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Lessons Learned from Knitting – A Waldorf Senior Reflects

I have been a student at The Waldorf School of Garden City ever since I attended Parent & Child classes. Being in this school for so long has undoubtedly shaped me into who I am today.  As I became older, I began mentally preparing for one of the many rites-of-passage that occurred in high school – The Senior Speech. I would think late at night about which topic I would passionately present to my peers, teachers, and family.  I am pretty sure I had a good idea while in eighth grade, but I did not write it down and forgot it. Because my perfect senior speech was forgotten somewhere in the middle school hallway, I was once again in search of a topic that would hopefully be interesting.  I thoroughly enjoy snowboarding, boating, and driving, however, I thought it would be best not to tell you all about how I drive the speed limit on Ocean Parkway, or how when I snowboard, I feel graceful and sometimes allow myself to believe I could compete in the Winter X Games.  As it turns out, although I feel like I am flying through the sky for thirty seconds, I realistically launch about five feet off the ground for less than 4 seconds.  Still, every offseason I think, perhaps I WILL land that backflip. However, once I strap my feet to the board, I realize that the ambulance ride, which costs 15 dollars a mile, would not be a very practical way to get home considering I ski 220 miles away.

So, those topics were not going to work.

Sample of Waldorf knitting materials

Then, I remembered I still have, 13 years later, the wool sheep I knit in kindergarten. Although misshapen and certainly not my best work, this faded stuffed animal marks the beginning of my educational journey. You might be asking yourself, am I about to listen to a ten-minute speech about knitting? Before I lose your interest, the answer is yes, but it is not what you think it is!  What if I told you, that from knitting I have learned valuable skills and unique perspectives which have allowed me to approach everything I do in life differently? Knitting has taught me disciple, persistence, method over the result, the importance of long-term gratification, and process over product.  Over the years, I knitted hats and scarves, slippers, and mittens, my ability improving with each item. The knitting process now fascinates me. To begin, I knit initial cast-on stitches, determining the number of rows my project will have. I find motivation before I even start the actual garment as merely looking at the knitting needles adorned with cast-on stitches drives my ambition to complete the project at hand. Beginning with a ball of yarn and two knitting needles, the fulfillment I get from the daily use of the garments I create is thoroughly rewarding. Despite it being a mere hobby, knitting has enhanced my attention to detail, strengthened my determination, and solidified my overall dedication to complete the tasks I begin. Above all, knitting has taught me to slow down and focus on the activity at hand.

David Kissin in 2020 after partnering with Ernie Ball.

These skills helped me in mastering the guitar which also allows me to appreciate the method rather than just the end result. I began playing guitar when I was eight years old.  To this day I remember walking into Sam Ash and running straight for the guitar wall.  About an hour after entering the store I left with a blue Squire Stratocaster and a solid-state amplifier which was the size of a desktop computer. After years of diligent work, I currently find myself producing, editing, and curating my own musical production endeavors. The discipline and persistence I acquired from knitting have allowed me to enjoy guitar uniquely.  Far too many people pick up the guitar with expectations to instantly play the songs their musical heroes perform.  Furthermore, once the guitar is physically in their hands, it becomes evident that the skill required to play Eddie Van Halen’s Eruption exceeds the time and effort they are willing to dedicate towards learning the instrument.  Since instant gratification is the expectation of so many, too often people will stop once it becomes clear that serious dedication is required. The foundation I created for myself through knitting has allowed me to stay poised through my musical journey. The countless nights practicing would only come to an end when my fingers would go numb or if I fell asleep with the guitar still in my hands; however, these sessions served more than simply guitar practice. These nights served as proof to myself that with my mentality, persistence, and determination, I could tackle any obstacle I encounter.

I have applied the lessons I have learned from knitting to my academics as well. I began learning French in kindergarten and continued throughout middle and high school. As I pursued French in high school and studied it more critically, I was driven to achieve fluency in the language. In 10th grade, I had the opportunity to move to Switzerland as an exchange student to immerse myself in the French-speaking community. Like the knitting process, my drive to deepen my French studies stemmed from a place of inner resolve and determination. In retrospect, I realize that both knitting and French required me to divide a goal into sequential steps: casting stitches onto my knitting needle is like learning the foundation of French, and knitting towards a final project is like going to Switzerland to further my language-speaking skills and completing my knitting project is like achieving fluency.

The misshapen sheep (Mouton in French), which appears to resemble an old grey clump of yarn, has, ironically, taught me a valuable lesson that I will embody throughout my future academic endeavors. From beginning my very first knitting project to becoming proficient in a Foreign language, I must work methodically and focus on the process rather than rushing to complete a project. To create something worthwhile and to receive maximum personal fulfillment, one must always begin by learning to respect and appreciate the process as much as the product.

Now as I prepare to leave The Waldorf School of Garden City and embark on my next journey, I truly understand the intrinsic gift this school gives to each of its students. With that, I am forever grateful and look forward to continuing to use these lessons throughout my life.

~David Kissin, ’21