an enrichment to face-to-face events. It was a fascinating visit with the logistical genius behind a most iconic event, Austin's SXSW. It prompted me to search out a simple definition of serendipity, "...finding valuable things unintentionally." I love that! What a wonderful way to approach life and here in Education-land, that's exactly what we hope happens to you in every class, ‘cuz that's where the good stuff is! As much as we work to plan every detail, the true value can often be in the unplanned.
I never planned to be learning Italian at this age and yet, here I am, back in a classroom. My son's wife is native Italian and I fully expect to have bilingual grandchildren someday so I'm making sure that they won't be able to scheme behind my back.
I had worked for many months on the Duolingo app and felt pretty good about it until I stepped into true immersion in the classroom. Mamma mia! The value of one-on-one conversation and interaction is overwhelming. I learn more, I learn faster, and when I leave that class every week, not only is my head exploding with verb tenses and grammar, but I have recommendations for new restaurants, I've learned current happenings around town, and have new friends to lunch with.
Can't get that with Duolingo...just sayin'. And this is so true in the quilting world...specific techniques are always available online. It's there. It's convenient. But if you want the whole enchilada—to learn more than you thought you possibly could, to be pleasantly surprised by the serendipity of the day—you've got to take the plunge and immerse yourself in a classroom full of fellow enthusiasts. There's nothing like it!
That's what we are hoping for you as we work this time of year to set the stage for the Education element of our Fall show. It's an exciting, exhausting process to choose some 130 faculty members and over 500 classes/events/lectures/luncheons from the hundreds of proposals and complicated scheduling/resource considerations.
It takes a village of folks focused on the task and weeks of committed effort. But when I visit those classrooms during the show, I feel that familiar anticipation—I hear the chatter of new friends, I see the sharing of ideas and projects and experiences, and I sense the dissolution of differences in favor of the sharing of a passion. Chance meetings become new networks. Revered teachers become human and fun. Offhand remarks become game changers in someone else's approach to a problem. And what began as straight-up learning, magically shifts gears into discovery.
And discovery is certainly what our newest Education project is all about. Discovering talents and avenues and networks previously inaccessible to those interested in entering our industry. Perhaps you have heard about it—Threads of Success! Learn more at www.threads-of-success.com
Budding designers, teachers, authors, inventors, and retailers will gather together this fall with industry leaders for breakout sessions and mentoring like has never been seen before—and all against the backdrop and buzz of International Quilt Market. I am pretty excited to be setting this in motion and even more excited to see the response of both the industry and the hopefuls. There’s going to be some serious serendipity going on there—how fun it will be to witness those encounters!
Maybe I like classrooms so much because one of those encounters was a life-changer for me. In a certain university classroom some forty years ago, I expected nothing more than an Introduction to Psychology. Having missed a class due to illness, I asked the student sitting next to me for the notes. Turns out he had missed the same day but didn't skip a beat to reach over to his brother's desk next to him and quickly slide his notes over to me. I often joked over the ensuing years about whether I should have married Mr. Resourceful or Mr. Prepared. I chose resourceful...and he always was.
So, as I look at my classroom charts, I see more than simple room assignments. I see connections and a place for face-to-face in this FaceTime world. It sounds so simple, so old school, so...basic! And that's exactly what it is. Good old-fashioned 3-D, real time, share-a-laugh, oh-I-never-thought-of-that, isn't-this-the-coolest-project-ever kinda day! That's what I wish for all of you.