Shop Class VI

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As I said in the last post, most parents brought concerns directly to me, but one contacted the school principal. Experiences with parents usually faded soon after incidents involving their child’s classroom activities. But two are still with me. I’ve posted the boy story, now the girl story.

A girl suddenly started missing my class, but I saw her in the lunchroom and other areas of the school. That of course required a report to the vice-principal. He told me her not being in my class was at her mother’s request. And he would be contacting me for a conference with the parents.

I asked why to which he said it would come up at the conference. Then he said, the girl’s mother hadn’t given him a reason other than she was unhappy because the girl was embarrassed to be there.

That, of course, brought on a brain racking time for me. The boy/girl restroom issue had been resolved, I’d allowed girls in dresses to opt out of some tasks, and given consideration to other needs without comment.1This was before the all-girl class incidents (All Girl Class II). And, I’d not seen or heard of inappropriate behavior by any of the boys.

The mother, the girl, the vice-principal, and I met in his office. The mother hadn’t made a written complaint for the VP to read, so he asked her to explain.

She said something like, “My faith will not allow … to be in a class where inappropriate language is used by a teacher.”

VP asked if she would quote what … said she’d heard me say.

Mom said, “I can’t say the word.”

VP asked if … left the room could she say it. She said no. He asked her to write it on paper. She said no. He asked … if she could write it. The girl looked at her mother who gave an obvious ‘no’ glare.

After a long silence, Mom said it was a curse word for illegitimate child. It hit me! There are several types of files used in both metal and wood working. Bastard cut is one of them2 a file of the commercial grade of coarseness between coarse and second-cut.
I said something like, “I believe I know the issue. Files for shaping wood or metal and used in industry have standard tooth patterns and courses. One of those grades is technically and historically called a Bastard file or Bastard cut.

She stood, took her daughter by the arm, and left saying, “You’ll hear from my husband.”

The next day the girl was in class and told me, “Dad said he uses that kind of file at the mill many times a week, but I’ll just ask for ‘that’ file if I need one. And if it’s on a quiz can I just write ‘that’ file?”

The issue was over!


Shop Class V

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Most parents brought their concerns directly to me, but one contacted the school principal. Experiences with parents faded soon after incidents involving their child’s classroom activities, but two are still with me. The boy story first.

I found an ‘adult’ magazine in the trash can when I was emptying it into a larger can just after school one day. Sometime later I discovered another issue of the same genre in an unidentifiable Pee-Chee tucked between boards in the lumber room.
One day I saw a boy pass a new Pee-Chee to another, but part of the Playboy cover was exposed. I kept both boys after class and determined which had brought it to school. The first possessor, Junior, said it was his dad’s and begged me to not tell.
I did the office referral and made the call he begged me to not do. I’d not met the father, but the gyppo logger had a reputation for being disagreeable. From an incident I’d heard about when I was a police reserve, I also knew he was a frequent fighter1In court it would be called hearsay if I presented it.. Logger dad told me he was picking up a load of logs and would stop by to have a talk the next day.
A fully loaded log truck appeared in the driveway between the shop and main building just after students left for the day. From my side I could see Junior, still suspended, not for the magazine but for inappropriate reaction to being given detention by the vice principal. Logger dad stepped out. He had the build of Merlin Olsen a defensive tackle with the Los Angeles Rams.
My imagine went a little wild – disagreeable frequent fighter nearly a foot taller and a hundred lbs. heavier than me. The sound of his voice addressing me, “Benson?” fit my perception. Then things changed. He said, “sorry about Junior doing what he did. I keep the guns and booze locked up, but I didn’t think about the magazines. You still have ‘em? I’ve got every issue except one since they came out. Gonna be worth some money sometime.”
I told him the VP probably kept them with the referral file. He went into the building and after a very deep breath, I locked up and left for home.


Shop Class IV

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The official name for ‘shop’ was Industrial Arts. At one time IA was called manual training and evolved to manual arts before IA. One semester of the required experience was mechanical drawing. In an earlier post, I said it was one quarter. Oh how memory fades in the octolife1My word for octogenarian..2I also said electricity was part of the shop experience, but it was part of the MD time. I’m not sure why it wasn’t called basic drafting, but I wasn’t there when it was named. Students had to wait for high school to get beyond the basics of drafting.

Our mechanical drawing lessons were very basic as were the school supplied instruments: drawing board, T-square, 45-45-90° and 30-60-90° triangles, compass, dividers, and drafters scales. All drawings were done in pencil.

In my first year of teaching Industrial Arts, one student was repeating all but 7th grade PE and the shop sections of Industrial Arts. He was unofficially enrolled in advanced IA but had failed the first quarter of the required mechanical drawing class.

I found him to be orally articulate, but inept at drawing skills except tracing. His skill with hand and power tools was acceptable, but his written assignments had unclosed words and random gaps in text.

My first thoughts came from his being left-handed and all mechanical drawing instrument illustrations in the book were for right-handers. Even my demonstrations were given that way. However, I did have him use the right edge of the drawing board for his T-square instead of the common left edge.

It didn’t help that the MD class to which he was assigned was all special needs boys, many with behavior problems. I was continuously distracted by antics and since he was quiet, he didn’t get much attention.

When I evaluated his first drawings, I thought he was being purposely inaccurate by drawing things in reverse horizontally, but not vertically. As we started the second quarter, something from the depths of my mind hit me. Dyslexia?

I had a talk with the school nurse and found that he’d never been referred but had been in ‘special needs’ since starting school. She said she would contact his parents for permission to test him.

I devised my own test. I told the class the next assignment was to draw a cut block in reverse, left to right. His reversal put the block in the correct position. The nurse and school counselor followed up, and a year later he was in regular classes.

Shop Class III

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I admit to having the perception that girls would be more cautious than boys and more likely to follow all safety rules when they were permitted in shop class by eighth grade elective choice in 19741Just reading that sentence made me nearly out of breath.. I was mostly right, about the safety rules that is.

Belt sander lesson
I’m not sure if this occurred with the first set of girls allowed in the shop class or a later time. One cannot assume or predict that every possible safety violation scenario would be covered in machine tool lessons.

There were a number of days that girls couldn’t or chose to not work with power tools and sometimes hand tools. Inappropriate by shop rules clothing, unsecurable hair, and other random reasons trumped many permitted or excused out activities. But some of the rules befitting girls applied to boys also. Long hair, for instance, wasn’t a social issue-it was a safety issue.

Oh – the belt sander lesson. I demonstrated every hand tool and power tool and some power tools several times. One of my demonstrations for several machines was showing the danger of trying to machine small parts with big machines. One great temptation was to sand small parts with the belt sander. My demonstration showed that small parts were too often pulled into the gap between the belt and belt table. To make that demonstration safe for me, I used a stick to hold the small piece.

The sound she projected was more of a shrieked curse word than a blood curdling scream. I knew immediately from where it came. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard vocabulary generally unacceptable for polite society from her. It took only seconds to see the damage to her fingertips-two of them. I asked what happened.

She said, “I didn’t think my (expletive) fake nails would come off when I was rounding them because they were glued on.

I sent her to the nurse and wrote a referral for using obscene language during class time. When I called her mother, she used more of the same expletives than her daughter.

Perceptions of the Principal – IX
Allison in second grade:
The principal is the person who sits in the office and gives morning announcements. He waves at me when I bring the lunch list to the office.
Perceptions of the Principal – X
Arlie in second grade:
The principal is the person who sits in the office and gives morning announcements. I see him when I get my tardy slip. My dad says she is in a meeting whenever he calls the school. My dad didn’t want to talk to her when she called during a Blazers game.
Perceptions of the Principal – XI
Allison in third grade:
The principal is the person my dad said he was in college with. Mom says she’s a snot.
Perceptions of the Principal – XII
Arlie in third grade:
The principal is the person who talks to you when you mess up in the buddy room. Ms. Crampon. has it in for me.

Shop Class II

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I recall only one boy and one girl being injured during my ten years teaching junior high school shop classes. Both were a result of a safety violation by the student.

Bandsaw lesson:

A blood curdling scream1A phrase often used in horror fiction. over the high level sounds of running machine tools in the woodshop caught my attention. My first look around the shop didn’t tell me from where came the shriek. Seeing no student in obvious distress, I did my ‘everything off’ shout, then asked, “Who screamed?” In the near silence, I went workstation to workstation for a person to person check on each person.

When I approached Stu Dent, an eighth grader but first year shop pupil, he was staring out a window like he often did. I asked if he was ok to which he replied, “I cut my thumb on the bandsaw.”

I determined the wound wasn’t stitch worthy, disinfected it, and put a thumb bandage on it. I asked him to show me how it happened so I could perhaps prevent it from happening again with additional instruction. We went to the bandsaw and I saw the power switch was locked out.2Lockout prevents un-permitted use of power machines. I asked, “Are you sure it was this machine?”

Stu said, “Yes, Mr. B. You said we could get a nasty cut if we touched it with the blade moving. I just wanted to see if the blade was sharp enough to do that when it was off.”

One deep exhale was all I could muster to keep from making an unkind remark about my presumed misuse of his natural mental ability.

Perceptions of the Principal – V
Allison in first grade:
The principal is person who stands outside in the morning and says good morning. After school he just waves at the busses or seems to talk to ladies who are waving their arms or men who are standing stiff like not wanting to hit a lady.
Perceptions of the Principal – VI
Arlie in first grade:
The principal is person who sent me home when I made a pistol out of my lunch pizza and pointed it at boys at my table. She wouldn’t let me eat it. She called my mother and gave it to her. The pizza I mean. Mother gave it to me, the scolding I mean, when she picked me and the pizza gun up early from school.
Perceptions of the Principal – VII
Allison in second grade:
The principal is the person who sits in the office and gives morning announcements. He waves at me when I bring the lunch list to the office. Perceptions of the Principal – VIII
Arlie in second grade:
The principal is the person who sits in the office and gives morning announcements. I see him when I get my tardy slip. My dad says she is in a meeting whenever he calls the school. My dad didn’t want to talk to her when she called during a Blazers game.