Monday, April 11, 2016

come in and get to work.

In about 1966 I had saved enough money working in my father's hardware store to buy my first car, a 1930 Model A Ford Tudor Sedan. It cost $400 and was in need of complete restoration from the top bows down. I had made arrangements with a friend in Valley Nebraska to help guide me through the process. I would do all the work and he would provide the place for it and the necessary instruction when I was ready for it. I  could hardly wait to get started. While the car was still sitting in our driveway in Omaha, I began tearing it apart. I removed the fenders leaving it open wheeled both in front and back, not realizing that to drive an open wheeled car with no license showing from Omaha to Valley, a distance of 30 miles was not a legal trip for me to take. I was about half way there when I saw a state patrolman pass in the other direction,  and I watched in the rear view mirror as he stopped, made a u-turn, and headed after me in pursuit, flashing lights and all.  I pulled to the side of the road and he walked up to my open wheeled antique car, incredulous at what he'd seen: A scrawny teenaged boy with glasses driving a fenderless, illegal car. I explained that I was beginning the process of restoring it, and pointed to the four fenders (including license plate) stacked in the back seat. He could see the truth of my tale and followed me the rest of the way to Valley just to make sure the police did not hassle me on the rest of my way.

Those were different days, but I hope that the response from authority might be the same today if adults were to witness kids in the pursuit of meaningful learning, even if those pursuits led them into the world at large and in conflict with the law.

I am having a bit of trouble with my 4th, 5th and 6th grade students coming to class and not getting right to work. Part of the problem is that my shop with so many projects and activities at so many grade levels tends to be disheveled and in need of thorough reorganization. The second problem is that they've had five projects going at once with the confusion that entails when each has questions about his or her next step.

Today I plan to set up stations at which they can do particular exercises while they wait their turn for my attention. I would prefer that they spend whatever time they have in the wood shop gathering and developing skill of hand and mind.

Teaching is just like any other art. You have days when the hand puts the line straight on paper with fluid ease, and days in which you may struggle to overcome the various challenges of life. And in the full scope of things you attempt to get better at it even when no one notices but yourself.

Make, fix, create, and expand the scope of schooling so that others may learn likewise.


  1. There were days as a teacher when it felt like I was conducting a symphony orchestra. Totally effortless. And then there were the other days.


  2. The thing about working with kids (or adults for that matter) is that they have their own perspectives and their own thoughts (hopefully) circling in their own brains (hopefully) and their own social conditioning and these things are often in conflict with the teacher's objectives.

    1. Very much in conflict. Even at the community college level where I worked there were "kids" testing limits and others staring out the window at the pretty clouds. Still, it was the best job in the world, and never felt like work.