As I’ve mentioned, I have been honored to receive CEC’s highest award given to a teacher, the Clarissa Hug Teacher of the Year Award, for 2008. I’d like to share with you some of the comments that I gave at the TOY luncheon, and ask you… WHAT IS IN YOUR TOOLBOX? And then, what tools do you help your students obtain for THEIR toolbox… and why have you chosen these particular items?
The Carpenter Story
When a carpenter goes out to build a house, he has many tools at his (or her…) disposal. Although the hammer is a very common tool, it comes in various shapes and sizes and weights, and with varying price costs. While it is a tool that is relatively easy to use, a carpenter cannot build a house with a hammer alone.
So, the carpenter starts to assemble tools for his toolbox. He can purchase – or borrow tools, and some are given to him as gifts. There are always new tools coming out on the market, so the carpenter needs to be aware of all of this newfangled technology so that he doesn’t get left behind, and get a reputation for being the old… or obsolete… or incompetent… or slow carpenter.
He needs to learn how to use all of these tools, either by going to a trade school or program, or being an apprentice, or working collaboratively with more experienced carpenters. He learns to "measure twice, cut once" because accuracy is critically important in his trade.
He may never need to use all of these tools in his toolbox, but the choice of which tool to use is up to him … only if he knows how to use them. Otherwise, valuable tools may go untouched at the bottom of his toolbox, and he will never achieve his potential as a carpenter.
NOT knowing how to use all of these tools could be okay as well… it depends on what he wants to build. If he wants to build a small bench, then a saw and a hammer might suffice. But, if he dreams of building a castle, he would have to be competent in using all the tools to build the castle of his dreams.
How do the tools and skills of a carpenter relate to teaching? Teachers need to teach skills and strategies so that their students will have choices in their educational and vocational careers. In my world, some students will learn uncontracted Braille, and they will label their CDs. Some will learn contracted Braille and they will go to college and earn a degree that is challenging and gratifying. Some students will surpass us in their knowledge of technology and become our teachers and mentors.
It’s all about choice… and about having the skills and knowledge to make the correct choice. We need to assure that the choice is THEIRS… and not the result of the impact of US not teaching the skills they need to know.