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I've been asked to do a career's day at my local middle school, but..

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Forum topic by mcg1990 posted 04-09-2015 02:33 AM 947 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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mcg1990

159 posts in 758 days


04-09-2015 02:33 AM

Back story – My Wife’s a teacher, we live in Tennessee, I’m English and have only been here for 2 years and woodworking for 6 months. I got into it as a hobby while my immigration paperwork was being handled and I wasn’t able to work, and people liked what I made (rustic stuff) so now I do it full time. I’m far from a fine woodworker though – I just charge a reasonable price and will give anything a try.

So, making all that somewhat relevant to the title, I’ve been asked to show up and have a table at my Wife’s school’s career day.

I’m hesitant, and excited.

Hesitant because I am NOT a carpenter – I’m just a normal bloke trying to learn and bring in some money, in the hopes that I could honestly call myself a woodworker soon, and a carpenter later. I don’t have any fine jewellery boxes or turned pieces or anything I can put on a desk and wow kids with. I’ve built some tables and beds and random other things, but nothing that speaks “SKILL!”, especially to a child.

However, I’m living amongst a severely struggling community. The school has something like 85% kids in poverty, and I feel that the school simply needs something, anything, to get these kids to feel excited about their future. Perhaps the fact that I’m a normal person just trying to learn is a good thing. They certainly won’t look at me and think “this is unattainable, I won’t even bother trying to do what he has done!” Also, they’ll get a huge kick out of my accent, so even if I don’t have any awe-inspiring work to show them I know for sure I’ll have their full, undivided attention.

I think I do have something meaningful I could bring to the table (even if it isn’t a pretty box), but how do I approach this? I need to take what I’m doing/trying to do, and frame it in a way that’s relevant to middle schoolers who, overwhelmingly, are deprived of opportunity and support.

I can say “I’m no different than you. I’m no Einstein. People told me I had a skill, so I’m trying to build on that. What’s your skill? What do your friends tell you that you’re good at?” but what else?

Has anyone done one of these? I really need some feedback, please. I want to jump on this opportunity to perhaps make a little impact, but don’t want to waste it or screw it up.

Thanks
Mark


7 replies so far

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Tennessee

2410 posts in 1980 days


#1 posted 04-09-2015 11:17 AM

Mark:
I got a call from my local high school last fall, (I live in Cleveland, Tennessee), they were bringing back their technical trades program and the woodworking section had a student that wanted to build a guitar. They wanted advice and could I help?
I said yes…Now, not so sure.

First, I ended up donating about 12 board foot of sapale from my own stock, to help them get the build started, and also help a couple other students do small projects. They had forgotten to allow monies in their budget for some supplies – like wood!
Then I had a visit by one student, his father and the teacher, they needed parts for the guitar. I sold them for cost since I didn’t feel good making profit on a high school student. And later, when I was building a guitar for an actual customer, forgot that I had sold that part, (doggone it!), and had to reorder it. I know, just an inconvenience, but it slowed my work down for a couple days.

After a few weeks, and hitting a few walls, they actually asked me to do some of the woodworking that was difficult, since their tools are still not quite up to speed. Like routering out a neck pocket in a guitar body. That was when I kind of hit the wall since liability became involved, and I declined. They didn’t like that. They offered to pay for the work, and I kind of said OK, but really thought the work should be done by the student.

But they showed up again and again, for help, advice, and it always seems to come at the most inopportune time. The teacher texts me, like I am expected to be waiting for his text and answer immediately.

Overall, I am glad to help out, (I do a lot of volunteer work for my church), but they will drag you in since they are always pinched for money and expertise. Just be careful and make sure you are only doing a one time gig.

That I would do in a heartbeat. But in my case, I got dragged in, took so far maybe 6-7 hours of my shop time, wood, parts, and they keep hinting around for me to do some of the actual work, which I refuse. It is a shop class, after all.
Just my experience…

-- Paul, Tennessee, http://www.tsunamiguitars.com

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knotscott

7216 posts in 2841 days


#2 posted 04-09-2015 12:16 PM

All that can be asked of you is to be open and honest about what you do and how you got there. Bring what you’ve got on hand, discuss how you got your feet wet, and encourage anyone who has a slight interest to try something with whatever materials and tools are on hand. You might even have a couple of simple tools available, and some simple projects in progress to work on. The key ingredient to woodworking is desire….everything will fall into place if the desire is there. Good luck!

-- Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

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489tad

3100 posts in 2477 days


#3 posted 04-09-2015 12:31 PM

However, I m living amongst a severely struggling community. The school has something like 85% kids in poverty, and I feel that the school simply needs something, anything, to get these kids to feel excited about their future. Perhaps the fact that I m a normal person just trying to learn is a good thing. They certainly won t look at me and think “this is unattainable, I won t even bother trying to do what he has done!” Also, they ll get a huge kick out of my accent, so even if I don t have any awe-inspiring work to show them I know for sure I ll have their full, undivided attention.

Mark, instead of showing what you do what if you showed what the kids can do. Showing them how to build simple projects, bird houses, bird feeders, paper towel holders. Simple projects with simple tools. Maybe how to recycle a piece of furniture for reuse or material source.
Projects like that will not be overwhelming for the kids and should be easy to present. And to answer you question, my wife has done career day and she loved talking to the ones that hung around to ask her questions.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View Tim's profile

Tim

3119 posts in 1427 days


#4 posted 04-09-2015 12:43 PM

I remember the career day at my middle school and we rotated to different classrooms where people of different careers were there to talk about what they did. The ones where they had nothing prepared to explain what they did or make it interesting were the worst. Dan’s idea is good if possible. Kids love to get involved so bring something they can do if you can, even if it’s as simple as sawing a scrap board.

I’m not saying you have to talk the whole time, that would be terrible, but be prepared to get them interested and have enough to show if there aren’t enough questions from the kids to fill the time. Maybe bring some different joints and show how they work together, whatever you have time to bring.

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mcg1990

159 posts in 758 days


#5 posted 04-09-2015 12:50 PM

Thanks everyone. To be more clear, it’s not a shop class, it’s just having a table at a careers day and talking about what I do. @Tennessee, thanks for your warning! I’m located an hour NE of Memphis. Cleveland? You ain’t got poverty like dis, son. Anyhow, I don’t think there’s any chance of me getting roped in to teach anyone; I’m still teaching myself.

I think I’ll just try to get a few things prepaired. Maybe have a simple box of finger joints dry fitted so they can take a look, break it down, put it back together. Stuff like that. I’ll take a bunch of my tools as well, but without the blades/bits, and try to make it all look badass.

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huff

2828 posts in 2751 days


#6 posted 04-09-2015 02:10 PM

Mark,

However, I’m living amongst a severely struggling community. The school has something like 85% kids in poverty, and I feel that the school simply needs something, anything, to get these kids to feel excited about their future.

It won’t be your woodworking skills that will get the students interested in what you do, but “your” excitement and passion towards woodworking that will. Not every student will be interested, but if you can find that one student that shows an interest, than be sure to encourage him or her!

I was one of those students! After school, I tried a few different careers, but finally realized my real passion was designing and building things, (especially in wood) and I built a successful woodworking business from there.

I came from a very modest background, no college, no formal training and virtually no money to start a business. More importantly, there were no resources to get the information to help me start a woodworking business. Today with the internet, there are countless resources about woodworking or how to start a business ( LJ’s is a good example).

Wish I was sitting at that table with you…............I guarantee we could get some students excited!

Good luck and just have fun,
John

-- John @ http://www.thehuffordfurnituregroup.com

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runswithscissors

2192 posts in 1491 days


#7 posted 04-10-2015 04:45 AM

How much lead time do you have? I’m thinking it might be fun to build a treadle lathe (foot operated), which is endemic to that part of the world. Some of the kids might have even seen one. They could see how to build their own, and the kinds of things they could make with one, such as a table leg.

Or, just show them how you build the kind of stuff you’re already doing—rustic benches, chairs, tables, stools, etc. They might appreciate that that kind of build quality is within their reach.

I wish you the best in this endeavor. I think your enthusiasm will take you a long way with these kids.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

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