Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

The past two days have not been so good. The morning after our little flood, my husband came down with a nasty stomach bug and has been completely out of commission. In my somewhat desperate and almost certainly futile efforts to keep the kids from getting it, I have spent a possibly unreasonable amount of time spraying things with disinfectant and saying things like, "Stay away from Dad! He's infected!" and "Wait! Don't touch that!" and (to my husband), "Wouldn't you like to just stay in this room and not leave it at all? Call me on my cell if you need anything."

He is feeling somewhat better today, so I left him lying on the sofa and took a little trip to the sheep farm. I got these:

And this:

And this:

And some of this:

Why, you ask? Because my younger son is in second grade. Not following, huh? In our school district, second grade is when they do the "ancestry unit." This is my favorite unit. The kids learn about their ancestors and how they lived. They do stuff like interview their grandparents, play at being immigrants on a mock-Ellis Island, take part in an assembly put on by the local historical society in which they put on old-fashioned clothing and learn the rules of the one-room school house, and go on a field trip to San Diego's Old Town. This year, in a moment of what I can only explain as temporary insanity, I suggested to my son's teacher that maybe I could come in and demonstrate spinning and knitting--common old-time handwork that most kids have probably never seen. I was envisioning bringing my spinning wheel and needles into my son's class, sitting down for 15 or 20 minutes, and playing with fiber while talking to the 20 kids I volunteer with every week.

Next thing I know, I am scheduled for two 45-minute presentations with 50 kids each, plus teachers and staff, in the school library.

It occurred to me this morning--at 5:30 this morning, coming abruptly out of a sound sleep--that there is no way I can fill 45 minutes with fiber-related material that will keep 50 second-graders meaningfully-engaged and (maybe more importantly) sitting quietly. I had a small panic attack. I am one of those people who fear public speaking more than death. One might wonder, then, why I would volunteer for such an assignment.The simple answer is, sitting in my son's class for 15 minutes is not public speaking. Doing a 45-minute presentation in the school library for people (even children) I don't know is. I can't tell you at what point a simple, fun demo becomes an anxiety-producing public speaking event, but it's somewhere between 15 and 45 minutes.

Since my dignity will not allow me to call the teacher and explain that I am a coward and will probably melt into a little puddle of shivering goo if she makes me get up there in front of a group of seven-year-olds, I did the next best thing. I sat down and wrote out a presentation outline worthy of a PhD dissertation. And then I drove to the sheep farm for props. This will be a presentation to remember. I have pictures. I have fiber. I have samples. I have unwashed wool, uncarded wool, carded wool, and roving. I have hand carders and a spinning wheel and knitting needles and crochet hooks. I will have volunteers and demonstrations, and if all else fails, I have a book to read to them.

Bring it on. And just in case I really do melt into a little puddle of shivering goo, bring a mop.

21 comments:

Faith! said...

Oh fun! I absolutely hate that part when you think "I signed up for WHAT?" but I'm sure you'll be wonderful! Can't wait to hear how it all turns out.

knottykitty said...

Sounds great! Can I come! Oh, and don't panic---that 45 minute presentation will really only need to be about 15 minutes, you know. The other 30 will probably be spent trying to get all of the 7-year-olds settled down and keeping them that way! LOL! Once they get their hands on all of that great stuff you're bringing, the time will fly by!

The_Add_Knitter said...

I love Old Town, especially that old fashioned candy store!:)

Tammy said...

Oh, you'll do great! It sounds like you're all set.

Gail said...

You'll be great! I should attend so I can see some spinning

melissaknits said...

Heh, heh, heh...oh to be a fly resting upon the wall...

patrice said...

Sucker alert!! - Poway schools very good at exploiting, um, I mean using parental units to augment class info. How do I know? My husband, the vet, gave a presentation on owls to my daughter's 4th grade class, thinking it was a one-time deal. Seven years later (!), after the teacher who had originally asked him had retired, he was finally able to squirm out of the commitment (my daughter is a senior now). So beware --- and have a great time. Just remember, you know way more than the average 2nd grader, right?

Angelika said...

I wouldn't worry too much. It seems like you have it all under controle. After all, you are the one that knows all about it and they are there to learn and observe. You'll do just fine, I'm sure, and we won't need that mop and bucket.

Kristin said...

You are Yarnhog, see you spin! Have you every given a talk about fibre? It might be that you are not scared of the public but of the boring topics and this time will be fabulous. I am certain of it!

Senja said...

Brave Brave woman. You wouldn't get me near that many 7 year olds for any amount of money. One is enough for me:)

janet said...

Is your presentation before break or after? They'll be antsy before break and restless after break so you need to be prepared. Also, be ready for lots of little people crowding in on your space. They love to touch everything! Most importantly, Stay in control of the questions!!! If not your presentation could easily be sidelined into stories they want to tell - like what their dog did last night.

Wendy (Tortuga) said...

Yay, way to step up and own it, yo! ;)

I have a pantload of raw fleeces, dyed locks, and natural dyestuffs (dried lichen, cochineal bugs) if you'd like some to pass around.

And some naturally dyed yarns, and if you want... some indigo that you can drop thiourea dioxide in to take out the oxygen--then it will turn green. Then you can dip some yarn in it, squeeze it out, and have oxidation turn it blue. Yay science! (and explain that your thiourea dioxide is a shortcut for the fermentation process...indigo is so fascinating, especially to my immature mind: ladies would have piddle parties to feed their indigo vats [urea & sugar, yum!] and people fed them like compost heaps.)

Um, tangent. Oops.

Anyway, lemme know if you'd like me to loan you any o' that stuff. ;)

Wendy (Tortuga) said...

Oh, um, you know me as Tortuga on Ravelry. :)

Kim said...

45 minutes! That is a freaking long time! But you have taken the bull by the horns and have a plan. I am sure you're going to kick some butt. Kid chaos will take up a good portion of that time anyway.

Steph B said...

Hey, at least you'll have plenty of fiber to tie the little buggers down, right? LOL You'll be great!

trek said...

Better get superwash roving, then, just in case of meltdown. ;o)

Sarah said...

That sounds so cool! Be sure to let us know how it goes -- I'm sure the kids are going to love it!

marit said...

You are the best mom ever! The kids will love it, and you will do exellent!

sophanne said...

can offer up some of the stash and teach them to finger knit?

steph said...

That sounds like fun! Of course I teach 3 90 minute sessions every day to 25-30 high school students who I think are way more critical and way less interested, but I think you'll be fine. You'll be great!

kmkat said...

You will be great. But, no PowerPoint? ;-)