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.

All Girl Class III

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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!


Another Gotcha

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I am happy to have finished the “Of Slugs” part of my classroom stories.
This series started with “Blog Purpose Decision” on 09/05/20 in which I related one of the first classroom ‘gotchas’ foisted upon me. Remember 3×5 spiral notebook paper story?

Ten years into my career in public school, I moved from the junior high to the high school to teach electronics and drafting. Because those two didn’t fill my schedule, I was assigned a sophomore English class1Not my first English class experience.

The English department had requirements not related to curriculum. One was that students write all papers with an assigned word count. I didn’t then and do not now understand setting word count as a criterion – content should be the rule. I openly admit, however, that quite often I am too wordy in what I could say with fewer – words that is, so as Mark twain said, “I would have written a shorter letter but, I did not have the time.”

Whoops, I drifted away from the gotcha story.

Because of my poor cursive handwriting, I understood when some of my students had the same problem. One boy’s cursive was worse than mine and he didn’t type. I told him it was OK print his assignments. I assumed he like the others would use standard notebook paper for the first long assignment I gave.

His 600-word essay was turned in on a 3×5 unlined index card. He’d used a number-six drafting pencil which has the hardest lead and was used for nearly invisible guidelines for lettering or preliminary lines on paper. Because the pencil point can be made very sharp, his extremely small letters were easy enough to read with a magnifying glass.

He had my prior permission to print and his content was good, but I could have rejected it because he violated two of the department rules. Work was to be in pen and only on one side of the paper. However, no way could I reject such a good gotcha?

I modified my basic instructions again.

Nothing to see here – move along please – thanks!

From my novel, Echoes of Nam: Absence from war is not the same as peace of the soul.

It wasn’t until Goor did the research for this book that he learned what happened to the others at the Dak Bla Bridge. Well, Wosk excepted.

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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