Well, I've been teaching woodshop for a month. It seems like a much longer
period of time, somehow, and I'm not sure if it's good or bad... it just...
Having kid "get it" or to see that they are enthusiastic or at least paying
attention and applying themselves to the task is definately the most
rewarding aspect of the process.
The frustrations, naturally, are manifold. Without exception, each of the
kids has one or more kinks, and a good number of these kids have kinks in
spades. I'm working for a district that has a history of byzantine
operations (and this is probably every school district out there... you tell
me ) and I've never been a fan of bureaucracy... So... I *do*
adjustments to make. The shop itself has plenty of big arn for the work,
but the hand, portable power tools, supplies and measuring gear are all
munched in ways that I didn't think I could conceive of a month ago, or
non-existant. It makes for case of cascade failure.... Tuesday I needed to
lower the drill press table... the handle for the rack crank was... missing.
I found it. A number of people before me hadn't, and used vice grips and
pliers on the pinion shaft. I got the crank on the shaft, and couldn't find
an allen wrench to tighten it.... Finally.... finally found an allen wrench
but discovered that the allen screw was stripped out..... Fine. Take the
handle off, go get some damn pliers.... Turn the pinion and discover
that.... THE PLIERS are BUSTED. Anyway, I fought the damn thing for about
20 minutes and finally got it to the height I needed... Jesus!
There are serious organisational problems and a lack of resources. In the
last month about a dozen student projects have been swiped, thrown away or
damaged by other students - no secure storage, or lockers. I am trying to
get approval to build a "tool crib" where projects, finishing stuff, tools
and hardware can be stored under more control. But I can't begin to
describe the frustration I feel when one of the students that *really*
work on something comes to me having discovered that his project, a box, got
dremelled with 4:20 and pot leaves or some such shenanigans, and someone
took the mirror for the lid and hinges. It kills the kids enthusiasm and is
a waste in so many, many ways. I have mentioned these "motivation killers"
to The-Powers-That-Be, and they do, wisely, tell me to not try to save the
world.... work with those that have curiosities to be piqued, keep the rest
in line and teach what you can, and keep an eye on the demons. I'll learn,
I guess, but I just *hate*
to see anything - *anything*
get wasted.... and I
wonder just where some of these poor souls will be in 10 years, and what
that says about how things are and how we want them to be.
But I also have a great group on Fridays to go with the half-dozen on
Tuesday and Thursday. They ask informed questions and after building a
small box, we're going to build a set of small playstation/X-box totes -
they are really up for that! I sketched out a design that would hold the
console, the set of hand controllers and have a small drawer for the game
cartridges. I mentioned this last week, and told the kid that initiated the
idea that we needed measurements of the components and he said he went home
that afternoon and measured... but he slept late this morning and forgot
them... there are some diamonds in the rough here. This is what makes the
I had one close call with a student on Tuesday afternoon. He's had shop for
a couple of years and has used the equipment safely to date. Anyway, he was
on the bandsaw and I heard a bang! and saw some wood fly.... The shop is 40'
across - I think I did it in two leaps.... He had the guide all the way up
resawing a piece of 8/4 oak scrap.... but it was an oval cut, (about 10x18)
out from some other project - no square base! Naturally the piece rolled
violently into the sawblade and went flying. The stock hit the back of his
thumb as it started the cartwheel and broke the skin for about 1/2" between
the 1st & 2nd knuckle, with a little blood. As luck would have it, I was
also having a meeting with my boss (!) I sent him to the nurse and
explained why and what when wrong... rrrr.... But it was more than that -
after reviewing things in my mind, I noticed on Thursday that he had *two*
other earlier injuries to his hand.... and I kind of think he might have
been smokin the whacky tobaccy... I am going to bring this up next week
with his regular class teacher and my boss. The kicker is that the student
and I had put a brand new blade on the bandsaw less than a week before...
and now the new blade has a kink in it as well...
I am also trying to get some adults in for regular woodworking instruction,
and that's promising. If I can build the demand, we can have class for the
summer. I had one gal come in yesterday afternoon. She wants to build an
English Tea-Garden style bench as a memorial for her husband's passing. I
am also trying to hook up with the Boy Scouts and Big Brothers/Big Sisters
to see if I can develop anything with them.
In a lot of ways it's like herding cats. I think that the district somewhat
misrepresented the nature of the job, but probably no moreso than any other
institution does on any number of levels... It's been so long that I've held
a "reglar" yob, I know things have changed. Nonetheless, it is a challenge,
I'm happy for the work and there is plenty of work to do. I hope I can
build things up so that I can come back in the Fall.....
So - That's the story from the front. I'll take some pics of the shop and
post them over in ABPW next week.