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My Woodshop Teacher

When I was in the 6th grade (early 70's), a group of my girlfriends and I decided we were going to take a wood shop class.  But not just any wood shop class.  An "all-girls" wood shop class.  The teacher, a man who looked to be in his late 50's, was very gruff and seemed unhappy that he had gotten stuck with a bunch of little girls. 

 

I cannot remember his name, but we used to call him Mr. Roley-Poley because he was so rotund and he was a bit mean to us.  We were intimidated by his size and his stern manner.  He would become so frustrated trying to explain to a class of girls what 1/16th of an inch was, or 1/4th of an inch for that matter.  Bless his heart, the poor man probably spent a good week trying to teach us how to measure!  In hindsight I'm amazed he didn't have a stroke since he would get so exasperated at us sometimes.

 

Then he assigned us a project and we had to use big machines we had never seen before.  Band saws and jig saws and big drill machines and there were other machines that I do not remember the names of.  We were around 11-12 years old, so most of the machines were as big or bigger than we were.  We had no exposure to such boy-dominated territory before.  I was very nervous when he gave me some chunks of wood and told me to mark them and cut them on the band saw.  But I did it and got over my fear.  He showed me how to use several of the machines and all kinds of hand tools.  Eventually he let me use the machines on my own since I had gotten quite comfortable with them.

 

Somewhere along the line the old guy started to like us, and we started to like him too.  We would chat up a storm in class, and he would tell us stories about his life that we enjoyed hearing.  Just up the street from our wood shop classroom was a corner convenience store and he would pull money out of his pocket to give me and would open the side door so I could sneak out and dash up the street to the store to buy treats for everyone.   I would come back with bags of candy to the girls' delight. 

 

Then one day when I came to class early, I noticed he was carving something.  I walked over to take a look and saw a beautiful ornate wood carving of grapes, vines, and leaves.  He was working in silence.  His steady hands whittling away as shavings of wood fell to the floor.  I was taken aback by its beauty, and I think I was even more stunned that it had never occurred to me that this man was also an artist.  That there was a whole 'nother side to him other than our Mr. Roley-Poley whom we adored.  This teacher had taken a group of silly girls under his wing and had taught us much about a topic we otherwise would probably not have been exposed to.

 

If you go into my garage today, you will find a scroll saw, many hand tools, a drill, a compound miter saw, and a jigsaw.  I'm not a wood worker by hobby, but because of him, I am not afraid to use tools and I can at least take care of some things around my house needing repair.  And sometimes I can just make some stuff for fun.

 

Oh, and I can measure, too!! :-)

 

Thank you Mr. Roley-Poley, wherever you are!!

Vignette Vignette 51-55, F 4 Responses Mar 30, 2010

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What a good story. I remember my years in wood shop and the smell of fresh cut wood on the first day. We were all excited thinking we were going to use all of those great machines and tools that first day but were soon brought to reality by our stern no nonsense teacher. I believe it was two (looong) weeks of safety and measurement studies . The whole time just waiting in anticipation for the day we could touch and use those great machines. To this day fresh cut wood brings a quick remembrance of wood shop.

Yes!! The safety lessons were quite a bore, weren't they? lol But unlike you and your friends, we little girls were quite intimidated by those big machines with the sharp teeth!! lol

The one machine I did not get to use was the lathe. I remember watching the teacher turn some plain pieces of wood into beautiful table legs. I thought it was fabulous!

He also showed us how to use a soldering iron, and sheet metal press. Both were tricky because with the soldering iron it could be a very ugly outcome if you didn't solder the pieces just so. And with the sheet metal press, if you screwed up, then your project was screwed.

I also find that fresh cut wood takes me right back to my old memories of woodshop class. It's amazing how a scent can do that!

Good story. Thanks for sharing it.

Thank you, Vikkyadithyan01. :-) I'm glad you enjoyed it and that it brought to mind one of your own favorite teachers. Had I known then what I know now, I would have told him what a great teacher he was, and how much I enjoyed his class.

That class turned out to be far more interesting and memorable than just about any other class I had taken. We thought he was so mean, but he really turned out to be a big teddy bear underneath!