One of the reasons I became a Design & Technology/Industrial Arts teacher is that I enjoy woodworking. Ironically, as a teacher I get far less time to spend on this hobby than I would like. Yes I spend a few minutes here and there showing students how to use a piece of equipment, or preparing materials at the beginning of a term, or changing the belt on a belt sander from time to time. But most of my afternoons are taken up with marking and meetings and paperwork.
Last term I decided to challenge myself to make something. Something for myself. Not a student project prototype or something for a school production or another staff member. Something for me to make and take home and use.
I decided on a chopping board as this could then be used for cooking at home, which is another hobby that I enjoy. I spent a few afternoons on this once the school day was over, sometimes as little as 15 minutes at a time. Even then, I quickly got busy with other things and put the chopping board on a shelf. I just finally finished it in the Easter Holidays.
Unfortunately I don’t have access to a circular table saw, so had to use a band saw for the project. This was far from ideal and meant I had to spend a lot of time sanding. I ended up using a random orbital sander with 40 grit sanding discs that I changed frequently. Even then I spent more time sanding than I care to admit.
When I could finally move down the grit sizes however, the process became much more satisfying. From 40 I moved to 80, then 120 and finally 180. I loved watching the colour darken and the surface develop a shine as I worked.
I used a router to cut handles on the two sides. Then I needed to decide on a finish. There are a number of food-safe options, from beeswax to mineral oil. I decided to use a raw linseed oil which is cheap and easy to apply.
The end result isn’t perfect, but I like it. I enjoyed the process of making it even more. Sometimes I felt guilty for working on it at the end of a school day when I still had marking to do. Did that make me a bad teacher? On reflection I think the answer is no. Making things helps me to keep learning myself. I realised that I still get frustrated when things don’t work the first time. That helps me understand my students better.
And I showed my project to my students at different stages along the way. This helped them see different processes. They asked me questions and were genuinely interested. I shared my frustrations with them. Mostly, it helped them see my passion for the subject. If it wasn’t for this passion I wouldn’t have become a teacher in the first place.