Monday, March 31, 2008

A state of the art vocational school

As we kick off national autism awareness month, I'm out doing my part. I wrote a short essay for CNN's I Report that you can read here: http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-7427

I'm out there talking about autism, Asperger's, neurological differences, and making it in the world. I've got a bunch of speaking engagements in schools this month.

Some of the schools I visit focus on kids with neurological differences. Other time, I visit "regular" schools and talk about the diversity of the popuarion. With the prevelance of autism today, just about every kid knows someone on the spectrum.

This morning I spoke to the students at the Lower Pioneer Valley Education Collaborative http://www.lpvec.org/index.html in West Springfield.

LPVEC is a trade school; otherwise known as a vocational high school. Trade schools teach the skills we need to run the world . . . auto mechanics; carpentry; landscaping; hairdressing; retailing; and manufacturing. As our society has gotten more complex, it’s gotten more and more costly to teach these skills. As a result, fewer and fewer schools do it.

You regular blog readers know I’m a hands-on kind of guy, so this was my kind of school. I loved it.

Let me show you how they do things, in no particular order:




As an old-time computer hacker and geek, how could I miss the computer lab? We talked electronics, and I signed their server. "Geeks Rule the World!"




When I was going upstairs I saw this poster for a fundraiser they'd just done for the Flutie Foundation. I told them I'd just been at the Flutie Autism Conference, and I was proud to see them hard at work here.




Now, these guys are in a packaging design class. You can't see it real well, but they're standing in front of packaging they've made up for chocolates. The only thing was, being a school, it was imaginary chocolate. They did not feed me any. My only consolation was, they didn't get any chocolate either.




Here we have real-life toilet repair in the building maintenance classroom. You can see from the coloration that they have a real broken toilet there. Snicker all you want, but a good plumber can make an excellent living most anywhere.




This is the greenhouse. I'm sorry I don't have any students in the photo - they had just gone on lunch break and I was running loose, looting and pillaging.




And here we have a few more, sitting at their workstations.



This is a fashion design and retailing classroom. And we have future fashionistas in the picture. I'm not exactly sure what they are being trained to do here, but training of some sort was certainly going on, because the lights were off and a movie was playing when I walked in. And there was a teacher in there too, but she's not shown in the photo.





This is the automated machinery in the wood shop - it's a far cry from woodworking in my high school. Safer and cleaner too. Check out those floors.



And here we have the auto shop. This auto shop is cleaner and nicer than 99% of the commercial shops in my area.



This is the print shop, with two kids cleaning one of the presses



And here's an example of what they print - a calendar. The students did all the printing, and they too the pictures and did the layout. Very nice.



I like this shot. They have actually built a mockup two-story home in one of the big shops. Talk about full-scale teaching models!

One of the students, Rebecca, gave me two pages of questions to answer. . . . a written interview. I'll post her questions and my answers in my next blog post . . . stay tuned.

13 comments:

kyra said...

you ARE doing your part! and so well. thanks for posting this, John. i love this school!

Julieanne said...

Thanks for showing the world what we do in our little corner of it...Thank you also for validating the importance of vocational schools like ours. Your visit and frankness was a welcome break to our usual routine. I know your honesty willl help not only our students but also our staff. Come back soon!!

Lisa said...

Hi John,
My name is Lisa. I am one of the cosmetology teachers at LPVC Technical Education Center. I wanted to thank you for sharing your experiences of your life with our school. You are a great inspiration!

Polly Kahl said...

What a great school, and glad you had so much fun there, John.

Kim Stagliano said...

When did the world decide every kid should be on the college track, erasing most voc work? In today's economy, I think a young man has far more security as a top notch plumber or electrician than anyone wearing a white collar. In fact, I'm certain of it.

Glad these students are getting hands on training to prepare them for life.

Doreen Orion said...

Kim -

You are so right! My husband's an MD (as am I, but unfortunately, I have no voc skills to speak of) and is incredibly handy (John can attest to that). Yes, he loves caring for patients, but plumbers and electricians have far better hours, less stress, less paperwork, less overhead and these days, can even make a better living than those of us in one of the primary care specialties.

Michelle O'Neil said...

Great post John. Love the photos. We just bought a 1938 home. You're not kidding about the plumber.

The Muse said...

Hey John,

It is SO wonderful to see you have come unto your own. You have found your calling. I read the article that you wrote for CNN. I loved the phrase; "I wore a mantle of sadness for many years." Wow! What a powerful choice of words. You are such a prominent voice for the awareness of autism.

Kim,

That was a very insightful comment about today's economic situation. Many white-collar jobs and manufacturing can be shipped over seas; but the service industry and vocational trades will remain here in the US because of logistics. Since our global society has evolved into a more advanced and industrialized one, as individuals we must become more specialized in a particular craft or trade for our own security. This metamorphosis has made it more important to refine a specific skill and have a greater sense of focus. As part of the industrial machine, our roles have become compartmentalized to be efficient. You may be right John, "Geeks Rule the World!"

genedigennaro said...

John,
I'm glad you visited the vocational school. I think we've done kids a dis-service by telling every one of them they are college material. I was not college material and flunked out. I had to rely on OJT to get by. Today I'm a materials engineering technican and I get to work on some neat projects like the F-22 fighter plane!

Our vocational schools need re-vamping now!

ChristineEldin said...

Thanks for posting the pictures. They are amazing!

Jane said...

awesome post John! I've often thought my son will do well to learn a trade. He gets so focused on narrow interests; one of them may just pay off!

My son goes to the sister school of The Lab School. They don't typically take Aspergers kids so this is a big deal. Check this out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DInS0e4aJDU

Jane

Trish Ryan said...

"Geeks rule the world"...that's fantastic!
I bet the kids found you incredibly inspiring :)

(I just glanced down and saw Lisa's comment and realized that indeed, they did!)

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