Reply by tooldad

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Posted on high school wood shops

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665 posts in 4796 days

#1 posted 06-14-2010 04:53 AM

I am a shop teacher. I have been for 12 years now. I have the dream job, a forgiving and understanding district that sees woodshop as a necessary. unfortunately too many see Industrial technology as the “technology” part and not the industrial part. Yes, cool lasers and CNC’s are great and bring in students, but you have to know how to operate and repair them, that is the industrial part. Once most students realize how much goes into really operating that type of equipment, most don’t continue on in the program and then it becomes a dumping ground. on the other hand the 2nd year classes are good kids since they understand what it takes. That is the “technology side”

The hands on side is a bit more rough around the edges and most see it as a big cost to most districts. Like I said fortunately the district I work for doesn’t. The instructor at the other high school in our district has a wood show each year to display what the kids do. He is a perfect fit to be “leave it to beaver’s” teacher. Most kids can’t stand him, but take the class because they want to do woodworking. So he has good classes.

However at my school, I get more of the “city” kids and have to cater to their interests to keep them enrolling. Now don’t get me wrong, i have good kids, but I also have my knuckleheads. I get a few a—holes in my freshman class, but I stay tough enough on them, not to make them want to come back. In fact I give D grades to those students, even though they really deserve an F. a D gives them the credit they need so they don’t hassel the home ec or business teacher to get practical art credit, also they don’t have to retake the class with the other shop teacher the next year. But the best part is, you need a C to continue on in the program.

Now an example of a knucklehead was this year. He was good enough to pass with a B last year, but gave me hassles almost every day. He took my woods I class this year. He got another B- but was a hassle. On the last day of his senior year this year, he came to tell me thanks for putting up with him, keeping him on the right track and that he did actually learn something from me. All of this with a tear in his eye.

Now as I said, I have the dream shop job. I just got it 4 years ago and it didn’t come easy. I have been in 4 districts and 6 different schools. I started out traveling between the middle and high school my first year. Wasn’t fond of that, so I applied for some jobs to get the message to the district I was working at, not planning on going anywhere, but I got a better offer and took it. About half way through the 2nd year, I realized that the principal didn’t really like the shop classes and he and I didn’t see eye to eye. I went back to the first district to teach middle school full time the 3rd year.

Did that for 4 years and then was “non-renewed” after being accused of administering corporal punishment. A kid was tapping on the desk with his plastic hair brush and after several requests to stop and not doing so, I took the brush and tapped him on the head with it. He claimed I bruised him with a “metal” brush and was actually accused of child abuse charges. All of this happened in February, and I was cleared of the charges in October.

Found a job teaching construction at a trade school. I took a group of jr’s and sr’s offsite to build a house each year. That lasted 3 years. Was going fine until the superintendant told the kids they couldn’t drive their cars to the site anymore and had to ride the bus. One afternoon his house got broken into, it was determined it was 2 of my students doing it in retaliation. I was given a letter stating that I was not at fault since it was after hours. “Mysteriously” at the end of that year, I was non-renewed.

A blessing in disguise was my wife that same spring got an offer to move to St Louis and so I had to move too. I told my perspective employers the story of the house, and most called me back the next day to offer a job.

I have excellent evaluations, I know my material, and I have continually improved my teaching styles and what I teach each year. I was best at teaching the middle school kids because I was so much bigger than them and intimidated them a little, plus I got new students each semester and was able to evaluate and improve from the previous semester. I got to where I didn’t even need a lesson plan, and the administrator required other teachers to turn theirs in, but he exempted me after seeing me teach.

I would not have been ready to teach where I am today 12 years ago. I have to be upfront, unless you know someone, you will get the middle school kids teaching bridge building or lasers, “industrial Technology” stuff, not the woodworking classes as most hope and dream for. It took “paying my dues” as I call it to get where I am at today.

Don’t throw away lesson plans or assignments you get in class from a teacher or any you generate. It is easier to improve on them that start over. I look at what I teach now, compared to the same unit 5-8 years ago, and think to myself, what was I thinking then?

Now finally, I had a student who graduated in 2009, who took my class for 2 years and is like a nephew to me. This is how close I became to him. He has decided to follow in my footsteps. I have told him the same stories I have told you. The road is not easy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Good luck. Let me know if you have any questions.

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