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Paying it forward.

Life is about learning, each day presents a challenge, sometimes tiny, sometimes life changing, but a day when you don’t learn is a day wasted in my mind.

We remember those who have impacted on our lives but often forget to acknowledge them. I am fortunate to have kept in touch with my High School teacher from Macleod High School. He wasn’t a wood worker to begin with, unlike the Woodwork teacher who was a returned soldier who had retrained from cabinet making to being a teacher. We’re talking about the late seventies when the world was very different, as were attitudes.

When Geoff Edwards took over the metalwork room at MHS he brought a different attitude to teaching. He was a ceramicist who went to teacher’s college; he was trained to teach not just a person drawn into teaching because of this skill in trade. This isn’t a critique of current teacher training, just a reflection of my era of education….

Geoff gradually took over teaching of what was retitled from ‘woodwork’ to ‘woodcraft’, but irrespective of labelling, what he introduced was a new way of looking at making. He encouraged students to look at alternative sources of wood other than what was stacked in the shelves, provided from commercial suppliers. He taught the subject based on the material encouraging students to appreciate it for its intrinsic colour, texture, smell and diversity rather than traditionally accepted suitability to function.

With a background like this where could I go?

Geoff and I try to catch up more often than actually happens He is now in his mid seventies and still challenging his own visions of how wood can be used. His transition from teaching led him to remodelling his mud-brick home to adding a Balinese guest house deeper into his bush property. We are great friends who don’t catch up as often as we should, but we our shared passion for wood is the basis of respect we have for each other.

Like-wise I caught up with a friend who I taught in my first year of teaching way back in 1987. He was in Year Eight, aged about thirteen or fourteen. Now he’s forty-four! He doesn’t work with wood, but that’s irrelevant because his journey in life has taken him down a different path. We still have many things to discuss about where we’re at and where we see life taking us.

Then a few weekends ago I had the fortune of being surprised be a student who I taught in the mid 90’s at another school. He’s now thirty-nine, a father of one awaiting the arrival of another child, who has made a living out of furniture making in the last twenty years.

Within a couple of weeks there was a connection of three generations of teachers and students, all working in wood, building on our mentor’s inspiration.

You can never predict where life will take you, who you will meet along the way, who will make an impact on your life, and who you may influence in a tiny way. And how wonderful it is when we find out that we made a positive contribution to another person’s life, but how often do we let those who influenced us know, be they teachers, parents or friends. We learn from so many sources, but all too often we forget to tell them how much we appreciate their input into our lives.

I’m guilty!

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