I Broke a Woodworking School, Help Me Fix It
Last week I ventured out of the comfortable and friendly confines of my own shop and entered the scary world of classroom woodworking instruction. I felt I was prepared to tackle this task because I have been teaching virtually for 4 years now and one on one in a museum setting for almost 5 years. It seemed a logical next step…and I’m so glad I was able to take it. The lessons I learned in teaching this class of 11 woodworkers are numerous and will allow me to better my virtual efforts in many ways. I’m excited to do this again soon and hope to have the opportunity to do so. Classroom instruction is clearly an entirely different ball game and rewarding as anything I have done.
Based on the student feedback I think the class was a success but I can’t help but be concerned. You see after my class ended, the Wortheffort Woodworking School closed it’s doors.
Leave it to an internet woodworker to break a brick and mortar school!
This is a real crime because Shawn Graham, the owner of Wortheffort is a truly gifted teacher and a fine woodworker to boot. I admit to feeling overwhelmed by my class size of 11 woodworkers all with various learning styles and working speeds. I remember saying this to Shawn and he laughed it off stating that he was so used to running classes of 30-40 during his public school days that he couldn’t imagine teaching a class any smaller than his customary 12.
I learned a lot from Shawn about keeping a class on pace and engaging every student and adapting to their style. He even taught me a few woodworking tricks that I was able to adapt to the more engineering mindset students in my class.
Shawn is an experienced teacher with an incredible passion to teach kids. His school offers a variety of classes but the overwhelming theme is teaching kids and blending academic subjects into the craft of woodworking. It is really powerful stuff! It is a crime to think that this school is closing its doors and yet another opportunity to get kids excited about making stuff is going away.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
We have the power to ensure it doesn’t happen. Shawn has recognized the limitations of teaching out of his small town of San Marcos, and is actively searching for space in Austin, TX. In addition to being a larger (and more expensive) market, Austin’s artsy and “weird” culture is perfect for the message Shawn is pushing. I have no doubt he will do well in that community…but he has to get there.
Despite multiple efforts to procure funding the traditional ways, Shawn is coming up short for his relocation and this is why he has to close the doors on the school. Where you can help is by supporting Shawn on his Indie GoGo campaign to save the school and speed along his relocation to a better market.
I admit freely that I was dubious about this plan and as an internet guy I obviously tend to ignore things like location in the success equation. After meeting Shawn face to face and working side by side with him for 3 days I strongly feel that the woodworking craft will suffer without his school in the world. There is too much talent and passion in what he does to let it die. So after wrapping up my last day of class, I logged in via my hotel WiFi and pledged $200 towards the campaign.
Did I mention that Shawn has all kinds of rewards available to supporters. From woodworking tools to beautiful turned gifts that he and his dad have made. I saw all of these items and got to work with several of the tools and can personally vouch for the quality. The wooden coping saw is brilliant and the grooving planes are the model of efficiency for the box maker and frequent drawer builder. The turned stuff makes me feel bad about my own turning ability!
Let’s just say that any contribution you can make will help and you will end up with something worth more than your contribution in return.
I have already told Shawn that I would be back to teach again once the school gets set up in its new digs as I have to believe he will make it happen no matter what. It would be really nice if that “no matter what” was made a lot easier with our help.
Are you concerned about the future of woodworking? As long as there are guys like Shawn around I don’t think we need to be.