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.

All Girl Class III

blog post
The title is All Girl Class III, making it rather obvious that this the fourth, if you remember to count All Girl Class 0, in my sub-series relating to my teaching an all-girl eighth-grade English class. Again, at the expense of making a repeated, recurring statement, as I said two or three times before1Bumping up the word count still again for no specific reason., that experience led to my believing eighth grade girls very are much like seventh graders, ninth graders, or just in between.
The actual event didn’t happen in class, but the announcement of it did.

Part of the time I was teaching at the junior high school, I was in the police reserves. I was involved in several school and student related issues as a reserve, but only one manifested in my all girl classroom.

I was trained and had a full commission, so during the summer of 1978 I did vacation coverage for full time officers. Most of my time was on traffic enforcement patrol. One of my first stops for failure to stop at a controlled intersection was a woman who blew a stop sign at speed limit. She admitted the infraction and was courteous in taking the citation. Her story was – distraction by the chatter of four girl passengers. Bet you can guess where this is going!

Soon after the all-girl class was formed and a girl asked something like, “Mr. Benson, are you allowed to pack at school2I did have a concealed firearm at school two times, but that’s a different story and not fitting for here.. How can a teacher be a cop too? Do you know that Mrs. … keeps a loaded pistol in her car?”

I was taken back and was in hesitation mode looking for words to explain the law of that time on packing and my role as a reserve.

She spoke again before I had the words, ”You’re the one who arrested my mother last summer aren’t you?”

English lessons for that day were severely truncated.

Perceptions of the Principal – I
Arlie in kindergarten:
The principal is the person you have to see in the office when you kick Allison at recess. She didn’t listen to my side.
Perceptions of the Principal – II
Allison in kindergarten:
The principal is the person my mother called when I said Arlie kicked me at recess. I pulled Arlie’s hair first, but I didn’t tell Mom or the principal.
Perceptions of the Principal – III
Arlie’s mother Amanda:
The principal is the person who called me at work when Arlie allegedly kicked another student. My boss was ticked when she had to give me the message. I’m texting Ashley!
Perceptions of the Principal – IV
Allison’s mother Ashley:
The principal is the person who wouldn’t confirm it was Arlie who Allison said kicked her. I’m texting Amanda!


Blog Purpose Decision

blog postI had some thoughts about doing a series on octogenarian perspectives. The problem with octogenarian perspective at this time is that it could become just an opinion page and I’m not into publishing mine. 1See my previous blog “Opinions”
Considering that I spent at least 35 years of my adult life involved in some form of education. I’m going to write some memorables from those years.

My teaching experience actually started when I was in the Army. Frankly the first day I stood in front of a class was mentally horrifying and gastronomically disturbing. I was a staff sergeant with the academic administrative authority to recommend flunking a bird colonel aide to a base commander, a GS-13 embassy civilian, a political appointee, or some whose status and rank was purposely kept from me.
Teaching at a junior high school was my first public school experience. In retrospect, but for different reasons, the first day was as gut wrenching as teaching Top Secret procedures in the Army Security Agency.
My career also included high school, Christian school, and school administration as a substitute principal or vice-principal.
Disclaimer: I have notes on some events, but most will be from memory. If you recognize yourself in an episode, it may or may not be you because all characters are composites. However, each event depicted did happen.

Example Incident

This wasn’t my first day at the junior high, but it was soon after.

I felt that it was important to introduce writing into the shop classes I would be teaching. The principal didn’t agree but said a prior teacher had used a written assignment to replace detention if a student couldn’t attend. One student had enough detentions from several teachers to do a full day of half-hours by mid quarter. He was one who couldn’t do more than ten minutes after school and ten minutes at lunch time.

I had to give a detention after several warnings about behavior. I decided on the written assignment option but to go a little easy on him, so I’d get some result. I told him, “three pages, one-side only on a woodworking process of your choice.”

He asked, “What kind of paper?”

I told him lined notebook paper would be ok, but if it came from a spiral bound notebook, he should cut off the fringes. The next morning his three-page report was in my school mailbox. I caught him as he entered the shop saying, “I don’t think this will do. I said notebook paper.”

His reply, “Mr. Benson, you didn’t say what size notebook paper and all I had yesterday was the 3×5 (teacher name deleted) makes us have for spelling words. I hadn’t used it yet!”

I’m sure he expected some kind of negative feedback from me, but I knew a good gotcha when I saw one. And I learned to be very specific with instructions for junior high kids. 2This isn’t the last time you’ll hear about this one.

I will continue to include quotes from what I’ve written.
For example: Calvin Parker in Echoes of Nam: Absence from war is not the same as peace of the soul “Jeez Goor! If I’d known you were going to really write a book, I wouldn’t have made up so much stuff. Anyways, send me a copy. CP:

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