As I grew up I loved to spend time with my dad. His work took him overseas more often than it left him in Australia so our time together was particularly precious. I rose before dawn to go running with him; I helped out in the garden way more than any teenager would want to do; I spent my holidays filing and photocopying in his office just to be near him. My favourite thing though was to help when he crafted something out of wood. It didn't happen often, but when it did... The results amazed me.
More than the results, his toolbox fascinated me. It was just an ordinary ol' tool box, but in the deep recesses of that box were tools that enabled him to take a lump of wood and create something beautiful or useful or... Just different. It wasn't the tools that caused the change, that was Dad, but the tools enabled him to do it.
Dad's toolbox was crammed full of tools and each time he pulled one out he explained its name and its use. I was thinking about that today as I wandered the aisle at the shops seeking inspiration for my reading block. I was in the tools section (yes, I was getting
desperate creative!) and could hear his voice patiently explaining the difference between a coping saw and a tenon saw.
If this were a daytime movie there would be soft lighting and rousing music playing at this point, to alert everyone that my moment of brilliance is fast approaching.
At the end of the aisle was a pile, nay a mountain, of red metal toolboxes - you know the old style ones? A more obvious message there will never be. Dad, in his inimitable way, was reminding me that all I need to do is teach my students what the tools are and how to use them so they can fill their own toolboxes with the ones that work for them.
So what did I do? I bought a bright red metal toolbox and will take it to school tomorrow. Each time I introduce a new tool (or strategy) I will put it in the toolbox to remind us all that we can use it. It will stay there ready for us whenever we want to improve our use of it, or compare it to another tool. My bright red toolbox will sit at the front of our learning space holding the tools that will enable us to create beautiful, useful or even just different understandings.
Dad would have turned 64 today. I hope he knows that he still helps me fill my toolbox.