Sunday, December 27, 2015

at work (and at play)

Yesterday I cut the lids off 32 boxes after sanding them smooth with  the random orbital sander. Then I installed hinges in each. There is a direct relationship between the techniques I use to teach and the production techniques I use to make boxes efficiently to a high standard. In classes, I don't want my students standing in line when they could be box making. In the shop, I want to make money and exercise my mind and body in the most efficient manner possible. The same techniques can be useful in both circumstances.

The photo above shows my latest improvement of technique. Small blocks with strips of the same thickness as the saw kerf keep the box from closing on the blade as the lid is cut from the body of the box. Over the years I've practiced a number of different techniques for this, but this is the latest, and allowed me to get boxes done much more quickly and safely than in the past. As cuts are made the blocks are put in place. For the last cut, all three blocks will be in position to hold the lid and body of the box with just the amount of space between for a near perfect cut.

One of the things that will be talked about during the presidential campaign will be the need for all children to attend preschool as a precursor for Kindergarten and regular schooling. The following is from the Atlantic article, "The New Preschool is Crushing Kids"
Step into an American preschool classroom today and you are likely to be bombarded with what we educators call a print-rich environment, every surface festooned with alphabet charts, bar graphs, word walls, instructional posters, classroom rules, calendars, schedules, and motivational platitudes—few of which a 4-year-old can “decode,” the contemporary word for what used to be known as reading.

Because so few adults can remember the pertinent details of their own preschool or kindergarten years, it can be hard to appreciate just how much the early-education landscape has been transformed over the past two decades. The changes are not restricted to the confusing pastiche on classroom walls. Pedagogy and curricula have changed too, most recently in response to the Common Core State Standards Initiative’s kindergarten guidelines. Much greater portions of the day are now spent on what’s called “seat work” (a term that probably doesn’t need any exposition) and a form of tightly scripted teaching known as direct instruction, formerly used mainly in the older grades, in which a teacher carefully controls the content and pacing of what a child is supposed to learn.
But what researchers are finding is that the teacher driven regimen and control robs children of self-directed play time leading them to shut down their receptivity, causing them to resist or even hate schooling. What educational policy makers must be forced to understand is that there is a difference between learning, and being taught. All children love to learn. Only under the best of circumstances can being taught, and learning coincide. And that must begin with the interests and cooperation of the child. Where that interest is lost or never gained, children are forced to suffer through.Where students and teachers are placed in coercive environments children rebel and resist in patterns that may last life-long.

It is difficult for me to understand how folks could sit around being passively entertained when they could be making beautiful and useful things, but schooling is good at preparing you for that. You won't learn anything new by watching football, but you will in the wood shop. Today I will add lift tabs to the lids, sand a bit more, rout edges, and begin the final finishing process. As a result, lovely boxes will be available for sale or to give as gifts. If I were watching football, I would have no new boxes and no new skill to show for it.

Make, fix, create, and encourage others to learn likewise.

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