Education

Colleagues

August 01, 2002 2 min read

Armchair Educator

A woodworking instructor hammers home life lessons.

In an industrial arts classroom filled with chatty high schoolers, Jim Quinlan begins to teach but does not say a word. Upon gathering the necessary tools for the day’s woodwork-ing project, he dons his safety goggles and starts to measure, drill, and file. Soon, intrigued by the teacher’s craftiness, the class is silent and intently following the lesson.

“That’s ‘the silent treatment,’ ” explains Paul Rolando, a student of Quinlan’s for two years. “Works every time.”

The silent treatment is just one of many unconventional teaching methods that Quinlan, a woodshop instructor at Vernon Township High School in New Jersey, has tweaked to perfection in his 26 years at the school. Quinlan trains students who have a variety of mental and physical disabilities. “Unlike most teachers, I don’t prepare my students for college because generally that’s not where they’re headed,” he says. “Rather, I try to provide the skills necessary to survive in the workplace-like punctuality, honesty, pride, and responsibility.”

This goal inspired the teacher to create the Roaring Lion Chair Co. about 10 years ago. Technically it’s a class, but Quinlan runs the endeavor as if it were a bona fide small business: Students manufacture and sell $75 Adirondack chairs, investing any profit in new equipment or special activities such as the annual “company picnic” at an amusement park. Roaring Lion students also contribute some of the 50 or so chairs they produce each year to school and community fund-raisers. And they’ve presented their chairs to prominent figures such as George Bush, who keeps one at his home in Kennebunkport, Maine. But, stresses Quinlan, Roaring Lion-named by a former student with a fondness for the king of the beasts-is not about money or fame.

“Our profits are not measured in terms of dollars but in terms of personal growth,” he says. And the many tasks involved in a business venture give the teacher ample opportunity to tailor activities to individuals’ capabilities and goals. “I offer an array of jobs-from foreman to filing clerk and everything in between-so everyone can participate,” Quinlan explains. All students are required to follow written directions, keep records, and correspond with customers.

Rolando, a 2002 graduate, praises Quinlan for sharing these real-world skills- knowledge he’s finding useful as he adjusts to life after high school. “He made work interesting but, at the same time, taught us that we can’t fool around on the job,” the former student says. “I will never forget that.”

—Sarah Wassner

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by Learning.com
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read