Joel Vande Hoef
Turned Off To School
High school, a place my favorite shop teacher called The Barn. A place where academia ruled and vocational studies were despised. This building where I did most of my learning was a place I didn’t want to be. My days were filled with dreaded classes such as math, English, and reading and writing. Through this fog came a beam of light that was my shop classes.
All my life I have disliked classes that dealt with math, english, and writing. This comes from my near inability to think abstractly. Math classes were filled with numbers and letters thrown together with no real point. These were put in to formulas that I could never remember. English classes had words I could understand but not identify. I never took the time or cared enough to learn the difference between nouns, adjectives, or pronouns. Writing had all the ideas from english combined to make an impossible barrier for me to cross.
I couldn’t see the way the teachers thought and therefore fell behind. Their teaching styles didn’t affect me because I didn’t see the way to use them in my life. I tuned all the information out because I wanted to. Mike Rose explains the way I felt perfectly, in his book Lives on the Boundary. Rose talks about a time when his teacher is teaching English and he isn’t listening. He “couldn’t see the reason for it, turned off to it” (18). I felt there was no way I could ever excel at these subjects, so I might as well give up and accept defeat.
My saving grace was shop classes. These classes had all the things I thought were interesting. Mr. Van, a man who I have great respect for taught these classes. Both of us worked our hardest at anything physical and always gave one hundred percent. Also we both enjoyed giving each other a hard time and taking it. This quickly became an integral part of my classes with him. Through shop I discovered, with much guidance, many new talents. Welding became a thing that I enjoyed along with working with my hands. This skill progressed along with lots of help from my teacher and culminated in the building of a trailer. Lots of time and effort was invested in cutting the metal, welding the trailer together, cleaning and painting. All this time was rewarded with a third place overall in the Northwest Washington Fair.
The book Reading Culture states, “Examining the hidden curriculum offers a useful way to look at classroom life, in part because it demands that you research, bring into view, and question the kinds of things that take place in school that teachers and students seem to take it for granted” (105). The hidden curriculum is the way you act and are taught in classes. My math and English classes had the usual hidden curriculum. In these classes you were supposed to raise your hand, sit in rows, be quiet, and learn by being lectured at. All of these things rub against my grain. I like to do things my way and that is the only way that I can learn things. My learning style depends on being able to get my hands dirty in a subject. In and of itself, this sounds kind of weird considering, I was born without a left hand, but I found I thrive when I try to overcome and just do it. These academic classes had no place for using your hands, and depended more on brainpower.
Shop classes had a curriculum too, but it was right out in the open. The first day of class my teacher stated this curriculum; it was to prepare us for work in the real world. Everything in this class was based on respect and achieving. He treated us like workers, always getting the most out of us. Like a boss he would leave us for long stretches and let us deal with our problems by ourselves, instead of being right there to correct us. There was a mutual respect between Mr. Van and me, along with this came a mutual learning. In these classes the teacher was learning as much as the students. Other teachers had never treated me this way. They just taught the subject and never really got down to the student’s level.
The teaching in shop mirrored my learning style exactly. Every thing we learned was through trial and error. If we didn’t get a weld right you just went back out there and tried again. In academic classes there was no trial and error. There we both got the subject and passed the test or we failed; there was no going over the material again. Every thing we did in shop was based on learning something new and helping others. I enjoy always learning and quickly get bored if the subject isn’t fresh. This was probably part of my problem with math and English classes where the subject is always the same. Shop classes helped me through high school and really pulled me through and allowed me to keep my grades up.
Through this I learned that I need to learn with my hands and not my abstract mind. Also I need the respect and responsibilities of a job in my learning. I enjoy having the structure that a job has in the classroom. All of us must realize that we have different ways of learning and find a way to exploit them. By realizing my style I have been able to use it to my advantage in other classes, instead of just giving up because I don’t get it. Math is still hard, but by visualizing other applications for it, I can now understand it. Even with this advancement English is still very hard to understand, but I am trying and learning. I have realized that along with the working with my hands which comes easily, I need to work harder at using my mind and applying it to other subjects.
George, Diana, and John Trimbur, eds. “Schooling.” Introduction to Chapter 3. Reading Culture. 5th ed. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2004. 103-106.
Rose, Mike. “I Just Wanna Be Average.” Lives on the Boundary. New York: Penguin, 1989. 18-37.