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.