Successful Day With My Students

You ever have one of those days at work where everything just goes right? And you totally feel like Superman because you were able to pull off the nearly-impossible? If you don’t know that superhero feeling, you clearly have never worked with teenagers. The kids have been working on making a lamp. It is one of the harder projects that I do, and it’s part of their final grade.It’s a culmination of much of what they’ve learned over the school year. It involves working with several different types of tools and electrical components.

Whenever you’re dealing with teenagers and power tools (or teenagers and electricity, or teenagers and soldering irons), you’re always at risk for some kind of disaster. I’ve been fortunate enough to never have any serious injuries happen during my class so far (quick, knock on some wood). The streak has never tempted me to relax my safety procedures, though—I figure I must be doing something right! Despite the safety record, every day all the kids walk out my door with the same number of fingers and toes is a good day. Bad shop teacher joke, I know.

If my bar is so low for a good day, I bet you’re wondering what a successful day entails. Well, we’ve been working on this project piece by piece over the span of a few weeks now. Today was the ultimate test—I gave each student a lightbulb. They had to put it in and turn on their lamp. Every year, the kids are under the impression that if the bulb doesn’t light, they fail. That’s not exactly true, as I allow them to trouble shoot and correct their mistake or repeat the process and make another before I’ll fail anybody. But the rumor works for me, so I don’t bother correcting anybody.

And I didn’t have to, because all the lamps lit on the first try. I cannot believe that it happened, as I’ve done this project five years in a row and there’s always a straggler or two (one time the lightbulb was actually no good, another time the student didn’t screw the bulb in all the way. So it usually takes a couple tries). But not this time. All twenty lightbulbs went on, first try. At first, the kids were applauding every time somebody came up to the front to test theirs, but then the room got completely silent. The best way I can describe it is when a pitcher is working his way through a perfect game and everybody on the bench starts moving away from him. Nobody wants to be the one to break the silence, and certainly nobody wants to be the one to drop the ball and screw up the game. I cannot imagine how much pressure that last kid felt plugging in their lamp and turning it on!

There has been a standing pizza party reward for the class that manages this feat. It is the first time I’m actually going to have to deliver on that promise! I really don’t mind, though, it is kind of exciting.

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