blog post
As I said in my “Skifoot and She” posts, most students with whom I dealt over the years were average. However, I was challenged often by many whose natural abilities far exceeded mine. But in my defense, like recognizing a good ‘gotcha’ I was not intimidated by or rejecting of young talent.

Emerging computer technology in the mid-1980s was a challenge to many teachers. My having some operational experience with 1960s military versions I had somewhat of an advantage but that’s another story.

I took a computer programing class and put what I learned to use. I wrote a 200-line program in BASIC (Beginners’ All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) on an Apple II and adapted it for Atari and Heathkit computers. Math anxiety woodshop students entered data to determine the number of board feet1surface area in a project. Knowing the board feet was necessary for calculating the cost of a project.

Classroom trials of the program were satisfying so I developed a volume calculating program. Both programs were published in the vocational education journal School Shop.

I was comfortable with telling myself, “I’m keeping up with the techno-geeks.”

A technology ‘gotcha’ came into my life when a freshman student tried the program and said something like, “Mr. Benson, I believe I can make this work faster and appear better on the screen.” I took that as a challenge and gave him my raw data and the programs I’d written.

The next day he presented me with what he said he could do.2Wish I’d saved a copy of his work for comparison to mine.

I decided to be a computer user and let the younger and faster be the developers.

Shop Class VI

blog post
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

blog post
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 II

blog post
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.

%d bloggers like this: