Musings of a Middle School Shop Teacher #1: Introduction

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Blog entry by WoodGuyScott posted 09-29-2014 07:16 PM 2279 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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There are days that I’m happy that, despite the majority of my school’s curriculum switching to engineering fundamentals, that I’m a shop teacher. There are other days that I’m really happy that I get to teach my “Manufacturing Technology” a.k.a. wood shop classes.

You see, what I see happening to the world of education is a tragic spiral of suppression. We are being made to teach every student the same content, to expect the same measure of success, to prepare each and every child that comes through our doors that not only are they being pressured to go to college, but we imply that to not go to a four year university is a travesty, an abomination, and anathema. We are asked to teach success over failure, results over technique, and end above means.

And I am thankful to God that I get to be a part of the opposite. My students come to my room to learn how to do. I help them gain skill and knowledge that they can use, not just in my classroom, but for the rest of their lives. I don’t want them to be successful. I want them to fail. I want my students to learn to deal with the harshness of defeat, and then to overcome it and attain success. Too often I see our kids being pushed to perfect results, and taught that anything else is worthless.

I wish I could make those responsible for the trend of change overcoming adversity makes you stronger than avoiding it. I wish we could teach that success is something that comes only when all the failures have been overcome, and that without failing you can’t improve. I wish that I could teach that mistakes are wonderful when used, and terrible when ignored.

I wish I could change the expectation that everyone should go into higher learning.

And that’s why I’m doing what I do, and why I plan to stay right where I am. I want to show my kids something they won’t learn in college. I want to show them that they can fail, and be better for it.

-- --Shafe

15 comments so far

View DarthBrehm's profile


1 post in 1847 days

#1 posted 09-29-2014 08:28 PM

Awesome! Could not agree more.

View CharlesA's profile


3386 posts in 2310 days

#2 posted 09-29-2014 08:32 PM

I spent a lot of years in school studying things far afield from shop class, studying at some of the best schools in the world, but I remember an awful lot of what I learned in my required Junior High shop class. It’s the only woodworking class I’ve ever taken. It has shaped a very important part of my life.

Good for you. You never know what it will turn into.

-- "Man is the only animal which devours his own, for I can apply no milder term to the general prey of the rich on the poor." ~Thomas Jefferson

View theoldfart's profile


10907 posts in 2963 days

#3 posted 09-29-2014 09:12 PM

There must be something wrong with you, your making sense! Please continue with both your blog series as well as your teaching philosophy.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View JayT's profile


6296 posts in 2723 days

#4 posted 09-29-2014 09:26 PM

Well said! I wish you the best of luck in your career. I was a teacher for eight years and saw the same things. When did it become sacrilegious to encourage a student to attend tech school instead of a four year university? The system would rather have highly educated unemployed than well paid tradesmen that are happy working with their hands.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View jinkyjock's profile


488 posts in 2086 days

#5 posted 09-29-2014 10:57 PM

sadly over here (Scotland) our educational system suffers from the same malaise.
A results/target driven ethos where learning and understanding is secondary.
However, from the content of your post I believe you can make a difference.
As Curtis Mayfield said, “Keep On Keeping On”.

View ThumbHammer's profile


54 posts in 1851 days

#6 posted 09-29-2014 11:24 PM

A college degree guarantees nothing. It is a stepping stone that “may” help a person’s career. Today it costs a great deal to complete 4 years of college. Learning a trade is a useful thing. I know quite a few tradesmen who worked themselves up through the years to becoming contractors. Most have successful careers, beautiful homes, and a life style that people dream of.

-- Are we all Square?

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3398 posts in 4224 days

#7 posted 09-30-2014 05:34 AM

AMEN! Well said.

Even if they do decide to go on to college, they need more than head knowledge to survive in this world. The satisfaction received from completing something with your hands has no equal. What you’re teaching them will be an asset no matter what they choose as a career path. We’re happy to see that you wish to equip them for LIFE.


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View kepy's profile


293 posts in 2786 days

#8 posted 09-30-2014 01:29 PM

Amen brother! Your students will only realize how lucky they are in later years when they learn what they have been taught.

-- Kepy

View Julian's profile


1484 posts in 3202 days

#9 posted 09-30-2014 02:14 PM

A college degree is not what it used to be. Learning a trade can be more advantageous currently. Being able to produce something with your hands provides a great deal of satisfaction and helps shaped your character. Good luck with your teaching career.

-- Julian

View DrDirt's profile


4592 posts in 4254 days

#10 posted 09-30-2014 02:26 PM

Best of luck.
I took woodshop every year in high school.
In middle school, we took ‘enrichment’ which was a 6 week rotation that went from electronics (nail polish and etching copper circuit boards) to making small devices. Then metal work, making tool trays, riveting dust pans and such, then Home Econ/cooking, then Photography, then woodshop, and so on.

I went to a 4 year school in chemistry, worked a couple years, then got a scholarship and PhD from Penn State in Chemistry.
During that program, we had to build our scientific lab apparatus, I actually spent many hours at 2AM on a vertical mill and lathe making mounts and optic holders for laser experiments.

Being able to work with ones hands is not solely for the trades. It is sad that the folks who are now teachers, often never attended science beyond their one required “lab class’ cannot see that, and don’t understand the value of a balanced and rounded education.

These same folks are promoted to administration.

One workplace challenge that now exists though, is that JOBS that do not require college educations, are flooded with applicants who have degrees.

So where it used to be Finishing high school was rare

... to EVERYONE graduating or at least GED holders.

What used to be a FEW college degree holders, to now a population where a 4 year degree has turned into the new “baseline” of education.

Right wrong or otherwise – - just think of all the Starbucks Baristas with a college degree, and recognize that you are going to be at a disadvantage without one – - – even though the job doesn’t require the advanced training.

Just as the guy without a GED, was under the gun to find good jobs only 15 years ago.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View WoodGuyScott's profile


51 posts in 2175 days

#11 posted 09-30-2014 04:15 PM


I understand what you’re saying about the disadvantage that not having a college degree can have for even unenlightened jobs out there. All I was trying to say is that there are a ton of technical and trades jobs out there where potential employers do what they actually should, and that’s look at the value of the person, their skills and strengths, and then give them a chance to prove their value. They don’t bother with checking where someone went to school, because when you make things, what you make is what’s important.

And that’s me rambling.

Thanks for all of the constructive replies!

-- --Shafe

View BenhamDesign's profile


204 posts in 1932 days

#12 posted 10-01-2014 02:58 AM

I didn’t realize that any schools had a shop class left. I graduated in 96 and even then they had already cut the shop classes out of my high school. I probably would have taken school more seriously if their was something their that interested me. During the summers I worked for a construction company making more money than my teachers, it was hard to justify sitting in class the rest of the year.

Several of my friends are burdened with student loan debts living paycheck to paycheck just to pay them off, and cannot afford to buy a house. I think collage ruined them, they are always stressed and hate their jobs.

-- What I do in and out of the shop at

View realcowtown_eric's profile


618 posts in 2449 days

#13 posted 10-01-2014 03:15 AM

Last sunday at the flea, a teacher buttonholed some of us woodies to help her understand stair layout.

Seems she teaches challenged students and they are involved in a house building project with a local home builder.

She pulled out a carpentry course curriculum for a local college, turned to chapter 14 and said…explain this to me…

I asked…”have they done the previous units” Nope
So there you got challenged kids in gr 10/11 who ain’t strong in math, and their teacher trying to guide them through stair calculations, and heop them through job experience.

Wierdest damn methodology that I’ve ever seen to convert fractions to decimals and then back again.

There was me, the finishing carpenter, and my buddy the framer, and neither of us could make head nor tail out of the lesson. It seemed to be focused on wierd mathematical manipulations rather than pragmatism.

I figured it would have taken a few hours of study to figure out the obvious errors in descriptions/illustrations and determine the rationale for the lesson and how to explain it.

Teach is NOT a tradesperson, she just has students in her charge who have been put in the programme, and she has to figure out how to help them as best she can. (and she’s doing it off the clock, reaching out to anyone who can help)

Next time anyone wants to criticize a teacher, think about walking a mile in their shoes.


-- Real_cowtown_eric

View NormG's profile


6441 posts in 3516 days

#14 posted 10-01-2014 03:54 AM

ere my favorite classes in school

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View DLCW's profile


530 posts in 3166 days

#15 posted 10-05-2014 12:08 AM

Unfortunately our public schools are no longer educational institutions. They have become indoctrination and mind programming organizations funded by politicians and run by bureaucrats instead of teachers. I volunteer teach woodshop at my local high school and I can see what is happening to the kids. Kids find it almost alien to be able to take the teachings they are receiving and apply them to real life situations. I think a lot of this has to do with many, many teachers not having REAL world experience (many years in the private sector before becoming a teacher). Many, many teachers go from college to teaching. This lack of being able to relate the subject being taught to real world situations makes kids unprepared for the real world. My daughters science teacher last year graduated from college and became a high school teacher. She had absolutely no experience she could teach the kids. Everything she taught was theory she had learned in college using curriculums developed by bureaucrats – no education whatsoever. She is now on the US Volleyball team in Europe after being a teacher for one school year.

These kids can polly-parot results for complex math problems but they have no clue how to balance a checkbook, make a bank deposit, have no idea what taxes are and are incredibly inept at problem solving.

This is the results of the national public indoctrination system. Kids are not being educated they are being taught. There is a HUGE difference between these two approaches to creating productive young adults out of children. Our indoctrination systems are failing the kids.

I love volunteer teaching at the woodshop classes. When I can see the light bulb come on in a kids eyes or get that “ah-ha, now I get it” response, I know I have educated that kid in some small way that will help them later in life. I try and relate everything I teach them to things that happen in real life. I also apply what they are learning in other classes with woodworking – especially math. Many of the kids are now applying the theory that is being shoved down their throats to real life stuff. Many have told me that it is very cool to have someone actually show them how to apply the theory to real life situations. That makes my day. :-)

-- Don, Diamond Lake Custom Woodworks - - "If you make something idiot proof, all they do is make a better idiot"

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