At Long Last – I Give You Shiloh!

Shiloh the kitten is settling in well, Gigi the cat has stopped hissing at him, and Atticus is absolutely IN LOVE with him. He thinks Shiloh is his own little pet, and is absolutely FASCINATED by him. He can be a little creepy, though, so we’re always telling Atticus to back off!

This kitten gets lot of Gerry time – they’re both loving it – and Hannah is constantly with Mr. S. Max and I are on the short end of the stick when it comes to Shiloh Time.

I’m the designated antibiotic giver (the kitten has an upper resp. infection & has to get part II of his dewormer later this week) so Shiloh already has good reason to fear me.

I pet it a lot – when we let it run around the living room in the evening it generally runs over to me and hangs out. It must really like that antibiotic medicine.

All in all, it seems that Shiloh is a very good addition to our family. We were missing an orange cat – and as soon as Gigi comes around, she’ll REALLY appreciate another warm body to snuggle up with this Minnesota Winter!

Business CARDS
I’ve needed cards for more than a year now, but I kept putting it off. I get bored with business cards, by the time I run through a box I’m sick to death of them.

So I saw this cute thing at Flickr. They have a UK partner called MOO, who do cool things with your flickr photo gallery. 100 of these tiny (23mm x 70mm) cards are $20 (plus shipping) and they’re absolutely adorable.

It’s pretty great, too, to have business cards with my OWN designs on them!

Professional Teaching Vent
(almost moving into Rant?)

This has been on my mind lately – I’ve been trying to think of the best way to approach this sensitive topic. It’s hard to write honestly and objectively about what one does for a living, but a few things have come up that I want to address on the blog.

As knitting teachers, we have no union or guild. There are guilds of knitwear designers in Canada and the US, but they don’t cover what I need addressed.

I think we need to have a standard contract as a jumping off point for individual negotiation; a minimum amount that shops should expect to pay, and a minimum of travel expenses that need to be covered.

In exchange, we provide the shop or venue with quality teaching which will bring in students. As with any well-written contract, it would benefit BOTH parties.

I feel it’s important to set a criteria of what’s expected from teachers; and what teachers can expect from the venues where they teach. I make my own teaching requirements public – I have nothing to hide there – and then I negotiate privately with each shop depending on their individual needs, changing my standard letter of agreement as necessary.

I am NOT a one-size-fits-all kind of teacher, I believe we’re ALL special cases – venues & instructors alike.

In traveling to teach, there are expenses, and there is income. I’m upfront with my expenses, and expect the shops where I teach to help me offset these expenses so I’m not cutting into my income as a teacher.

Let’s visit my life as if it were a word problem (click on chart to see the math);

Scenario One
Happy, owner of Happy’s Yarn Shop, wants to hire Annie to teach four 3-hour knitting classes over a 2 day period. She wants her to teach 2 classes each on Saturday & Sunday. Happy’s shop isn’t large, so she arranges to use the vacant office next door to hold the classes so she can have up to 28 people in each class (total participants, 90). Her gross income is $6,550, netting her $3,890 after expenses.

Scenario Two
Happy wants to offer the same classes as above, but can’t rent an extra space. She can accommodate 14 people in a class in the back of her shop (avg 12 per class), so in this case her book & yarn sales are less and the gross income is reduced to $3,680. Her expenses are also reduced to $1,760, netting her a $1,920 profit.

Scenario Three
Same as scenario 2, but now Happy’s joined with two other shops in the same medium sized city and has reduced the transportation expenses by 2/3, and loses one night of accommodation costs to another shop. But a car has to be rented so this adds a bit to the travel expenses. Total expenses = $1,490, netting her a $2,190 profit.

As you can see, the best scenario financially (with the least investment by the shop) is #3, but that involves shops being open to ‘sharing’ me (not all are – which makes me sad. There’s lots of me to go around, folks…)

Exclusive? Pas moi!
I don’t like exclusives, I won’t agree to them unless a shop ‘fills up my dance card’ and leaves no space for someone else to hire me. If a venue wants me to agree to teach exclusively with them alone, they have to either offest the money I would lose, or give me enough classes to make it worthwhile.

But I feel exclusives are bad for another reason. When I teach at several shops in a city, there’s a good chance that some folks from Shop A, who usually don’t visit Shop B, will find their way over there if that class fits their schedule better.

It’s true that Shop A has “lost” that customer for one class, but there’s also a very good chance that other customers from Shop B are ‘discovering’ Shop A in the same manner.

The buzz involved in a few shops publicizing my visit helps fill ALL the classes. A win/win.

So – why this rant?
The reason this has come up is lately I’ve had so
me wonderfully full, exceptional classes – and I also had two scheduling events that throw a little worm of doubt into my bushel-basket of fall classes.

Worm #1
I recently heard from TNNA that they haven’t accepted any of my classes for the Long Beach show in January. I’m saddened by this. I love to go to TNNA, but I can’t really afford to go if I’m not teaching.

I could set up some teaching gigs in the Long Beach / LA area – I probably should – but I’m confused by the decision because my last few classes at TNNA have sold out VERY quickly, and were very well received. I wrote asking if there were something I could do to help my classes for the next TNNA be favorably considered, but haven’t heard back yet.

My classes aren’t sponsored, though – meaning, I have no larger entity who’s offered to cover my expenses for the class – so all of the funds would have to come from TNNA. Half my classes were sponsored last time, which makes it easier for TNNA – they have a budget, too!

Worm #2
A venue would like to hire me to teach a few days after a large knitting conference. Since I have no books coming out this year, and there’s a good chance I may not be teaching at this conference (I’ll find out definitely late in the year), I’ll be covering my own airfare if I go.

This particular venue hires a lot of ‘name’ knit teachers for a sort of mini-conference, taking advantage of the fact that they’re in the area for the bigger conference – which is a very wise move.

The venue anticipates that the teachers will have someone else covering most of their travel costs, so their travel allowance is low. They’ll also only cover half of a room per night (forcing a teacher to either share a room, or cover the balance for a single.)

Now, I have no problem with a roommate – I LOVE rooming with folks when I’m not working. But when I’m working I have to sleep A LOT. I tend to be very boring – I teach, I go to my room and eat dinner, watch TV and SLEEP. I also LOVE my room to be practically freezing. I don’t sleep well when I’m away from home, and a very cold room helps me to sleep better. This is (naturally) hard for a roommate.

So between the low airfare & the extra $ for a single, I could be out at least $400 if I’m at this venue for 4 days teaching. But I could find a way to make it work financially if I could set up other teaching engagements and split the travel expenses.

Unfortunately, this venue also insists that I not teach the classes I teach for them anywhere within a 300 mile radius for 30 days. This would include EVERY city of any size in the state.

So basically they want me to teach for them, for them alone, and they won’t fully cover the expenses that are required. I even offered to stay at a different, cheaper hotel so I could sleep alone – but no go, they want all of us in the same place.

Did I mention they will also require me to attend two events for which I won’t be paid, but at which I’m expected to meet and greet all the attendees for all the classes? I LOVE to meet folks, but not when it’s my bedtime and I’m teaching the next day…

They sent me a list of teachers who have agreed so far – I know many of them and like all of them – and I’m glad they they’re in a situation where their airfare is covered and they don’t need to sleep alone.

I’m not in this position, though – and, to be honest, if the ‘not teaching within 300 miles’ clause were gone, I would have signed the contract.

So, sadly, I had to tell this venue “No.” I would so love to do this, but not enough to agree to terms which are so one sided. I’ve been told by them that they can’t work out individual contracts with each teacher because it would ‘make them nuts.’

Teachers ARE all individuals
We have different needs, airfares, travel requirements.

Sometimes – NOT often – I feel that it’s hard to get across that I’m not just a teacher, but a HUMAN BEING. When policies get in the way, humans have to deal with each other on a one-to-one basis.

I treat every venue where I teach individually, working out specific items in the contract as the venues require it. Yes, it may take more effort, but that’s part of my job. And in the long run good communication/contracts are much less work.

Dealing with teachers based on their individual needs and requirements is no more work that treating a room of 30 students as 30 humans, helping each one with their individual problems as they arise. Not giving each student a private lesson, but explaining things in several ways so that every student can ‘get it.’

One size does NOT fit all – isn’t that one of the reasons why we knit?

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