Sunday, June 17, 2012

Making full use of one's passion...

At anchor in Rockport Harbor
I got a very nice email from a blog reader in Canada who had asked me last year if I had a curriculum for him to follow in establishing a woodworking program in his school. I told him no, but that if he followed the blog for just a bit, he would see what we do, get a sense of feel for it, develop some confidence to get started, and proceed on his own. His start-up was not easy at first, but he learned to connect with the interests of his students, and his program is such a great success that teachers at other schools are beginning to take an interest. He notes that part way through the year
"there was a buzz in the school about the activities going on in our class. This was partially due to the fact that students were now displaying their finished works in a display case in the hall for all to see. A colleague approached me about the possibility of doing similar things with her class. She worried that she did not know much about woodworking or how to use all the different tools. I told her that it is better to have a teacher who has the desire to learn the necessary woodworking skills who will then be more sensitive to the needs of the individual students than to be an experienced tradesperson who is very proficient in the use of the tools, but for the sake of expediency, would rather do something for the student than to take the time to show them how to do it themselves. So, we worked out a project and went over all the steps and procedures. To her surprise her students loved it and she noticed that the whole atmosphere in her class changed. What was once a very difficult class, where she spent most of her energy redirecting students, now she found herself able to walk around and comment on how well each student was working. She saw her class transform from a ‘me’ centered class to a one that worked cooperatively. We have both found that there seems to be a residual positive effect from the woodworking that lingers in our classes for days. It’s like a calm, cooperative tone that envelops the class. I find that the next day the kids seem more focused even though it’s Friday. For my colleague, she finds the effect lasts into the next week since they woodwork on Fridays. She has found that some of her toughest students, the ones most resistant to completing work, now finish their work well and on time in anticipation of their woodworking period. Woodworking gives them a positive experience at school that seems to transfer over to other subjects. It’s a win/win situation for everyone."
A Cape Dory Typhoon, fiberglass but a sweet sailor
As you can see, the Wisdom of the Hands model is beginning to find roots in other places. You need not be an experienced woodworker to take part. You will need to have some kind of creative passion of your own, along with an understanding that the teacher's job is not to express skill, expertise, or even knowledge, but passion for children and learning. I found my way to the Rockport marina as you can see in the photos above and below.

Make, fix and create...


  1. I have been reading your blog for a couple of months now and was ecstatic to see the quote in this latest entry. It is so very heartening to see the power of creating busy at work and, further, to read an account of how transformational it can be for students who are traditionally considered 'lost causes' or 'trouble'. Thank you for relating the story.

  2. Mike, these are simply the kinds of things that shop teachers have long observed, but that have been marginalized by a pedagogical elite ever more reliant on statistical interpretation of student "success" to the neglect of what students, teachers and parents can see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.

  3. Mike thanks for your second note. I' sorry it got deleted by mistake, operator error(mine). Fortuneately it was stii in emai. Here goes:

    Doug, indeed, and that same misplaced focus on nice measurable, but mostly useless numbers creates an environment that divorces knowledge from actual use and most crucially from life of any kind. Instead of inspiring love and joy in students it ends up inspiring apathy and annoyance. Their ability to be creative ends up quashed and that is a sure and certain way towards a grave for really meaningful knowledge.