Monday, October 05, 2015


Many years ago, before I became a craftsman, I read A. S. Neil's book Summerhill, about a small independent school in the UK.  I did not know at the time, that I would later teach woodworking in a school that so closely resembles Summerhill in spirit if not in location. Clear Spring School is its very own thing, and not a deliberate clone of any other school, but like Summerhill has stimulated the imaginations of those who would want more for our children from education than they get in public schooling today, I hope that Clear Spring School may grow at least as famous as Summerhill was and serve to inspire a whole new generation of parents and educators.

Today the students at Clear Spring School finished their wooden dinosaurs with the exception of two students who have been lagging behind. Others continued work on their arrows and are getting excited about making bows. After I showed a youtube video of a craftsman making an arrow using sharp stones to work the shaft, one of my students slipped out of the classroom and I found him at work on the creek bank. He decided that his own arrows should be made in a more primitive do-it-himself manner. In some schools he would have been in trouble for that, whereas it would be my preference that students discover their own creative capacities and  become carried away in self-activity thus taking learning into their own hands.

When I go to family reunions, I enjoy talking with my sister, Mary who teaches in the Lincoln, Nebraska public school system. She is intelligent, thoughtful, and passionate about teaching and dedicated to her students. Her students come from difficult situations, and yet teachers are allowed to make no excuses for the challenges they face. They are supposed to trudge on despite the number of students they have that come from single family homes in which some children have a history of abuse or neglect, and many will never have the opportunities shared by those students from the upper classes.

So if you think of education as one would a train, by the time then engine manages to get the cars up to speed those with challenging home lives may not make it even to the caboose but for dedicated teachers like my sister reaching back to pull them up.

Make, fix, create and assist others in learning likewise.

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