Saturday, February 22, 2014

the necessity of attention

One of the things that William James did not mention in his talks to teachers is the necessity of receiving attention. Anyone who has observed children (or adults for that matter) for more than a moment will know what I mean, so perhaps there was little point in James needing to mention it. It goes without saying. The necessity of receiving or avoiding attention drives the human race. We choose the clothes we buy to either stand out and grain attention or fit in and thus avoid it. We develop skill not only for the sake of feelings of mastery, but so that we can demonstrate it to others.

Schools need to offer a variety of ways through which students can gather positive notice from others, not just the teaching staff and administration. Where students have no other access to attention they get it by distinctive dress or in extreme cases, by challenging behavior. Students have a desire to imitate, and emulate, but by putting their own distinctive spin on things. I write this blog so that readers will take note of  my ideas, make use of them if they are worthy of use, and then put their own spin on things and have courage to emulate if they find truth in what I have said.

But if we want to give children better methods and habits of gaining attention, there is no better means than the challenge of skilled craftsmanship. In wood shop, they enjoy showing others what they have done, and personalizing their work and workmanship to take ownership of it.

Today I am working on boxes in the shop. I start by cutting full length boards into half lengths, then rip saw materials to about 1/4-3/8 in. wider than necessary to form the parts. I next resaw the material down the middle to make efficient use of the stock. After planing the wood to thickness, I flatten the edges on the jointer and then rip saw the material to finished width. Next, I use the sled on the table saw to cut dozens and dozens of parts to exact length.

The necessity of receiving attention is a powerful force in people's lives. In many cases we buy the products we buy so that others will see us having them and using them and be impressed. But not all live for that alone. We grow weary with just having stuff, when it can be so much more fulfilling to express mastery in the making of beautiful and useful things.

Make, fix and create. Demonstrate what you've learned and inspire others to make, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment