What I learned this summer

               There aren’t many regular readers to this blog, so you might not have noticed that I took the summer off from posting here. Not by choice, mind you. I love writing about things I discover online or sharing ideas or recommendations that I think will be of interest to my few dedicated readers (I know you’re out there, so I’m sorry that I didn’t write anything for two months!). But this summer, I did something that was so intense and took up so much of my time and energy, that I did not have any time to research AND post; I taught leather craft at summer camp. (My running joke all summer was that between my librarian skills and my leather craft knowledge, I was a 16th century renaissance man.)

               I spent eight weeks cutting and preparing leather for student projects, and learned a fascinating new trade in the meantime. Prior to this, I had never worked with leather, so I had to learn everything I could … and fast. My employers tried to get the prior teacher to train me, but she was unavailable. They also had a company called Chaps & Chains (I’m not making this up) that offered to train me, but I didn’t get their contact information in time, and I decided to take matters into my own hands.

               While unpacking the supplies for the leather craft class, I discovered a number of books like Leathercraft for Beginners and catalogs for the Tandy Leather Company. Naturally I read through these printed texts, and learned quite a bit about leather. When I was done reading, I turned to the internet to see what the books were talking about and discovered dozens of great videos that demonstrated how to prepare and work with leather. Here are two videos, so you can visualize how I spent my summer:

               So, what is the point of this post, anyway? Well, I did want to explain my absence (though I wish it were something more exciting than teaching leathercraft at summer camp). I also needed to get back to writing here, and summer camp is officially over now, so I can’t use that as an excuse. More than anything, though, I wanted to share something I learned (or re-learned) with you, and here it is.

               I found it odd, and even beautiful, that I could learn how to do something like working with leather, that has been around for thousands of years, by using the internet; our latest and greatest achievement. I learned everything I needed to know about working with leather (how to use mallets, stamping tools, rotary punches, slickers, bevelers, swivel knives, heavy stems; how to set snap, buckles, rivets, pyramid points and conchos, and much more) from the internet. What made me a good leather craft guy (as some of the campers still called me after 8 weeks) was that I cared about what I was doing, and I used the incredible power of our connected world to teach myself something new.

               This revelation made me wonder, why do we still need schools, if you can learn anything via the internet? Why all the fuss around September? I think it has to do with why I was really a good leather craft guy, and the reason is because I was a teacher at summer camp. I was a teacher first, and a leather guy second. I was excited about what I knew (it was all so new to me) and I wanted the kids to know I was excited for them (even though it was the 4th or 5th or 6th year of leather for some kids). I also cared about every project that every child was working on … believe me, you cut four hundred strips of leather and you will care about what becomes of every inch of that leather.

               I don’t mean to be obscure. What I re-learned this summer is that it’s really hard to be a good (or great, which is what I aim for) teacher. It takes a lot of work to know stuff, and to teach anything to anyone. It also takes patience, caring, compassion and love. As teachers, we need to love what we’re teaching, and the students we’re teaching.

               Thank you for stopping by, and I’ll see you in September.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2010. All rights reserved.

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About htwilson

born in brooklyn, raised in queens, massachusetts, that's where I be.
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