I work at an organization that combats human trafficking, and one of the ways we do that is by serving the survivors of that horror. There are amazing social workers who help our clients find ESL classes, vocational training, housing, jobs, benefits, healthcare, legal help, pretty much everything a person needs to rebuild her (and sometimes his) life.
And sometimes they let regular staff like me teach classes. Last semester I taught a self-defense class, that I might write about if folks are interested. And this semester, on special request of some clients who are interested in making fashion their profession and building up their craft skills, I’m running a sewing circle.
For anyone who’s reached this point and is wondering how sewing could possibly be the most important skill someone who’s struggling to survive could use, and/or, why a bunch of ladies, many of whom grew up in more traditional cultures than I, need sewing lessons, the answer is two-fold.
First: if someone finds sewing as to a refuge, or needs to make her current clothes last, or wants to broaden her skill set, then I’m not going to tell her to do something else with her time. People in trafficking situations often have some of their most important choices taken away, and choosing learning groups to take or not is just one of a hundred ways to reflect survivors’ inherent agency.
Second: for clients who are in the middle of legal proceedings or who cannot work for another reason, picking up a few skills or practicing an existing skill can fill the empty hours. I hope several of the clients who come to my group will know a lot more than I do, and if they’re interested, I’ll ask them to teach sections on their favorite topics.
It’s all about empowerment model, which is a fancy way of saying, not being as awful as most industrialized teaching environments are. Folks in my circle can get as much, and give as much, as they want to.
This Thursday will be the first group meeting, and in a few minutes a friend and I will be going to buy sewing kits for them. I don’t yet know the different skills levels, so everything in the class-plan that follows will change as soon as we start the circle, but I wanted to share a first draft for comment.
I’ve selected each of the in-group projects so that someone with few skills can complete it, and someone with lots of skills can also have fun completing it. That’s my mini-differentiated teaching model at work. Here’s what I’m thinking of covering:
||Sachets with name embroidered on them|
||Guest lecture: selling your designs on Etsy|
||Breath week* topic: Mending:
||Guest lecture: working in fashion|
||Dress 1 and 2:
*I like “Breath weeks” because they give a moment for great projects to stand on their own and be admired before jumping into another task.
I will be married soon. Lady Thiel says a woman with needlework in her hands is generally assumed to have no other thoughts in her head and can safely harbor any number of improprieties. That will come in handy, especially when I’m married to a wizard.” ― Patricia A. McKillip, Od Magic