Tikkun Olam

Weighing the Heaviest Things

I’m teaching three classes this next block. LightHouse is taking a cautious approach to in-person teaching, with only eight or so students in the building at a time, with physical presence optional and teachers teleteaching those who aren’t there in person.

I don’t know if it’s enough and it’s kind of tearing me up.

I’m teaching three classes:

  • Make What You Want: formerly the Open Makerspace. I’m trying to degender the space and its uses and, while Makerspaces have been working hard to make this happen, uncomfortable teenagers are more likely to venture into a place they don’t think is all robots and nerf guns. I want them to feel comfortable experimenting with robots and nerf guns, of course. I don’t want them to feel like it’s a boy’s space for doing that. I’m figuring out how to signal that it’s for a much wider range of creative purposes than either boy-encoded engineering projects or art projects; that in that room, all those skills interplay. Wish me luck.
  • LightHouse Space Program: This is our Kerbal Space Program-based class. It works great online, with students supporting each other creatively. Last block, we were doing a classwide project, but this block I want to lean particularly heavily on the emotional support aspects of doing something hard. Students will be setting their own goals and then asking each other for help. I’m really excited about it!
  • Drawing to See: Where one of the intentions of Make What You Want is to put engineering-minded students in a place that’s comfortable enough to experiment artistically, Drawing to See exists to help artistically-inclined students to use their perceptions scientifically, helping them look into structures of body and mind through the surfaces they can see most easily.

Of these, the LightHouse Space Program is easiest to teach online on Discord. The benefits of in-person teaching is that I can see students’ faces and recognize when they don’t yet know how to formulate a question. I’ve been developing an intuition about when a student is struggling online, though, and I think teaching that class entirely online could be really good.

Drawing to See is a little more difficult, but I’ve been teaching drawing online for long enough that I think it can still go fine.

But Make What You Want is best done where students can get their hands on dangerous tools and gain confidence. I want them to be able to use a lathe and a drill press. To use the 3D printers. To decide that the sculpture they’re making needs cloth clothing and to assemble it from the sewing kit even though we didn’t plan it that way. I’ve been bringing students their materials at their homes, and I will probably continue to do that as much as possible.

This conversation is terrifying and sad because behind it all is a looming threat of a deadly disease that has as its greatest ally the President of the United States.

And he would be just fucking delighted if we were to die.