My first teaching placement was in a town called Warman, Saskatchewan. I spent two weeks with an Industrial Arts teacher whose name I can no longer recall. Despite the short time I spent with him, he made an impression that lasted. He had previously worked as a welder, but after becoming a teacher he insisted on wearing a shirt and tie to work. As he spent his days in the workshop, he would neatly tuck his tie into his shirt. He was particular and meticulous in organising his workshop. Several times each day he would re-arrange the shelf full of safety glasses to ensure that they all faced the same direction.
I’ve not adopted all of his quirks, but there are two things that he did that inspired me. The first was the fact that he ran half-marathons. I did not get a chance to do one until many years later, but I do credit him with planting the initial seed of inspiration for me.
The second was that he built a shed with his students. I don’t remember many details of the shed, but I decided then that I would love to do that with my students one day if I ever got the chance.
I finally got my opportunity this year. With the budget and risk-assessments signed off, I began framing the walls for a small shed with my year 9 students at the end of the Spring Term. But then COVID-19 happened and everything changed.
In the end however, it turned out for the best as far as the shed project went. Despite being off work for several weeks, I was still able to work several other weeks with small groups of students who were children of key-workers or particularly vulnerable.
All year groups got involved on constructing the shed, from Year 6 up to Year 10. Working outside proved to be ideal for social-distancing and working on a group project worked well to mitigate the upheaval of inconsistent attendance and last-minute timetable changes.
We didn’t quite manage to make a door, but we got the roof and paint on before breaking up for the summer holidays.
I can only hope that this project has sown some seeds of inspiration in my students, just as the teacher back in Saskatchewan did for me.