Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Just Keep Breathing

My last post was back in December . . .

I went back and checked my PineWoodDerbyWorkshop calendar -- in December and January I had over 650 kids (and an equal number of parents) come through the workshop in my home. Most Americans have a garage back there. That's boring. I'd rather be designing and creating something with my hands.

"What the hands learn, the mind can't forget."

I have hung wall cabinetry on two sides of the shop (donated by a generous Universe), and I am able to start stashing the twenty bazillion things that accumulate in any woodshop in those instead of on shelves that eat floor space. I have built workbenches that girdle the space, and I have the bench tools mounted on those, and I have a large work table in the middle of the area for inital design and final assembly. Next I'll rearrange the ceiling lighting to be more task-supportive.

Last night I went out to the shop and designed and built a rocket-propelled pinewood-scaled car. It has humongous (2 1/4" diameter) foam rubber tires, and it will track down a braided wire cable for about a hundred yards before it will parachute-brake to a stop. What I'm doing is setting up a parameters-kit for kids to be able to construct/assemble at summer camp without power tools.

Then I finally cut the prototype "oak" tree cutout to epoxy to the doors throughout our house. When we bought this house, lo these many years ago, the renters that moved out holed many of the doors. Well, we've patched the holes, but it looks tacky. I want to try giving the doors a visual/tactile texture with oak silhouettes applied in quarter-inch layers. I think this will come out well.

School is "interesting." What a wonderful euphemism.

I love to teach English, especially literature. If you can hook a student/kid on the stories, the techniques for reading analytically, the reason for reading analytically, and the techniques and reasons for writing analytically will follow in the course of desire for self expression. In my personal opinion (how's that for CYA?!) TAKS is incredibly counterproductive. Our system jams kids into stressful, overcrowded situations, enforces draconian crowd control, tests them like lab rats, changes it metrics at irregular intervals, then vulns itself and its teachers asking why it doesn't work.

As a CADD teacher, I can demonstrate how to assemble a drawing, why to draw it, and how to assemble a set of drawings. Then I have community professionals come in and show how a person can change his world - and make a decent living - by exercising this skill.

Hmmmmm . . .

Seventh Period I now teach English IV to graduating seniors, including several who are ESL. To satifsy State form-fillers, I am required to assign specific writing assignments to the entire class (can't single out those who are being tested - no, no, no) and turn that in, entire and unmarked, for someone who knows nothing about these kids to evaluate.

Hmmmmm . . .

Oh, well; I have taken the king's shilling, after all.

But at least I get to share The Taming of the Shrew and Macbeth.
The guy I am replacing moved to become Head Coach out in Anna. He's a Coyote now, not a Trojan. When I walked into his class a couple of days before he left, he was reading aloud to his class . . . these kids were attentive; they were listening; they responded to his questions and prompts. Damn! He was good. And he was/is a good guy.

What tickles me the most is that we had only met, really, once before. He brought his son to my PineWoodDerbyWorkshop to build a racecar. You just have to love it.

WindWalkerCamp International will be starting operations on our 45 acres in Missouri this summer! June 14th is opening day.

I have always wanted to have kids from all over the world come to this camp . . . I want to share the riches of America with the world, and I want to enjoy the riches of other cultures as well. The Universe is proving me with international campers right here, right now. And it is providing me an avenue for telling folk about this camp. More as it develops.

Pictures soon.