Making mistakes is a part of life and in Construction Trade Instructor Thomas Skean's class at Dutchess BOCES’ Career Technical Institute, it's crucial to the learning process.
Skean used to give students important instructions before they began projects, but realized they were not benefitting from them, forcing him to change his method to give them more leeway.
Now students will ask for Skean’s assistance when they encounter a problem on a project so he can better assess exactly what is needed.
“We may waste a little more lumber, but in the long run it seems to give me better outcomes,” Skean said.
The students, like adults, learn more from mistakes than successes and the BOCES environment allows them to reflect on what they did wrong, but not dwell on it, Skean said.
“They cut a piece of wood wrong, I say ‘Better here than on the job site,’” he said.
When students have ideas for projects, Skean encourages them to draw out a plan to see if it’s feasible. In a recent class, Skean’s students worked on unique projects such as a large painted compass and transforming an old boat into a cabinet.
“It lets them run through the whole process,” Skean said. “I always want them to draw some kind of picture of it, give me some ideas before we just go barreling ahead.”
Skean can relate to his students – he himself attended a vocational high school and he struggled in an academic setting but persevered. He believes every student has potential.
“I’ve had students that said they never did well in school and now they do better in their academic classes because they get to come here,” Skean said. “If I can be part of that, I’m throwing my nickel in the right bucket.”