To Sir, with Love...

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Folks -
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... *is*.
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* have some 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* does 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 work EXCITING!
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.
John Moorhead
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First off, John, thank you for putting your time and effort out there for "our" kids. I volunteer in my daughter's kindergarten class and it's amazing how some of these kids are receiving little in the way of parental involvement and support. Just ship 'em off to school and let the teachers, administrators and parent volunteers teach them manners, self discipline and, jeez, if you have any time left in the day, something from the curriculum.
On to the adult involvement in your situation... One of my local woodturning chapters participates in a mentoring-type program with the high school that hosts our meeting location. A couple/few of the members volunteer a couple/few times a week to help familiarize students with the lathes and give supporting instruction as the student takes on turning projects. You can find a local chapter of American Association of Woodturners by visiting their website: <http://woodturner.org/community/chapters/members.pl?submit=Chapter+List
Here's a link with how some of the chapters are helping with yunguns: <http://woodturner.org/news/spring_2005_youth2.cfm
Even if you don't have any lathes, many of us turners also have flat-wood experience and interest. Plus some of our lathes are quite portable and lend themselves to easy demos for a class - perhaps even allow interested students take a turn (uugh).
--
Owen Lowe
The Fly-by-Night Copper Company
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Sounds like a construction project is in order - carpentry is woodworking right? Build 2x4 walls for a storage room, chain link or welded wire rather than drywall - same for the "ceiling". See through walls make it hard to duck out of site and get into mischief. Some metal shelves for small projects and some secure floor space for larger projects.
Hang in there - and work on developing those eyes in the back of your head.
charlie b
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John,
Thanks for the update, I was wondering how you were progressing.
When I started teaching, if I could have two good days, it was a good week. And I didn't have the conditions you are dealing with.
Sounds like you are doing a good job of analysis, and trying to solve the problems behind the problems.
And then you are adding to you work with the thoughts of a night class!!!
Just a thought, is there anyone in the area that employs people with woodshop skills that might help/sponsor some tools/give the kids some motivation? Someone who benefits from employees who know which end of the chisel to hit?
Hang in there--we need you doing this.
Walt C

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John, You're heading in the right direction! I'll try not to get both feet up on my soap-box, but . . . this is my 7th year volunteering for/with my best friend, a spec ed teacher for kids with emotional problems, ages 7-8 to 10-11. We see it all, ADD, ADHD, abuse(all kinds), retardation, etc.
The biggest thing most kids need today is "love". Whether this is just knowing someone cares about them, or "tough love" insisting they behave in an acceptable manner, or giving a needed hug. Our kids always know we love them even if we don't like their behavior. One of the other responses mentioned the parents using the school as a baby-sitter. Many times this is right, but sometimes these parents have just reached the end of their rope, and don't have the strength or ability to bear any more, so it falls to us to do the nurturing and caring.
You've hit the nail directly on the head with "Having a kid "get it" . . etc.". This can take away all the frustration & pain from everything else that happens. It's not just the spec ed kids who need someone to care, it's all students, from K right on up to 12, who desperately need caring people such as you. Keep it up, and just keep pushing the "powers that be" to get what you need to help the kids.
--
Nahmie



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Agree with everything you said except the hug. In this day and age, when all a kid has to do to blackmail an adult is threaten to report "abuse", and every administrator is just looking for "abusive" teachers and parents, mostly in order to cover their own backsides, I would NOT advise any physical contact with kids, or adults on the job for that matter. Sad but true. There are many other ways to show affection or love in a classroom situation that I'm all for. Kids don't get enough encouragement at home as it is.
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GP -
Yes, no body has said anything, but I am aware of the potential for concern. I do have a couple of classes where I have only had HS goils. I make it a point to leave the shop door open. I will touch, only to correct hand or posture position when using a tool (not mine) but that's it.
One of my bosses raised the issue that the kids come home and mamma's been watching Law and Order reruns all day, so they're all a bunch of midget attorneys. So, yes, thanks for the heads up!
John

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John Moorhead wrote:

Hi John, Fortunately, not all parents are as you described. The schools have our children for the majority of the day and you have a huge responsibility during that time to help shape the lives of our children. That is why you became a teacher, correct? It is your duty. Not all of the blame for problem students can be placed on the parents. You suspected a student was high and allowed him to operate machinery?! You should have kicked him out, at least. I'd like to take a minute and explain how our highschool shop was run. First, the shop door was locked at all times unless class was in session. WE lined up at the door to be let in. 10 minutes at the end of shop was designated to returning all tools to their rightful places and all machines were cleaned. Even if the next class was doing the same projects and using the same tools. Chisels, ect. were numbered and assigned to a certain student to use for the whole semester. Since everything was accounted for each class period, any damaged tools were noticed at least by the next period and the previous student would be held responsible. There is no other teacher I have more respect for, and I would have to say about every student in my school felt the same way. He was strict, stern, and I never heard of a single injury ever coming from his class. He also used this thing he called a "board of education". After grabbing your ankles, you got to sign your name. The principal's son's name was even on it. Ano no, mine's not! Now, of course, you'd get your #$^* sued today. I don't think that was legal in the late 80s either, though, either. But why is it that back then you'd do about anything to keep your parents from finding out you got the board and now a days kids would go running to a lawyer....Incidently, he also gave you a hug when he handed you your project grade. So basically, what I'm saying is to toughen up and they'll respect you. Good luck, Jana
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He'd be fired and the parents would sue for that today. The weenies from the ACLU have ruined the schools.
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Jana -
No, I *DID NOT* suspect that the student was high at the time - and I agree, I would have never let him in the shop had that been the case.... In hindsight, it is a suspicion - red eyes, etc... but it is only that...
I agree with your other remarks, but have a ways to go to even get to that level - storage cabinets and a PLACE to lock things up, to start...
John

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John, I'm glad to hear that. In our school, if a kid is caught with so much as a cigarette on school grounds, the police are called, the kid is taken to the cop shop, and the parents have to come pick their child up. Plus, there's probation and community service involved. It's treated the same as an illegal substance. It's kind of sad how the kids on the Red Lake Indian Rez were pictured on the local news with cigarettes in their mouths while viewing memorials at the front door of the school....back to the issue...Not just the tool cabinets were kept locked, but the entire shop area. That way, there was no one in there at any time that was unsupervised. By the way, after reading this thread, it made me pretty thankful we chose to live in rural IA where Dads DO read to their kids as well as attend concerts and conferences. Kids may mistakenly call their teachers Mom or Dad or Grandma but it usually would go right over the teacher's heads and the other students wouldn't tease because they've all done it, too. Teachers are allowed/expected to hug students (in elementary anyway). We're supposed to sign in when we visit the school, but if you forget, everyone knows who you are and why you're there. Jana
John Moorhead wrote:

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The physical contact(hug) is part of my friends teaching success. I know what you're saying about people looking for "abuse", etc. We've both been threatened with "I'm gonna call the police" and "I'm gonna tell my Mom/Dad", etc., etc. This is usually when they've been creating havoc in the classroom, tipping over chairs & desks and throwing things, and have been restrained & removed to the "time out" room. We've all been trained in "passive" restraint methods to restrain the child without hurting them(or us) or anyone else. Some of these kids have been "in the system" since birth, and are wise beyond their years about using (and abusing) the system.
My friend was accused of improper actions by one grandmother(she has custody). Never happened, school authorities knew it. Her main problem was that we were able to teach him something and she didn't like it. Had him transferred from city school system to local "children's home" schooling, bussed daily.
It's walking a tightrope every day, getting them to think, which is really our most important job, while keeping some kind of discipline so the inmates aren't running the asylum.
--
Nahmie



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wrote:

My hat's off to you guys (and gals) who are trying to educate students while having to deal with those who, for some reason, don't want to be educated and are mixed in with those who do. You've got a lot tougher job than even when I was going to school with the cowboys and druggies 27 years ago. (Cowboys didn't think they needed to be educated since they were going to either drive trucks or run daddy's farm and the druggies were just drifting through life in a fog) At least then, there was still the ability to use a reasonable amount of discipline, but one could see the direction things were slipping in terms of who was getting to run things.
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+ The absence of accidents does not mean the presence of safety Army General Richard Cody +--------------------------------------------------------------------------------+
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It's really tough to recoil from physical contact, but you have to. If the kid wants to hug you, you start backing at first touch. Went back for a year into first grade before retiring again, and they're so damned cute you have to hold yourself back, even when, as was the case with a couple of our boys, the thing they needed most was a male they could hug rather than dodge, like dad.
HS kids know the drill, and keep their distance in school. The guys would get uneasy if you got behind them, hand on hand at the lathe, for instance, because of the ribbing they thought they'd get. Couple three times explaining that "hands on" sometimes meant hands on hands finally cured it. Girls usually took it in stride from the beginning.
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<snip>
for over 30 yrs. We're fully aware of the *pitfalls* and work around them. Many of these children are welfare kids with no male parent or role model, and are extremely needy of caring and affection without any sexual connotation(remember I said we see all kinds of abuse). This class, with two strong male role models and a strong female role model(teachers aide) really becomes their *family*, sometimes so strongly that they don't want to leave at the end of the day.
My friend Bruce runs a "token economy" in which the kids can earn points doing little jobs(wash boards, sharpen pencils, etc.) and they earn points from word reviews. These are recorded in a ledger, and the kids can spend say, 50 points to stay after school and play Monopoly, Sorry, Uno, or any number of other games. They can spend 10 points to return to the classroom @ lunchtime to eat lunch with us, rather than stay in the cafeteria and eat. Some keep their account balance nearly at zero doing this, because they want this one on one so much. To protect ourselves, when any student *pays* to stay after, we make sure there are 2 adults present, sometimes me, sometimes the aide.
If they have 3 "Well Behaved" days during any given week, they qualify to go swimming with the teacher @ the YMCA. They have to have permission slips sent home, signed by parents & returned to be able to go.
We had a Corn Snake in a large aquarium tank for a while, kids named him "Phil", and were very energized over seeing him shed, be fed, etc., until one parent(our current primary PITA) complained about her son being allowed to watch the snake eat a live mouse. Now we have tropical fish.
If they have a "Well Behaved one day, then the next morning they can hurry through breakfast(most qualify for free meals) and go to the classroom for 20-25 min. of "free time", drawing, playing with large blocks, Legos, games, etc. By the same token, daily evaluation is done @ 1:45PM, and if they have a #1(Well Behaved), they have free time until 2:15, when they pack up to get ready for bus @ 2:25. After getting ready, they play guessing games(Alphabet letter or a number 1 thru 20) for a candy. Another game played once a week to teach them a little geography and spelling is guessing the name of a State from a list, learning the spelling of the States and hearing the names of their capitols.
Well, I've spouted enough for today, guess I better shut up. One thing for sure, life is NEVER dull.
--
Nahmie



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"Norman D. Crow" wrote:
...snip heartwarming story re: special ed class... ...

There's where I'd have stopped it...let her complain all she wants but AFAIAC, there's absolutely no reason to change over it, and in fact, it's all the more reason to retain such lessons regarding the "cruel" world so that these kids don't grow up with completely unrealistic expectations (of "Nature" in this particular case).
Anyway, it's a <select your own adjective> trying to teach anything at almost any level these days...even the last industrial statistics class I taught for professionals using the techniques for their current employers was fraught w/ "we gotta' do <that>???" by a fairly sizable fraction of "participants"... :(
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My thoughts exactly, but she complained to the Principal, so naturally he had to cover his a** and made the teacher remove it. This over a boy who's "play world" is filled with dinosaurs such as T-Rex and the associated death & destruction.
--
Nahmie



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Norman D. Crow wrote:

Somehow real death and destruction aren't quite the same as pretend death and destruction. Object lesson--"Corn snake = T-rex, you, little boy, mouse. Enjoy your nightmares."
--
--John
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I can still remember a few years back when I'd sub, and they first put me into elementary. The lesson plan said carpet and a story, so that's what I did. Kids were looking at me read with open mouths.
Why?
"Dads (adult males) don't read."
Sure makes me feel good to watch my eldest with his boys. They're enjoying each other.
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wrote:

As I mentioned before, I volunteer in a kindergarten class once a week and generally take 3 or 4 kids to a side area to read to them. There are a few kids who really want to be near me and in the group. One little fella came up to me a couple weeks ago and said, "I wish you were my dad." Melted my heart. A little girl, cute as a bug with red hair and freckles, always positions herself at the rear of the line at the end of the day when we're filing out of the class room and invariably takes my hand as we walk out - I recently found out her father has been in jail for a while now. It's so sad to see the effects of parental behaviors and living situations in guys as little as these 5 and 6 year olds. Whoever says that kids will get over it or that they won't be affected by what's going on has no clue.
--
Owen Lowe
The Fly-by-Night Copper Company
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