Paying it forward

I have always had an internal struggle with sharing knowledge. There is a small bit of wanting to keep that bit of knowledge to oneself. To keeping that “special” thing you do unique to you. But more than that is wondering if what I have to share is worth the time for people to learn it. I picked it up from books, shows, demonstrations, and some experimentation. But surely if I could find the information its easy for others to do so. And what if I misremember, or pass on just plain wrong information?

Starting with making chain mail back in the 1990’s it always seemed like it was such a simple process why would anyone be interested in learning. But people were. Maybe it was easier to have someone in person rather than from a book or a website. Maybe I had better luck at that time finding the resources. Maybe they had nothing better to do so people figured what the heck. I taught a number of mail making classes before life took me to a different state and my interest in maille faded.

I found an SCA group that was small and had a lot of newer players. Getting involved with them I found a number of things I could teach, mostly sewing related. So on to teaching t tunics and basic dresses. Then hoods, and in the end some cloak making classes happened. I was doing some woodworking by then but not a lot and certainly not enough to feel comfortable teaching it.

When I once again found myself moving to a new area I found there were a lot more SCA options available. I also have built up my tools and knowledge of woodworking more. My sewing skills were not needed much so I concentrated on my woodworking for a few years, entered a few competitions and refined things a bit. Over the next few years I taught a few woodworking related classes, eventfully moving up to doing demonstrations of heat bending wooden boxs.

With the changes brought about by Covid-19 everything changed. No event’s, no get togethers, no classes. Eventually we began to see a number of online options for classes, both local and across the world. The pandemic caused the world to shrink but the opportunities to share knowledge to grow explosively. If you are active in the medieval reenactment or recreation worlds, or any number of groups that shares similar skills and interests there is such an abundance of content online right now you would be hard pressed not to find something to interest you.

In march of 2020 my partner, Baroness Disa i Birkilundi OL in the SCA, began hosting online classes. At that time she was one of the first to begin to bring instructors online for students to interact with. Now, nine months later there are lots of options, but in those first couple of months she was one of the only ones. By now she has hosted 40 classes, from a wide range of skills and interests as well as from veteran instructors and novices. I fall somewhere in the middle. Being her partner also means I have access to teach a lot.

Teaching online is a very different experience than teaching in person. In person you have interaction, even if it’s just the students staring blankly back at you. Online its just you and the camera. Occasional questions will pop up but often times you are talking to the camera with no real sense of whether you are reaching your audience or if everyone left. There is no interaction and no feedback. It’s draining, but it’s also forging ahead into new territory.

In the past 9 months I have taught 10 classes online. I entered an online event called Athenaeum that was all about sharing your particular research interests and have listened to so many classes and interviews I have lost count. My comfort with using the internet to share my knowledge has grown. One part of the classes I have taught has been a 6 part series aimed at novice wood workers with a focus on projects to build skills and build tool kits as needed.

Online classes are not for everyone of course. Some people find it to impersonal, or that they don’t absorb the information as well. Many folks are finding themselves in front of the computer for vastly more time than ever before due to work and school needs and the last thing they want it to come spend more time for a class. Some things just do not translate well to the digital medium. Some things however, have an unprecedented opportunity to be shared like never before. Skills requiring large amounts of tools and space that would be to large to transport. Or those things that would make to big of a mess or to much noise.

I look forward to teaching in person and opening my shop up to people again when it is safe to do so, but I also appreciate the opportunity we have to explore this new way of doing things. I also look to the future and wonder how we will see this digital reality mesh with our older event and living reality.

I hope to be on here more in the coming year. Adding links to the classes I have done as well as adding new content. If you have any suggestions please feel free to let me know.

I wish you and yours a healthy and happy holiday season.

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