Thursday, February 11, 2016

setting kids up to almost fail and learn from it.

I have a second grade student Oen who wants to make everything in the wood shop, including the tools we use. The importance for him of making things is in part related to the ownership and control that comes with ownership. He is also a boy that revels in his own physical powers, so refining a boomerang to come back can keep him occupied for days.

You may have noticed in your own life the need to do difficult and demanding things. Children are just the same. They want to exercise prowess and control and to attain mastery in things that set them apart from their peers.

Yesterday I brought another of my own guitars to a near finished state, painting it with milk paints in a Jackson Pollack style. "How's this?" my students ask, in relation to their own work. "What do you think?" I ask in return. That give and take provides a great deal of information. I can look closely at their work and notice things that can be improved, just as I can look closely at my own work, and see those small things.

David Pye discussed the relationship between certainty and risk in a craftsman's work. We develop jigs and tools to enhance the powers of mindlessness, so that we can thus avoid failure. Whereas, the ever present risk of failure makes things more real, and requires greater attention. Should we be any less attentive to the power of failure in schools than in real life? There is an art in asking children to do real things, luring them forward when possible and knowing when they have reached their limit. Salomon called this the "teacher's tact."

Yesterday a friend Dan came to the school work shop to use one of our lathes to turn a large mallet to replace one that had been lost along the way. We talked about Heikki Seppa and the development of hollow form in jewelry making. According to my friend Dan, Seppa wrote about form in a way similar to N. Christian Jacobsen, so his is a book that I must watch for. It seems the Finns, Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes have an attentiveness to form that can be inspirational.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the lure of learning likewise.

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