Comfort to the uncomfortable
Maker classes have the ability to engage students who have checked out elsewhere. It is for students to have a place where they are comfortable at school. Anyone who has worked in a middle school will realize how important this is.
Most kids are comfortable in most classrooms. Some students are uncomfortable in every classroom. These are our most challenging and memorable students. My impact on these students changed as I moved from science pusher to maker teacher.
This is a powerful effect for the students who need a place.
Examples of this power can be big and small.
Years ago, there was a student transformation that would be unbelievable if I didn’t see it myself. I had just made a foam cutter to use during class and it was very popular. It was much too popular, in fact, the popularity was a problem I’ll explain later. It was made from an old computer power supply, a guitar string, and scrap lumber. At the same time I had a student who had been hiding in bathrooms or running away from the school daily. He started to make a second foam cutter with me. Instantly this student started doing work in other classes and behaving all day. He had a place that he wanted to be.
During that projects, he learned so many skills – how to solder wires, add a switch to control the computer power supply, and assemble the lumber. This is the go-to story that my principal tells to illustrate the power of maker education.
Most examples are less dramatic. I am constantly excusing students from their study hall or lunch to my classroom. We work on larger side projects, the classroom, their projects, or just cleaning. They might be difficult students to manage in study hall. They’re always engaged and productive class.
This transformation in students comes out in a way that surprises me every time it happens. Many times I’ve been explaining a kid’s extra work on a project, only to hear less positive stories from other classrooms.
Some students have had constant reminders of their failings and weaknesses for years. These kids don’t want to struggle in school. They should at least have one place they be comfortable within.