For 20 years now I have been teaching classes of all kinds through my local Woodcraft store here in Colorado Springs. Over this period I have developed a fine woodworking curriculum that I teach through a series of classes, Woodworking I, II, III, and IV. Covering everything from wood science to bent laminations, I designed these classes to be very extensive in knowledge and skills acquired and to be completed in a succinct few weekends. The most recent additions to my woodworking courses are the Hand Tool Mastery series I, II, III, and IV, where students learn comprehensive hand tool applications to precisely build fine furniture. Starting with the basics of setup and sharpening we explore a vast array of hand cut joinery taught through exercises and small projects.
For the past 3 years, I have expanded my teaching outlet to the college level and signed on as an instructor at Red Rocks Community College’s Fine Woodworking Department. There was a definite learning curve while I adapted my teaching style from a 3 or 5-day recreational environment to fit with the school’s semester-long grading requirements, but I found my rhythm and enjoyed teaching new things to a new audience in new surroundings.
It seems like it is just as you truly settle into your routine that life likes to throw you a curveball. For me, and most of the world, that curveball came in March 2020 in the form of COVID-19. In-person teaching came to a screeching halt across the country, and my classes were no exception. Try teaching semester-long structured and graded hands-oncommunity college woodworking classes online; talk about curveball.
This is how it looked: on March 13 we were tinkering away together happily in class. On March 14 (overnight!), I was required to revamp my entire curriculum to become a distance-learning course of semi-independent interactive study, complete with audio and video production (which I had never done before, and knew nothing about) in both pre-recorded shop lessons and real-time video conferencing. While the transition to online itself was short-lived, my learning videography and posting videos was a continual process. I won’t claim that my videos were Oscar-worthy, but they did the trick. You can check out one of my videos for class below.HUGE props to my 15-year-old son, Oliver, without whom I could not have delivered my completely rewritten semester curriculum!
Online learning went on for 2 months, and my students and I all had enthusiastically found our groove; we were well-settled and laser-focussed to doggedly complete an unprecedented yet successful semester. ...Until two months later in May, when Red Rocks pulled the plug on the entire program. Yes, although Red Rocks terminated our semester, my students and I stuck together. I couldn’t be more proud of the barriers overcome by my class and their persistence, optimism, and loyalty in tackling these massive challenges to complete what we had started!
Online instruction worked fine, but I was thrilled in July when the classroom at Woodcraft re-opened and hands-on teaching commenced, though it is definitely not the same environment that I left in March. Masks, social distancing, constant sanitizing of tools and machinery, etc., it is a whole new world. Regardless, it is nice to be back in the classroom sharing my knowledge with eager students who share a similar passion. It really served to reignite a newness and passionate enthusiasm of woodworking in me.
Thanks to COVID, the public’s interest in Woodworking as a hobby has surged. Sales of machinery and woodworking merchandise at Woodcraft have been stellar, and the number of people interested in taking my classes has been stronger than ever. This is a direct result of the post-quarantine need to learn something to do coupled with the ongoing threat of future quarantines. So, for not entirely unselfish reasons, I am happy that woodworking has become a popular hobby for individuals looking for something to do while at home. Not only has COVID served to revive interest in an incredible art form, it has ensured that woodworking classes will play a vital role in the acquisition of the knowledge and the experience needed to work safely in the home shop. At least I can thank all of this COVID craziness for generating new opportunities for more aspiring woodworkers and creating a much wider appreciation for fine craftsmanship.
I am so grateful that you have made it this far in my blog. If you are interested in trying out woodworking as a hobby or a career check out what I have to offer HERE.
See you in class!