Each year I go to the Alvarado Junior High School in Alvarado, Texas, to the Reading classroom of my beautiful wife, Debra. I first gave this little talk in 2004, when I told the kids all about being a graphic artist and how important reading is in that job. Since I began doing this I have stopped being a graphic artist and started being a woodworker. So, a couple of years ago, I changed the talk, splitting the time between one job and the other. And this year I spent far more time talking about woodworking than graphic design. Obviously it's important to be able to read as a woodworker, right? If I can't read the operating instructions for my power tools I could do something wrong and lose a finger. Or a hand. As a drummer for the past 41 years I have to say I'm not in love with that idea. And I'm not a Def Leppard fan, either.
There were lots of intelligent, thoughtful questions during the day, and the usual goofy 7th grade questions as well. It was fun, and I may have inspired one or two kids to think about woodworking, at least as a hobby and possibly as a career. Only time will tell.
I brought props, some candle holders I've built, along with some unfinished wood so they could see the difference. Finished wood looks and feels so different than unfinished wood, so I felt it was important to see both so the finished product could be appreciated.
It was interesting to see how many kids had no idea what my tools were called or what they were used for. Several kids told my the router was a sander. That would make for some interesting sanding jobs.
Some kids knew the tools and understood their uses. Some had relatives who worked with similar tools. My goal with this presentation is to get all the kids talking about what I show them and then the cross-pollenization begins; Questions are asked of me, or of each other or of their teachers; Curiosity breeds learning. This is a great way to teach. It's a great way to learn.
Just like last year, I finished off the talk with a look at a Design Style Guide slide show. I'm an administrator of this group of artisans and I put this little tour together to promote what other members are creating. I wanted to show them that there are lots of other things they can do at home besides woodworking, lots of other Arts and Crafts self-employment opportunities out there. I think this little video makes the point in a hurry.
If more professionals in our communities took the time to go into our schools and pass on a little knowledge, or at least a little inspiration and wander, our children would be in better shape to make career choices and be encouraged to get better grades. If this opportunity is available in your community I urge you to take it. These kids will be taking care of us some day. I think it's pretty good idea to help them along the path, don't you?