Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Economics of Knitting Classes - The Devil is in the Details

Franklin Habit recently got a huge Facebook response when he commented on a frustration which many teachers deal with. I love the sense of humour in his posts.

He said: "If it's not one thing, it's another. First I ask people to bring white or a light-colored worsted weight wool to class–and that is well-nigh impossible to find. Then I ask for 2 to 5 sheets of square-grid graph paper at 4 squares to the inch, either purchased where paper is sold or printed at no cost from a Web site to which I provide a link. Monstrous! Monstrous! Who am I to make these demands on an unsuspecting populace?"

Students are often unaware of the volume of materials teachers need to carry to an event to run their classes. They arrive in a class and of course can only see what the instructor has for a single class. Paper in particular is very heavy. Some venues do the printing but for others it is the responsibility of the teacher. At a recent event I had a great deal of difficulty with my suitcase due to the weight of everything in it, especially when going up and down a very narrow staircase which could not be avoided. I was only teaching three classes but adding my own clothes and toiletries to the class samples, notes and tools made it very heavy. I spend extra time searching for accessible routes before I leave home, and time is one of the costs of running a business. In some cases I have to choose a longer, more expensive route to get access to elevators and ramps for my luggage.

Yes, I could have made arrangements to ship some items in advance, however most venues specify up front in their contracts what expenses will be covered and that is not normally something you can be reimbursed for. 

Teachers often try to get around asking students to bring materials by supplying them instead. That's another expense and unfortunately some venues do not allow teachers to sell items in classes.

We often do not have final student numbers until just before the class starts due to late registrations and students who change classes. I always have extra sets of notes which may or may not be used. Which brings me back around to the weight and extra expense issue. 

When attendees saw the samples for one of my classes at a recent event, I had a large number of students switch into that class. I had my class notes on a USB stick, so the venue started printing more for me until they ran out of paper. I arranged to email them a copy of the notes but during class I could see several students were annoyed by sharing notes during the class. So in that case, my extra sets of notes and the venue's assistance still wasn't enough to make everyone happy.

For most teachers the amount of profit is already very small. For me personally, I'm very careful not to go into debt for my business. I love teaching. It's a great deal of fun and a growth opportunity for me I can't imagine not doing it anymore. However, I find myself questioning if it makes good business sense whenever extra costs turn up. 

I hope this doesn't come across as whiny it's not meant to be, it's just the process I have to go through when making the decision to list class supplies. So again the devil is in the details.


  1. Thanks for this post. There are many joys in teaching, but I think most people do not understand the challenges. I have a challenge in that my boss, the LYS owner, has never taught a class, so she just doesn't get it. Even when I explain it and a friend backs me up, she sometimes doesn't get it. When the class limit is 8, please don't book me 12 and not tell me!! I did not have enough notes with me and I did not have enough time to help that many people and I did not have enough supplies for the hands on part of the class.
    And I have never been lucky enough to find someone who will pay for printing my notes for me. That would be very nice.

    1. I know what you mean. My additional issue with increasing numbers is that my teaching plan timing is based on student numbers. As you point out more students means less material can be covered. As it is I also have to adjust based on student skill level which varies widely between classes and between students.

  2. IMHO, it's a matter of showing respect for the instructor that you come to class well-prepared and with a good attitude. That means, if they give you a supply list and/or homework, you make sure you have the proper supplies AND you've completed your homework. Then, be on time, be smiling, and be open to learning. That makes you a great student. Remember... teaching goes both ways. There are great teachers... and great (or awful) students. Be great.