…have a Kit Kat!

Ever shot up in bed, probably just when you’re about to drop off, with that bloody name you couldn’t think of at the time you needed it? I have woken up with solutions to problems as well as doing this and quite often (not always by choice!) use this technique.

In design terms we call it “off time” and it is very effective. Sometimes we are just too close to something to be able to see it clearly and being able to step back away from it gives us that better perspective. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and I think this can also be applied to the brain.

You might think, ‘hold on a minute, you were talking about rolling up sleeves and getting stuff done before!’, and you would be right, I did say that. But, there are times when we are not as effective as we could be and these are the times when we need to stop, walk away, let the dust settle (or let the information sink in) and give our minds a chance to develop a solution.

We are pretty clever beings and can always come up with a solution to a problem. No matter how difficult, there is always a  way – this is a belief I try to instill in my students.

A practical way to problem solve is to very simply trick yourself. If you want to figure out how to do something, instead of asking yourself “how the heck am I going to do this?”, you ask yourself “how did I do this last time?”. Straight away you are thinking about it positively and have convinced your mind that a. it can be done, and b. you’ve done it before! I promise you it works.

Anyway, ‘off time’. If you feel like you are beating a dead horse, stop beating it. Walk away – I literally like to go for a walk to clear my head, or if we go anywhere and my wife drives I just sit in the passenger seat and think: these are the times when I come up with my best ideas – take a time out and come back to it in a more relaxed state.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing at all.

I’ve often got so much stuff going around in my head that I’m convinced I’m not being as effective as I could be. So switching off from time to time is often the most productive thing to do.

If you ever struggle to get to sleep at night because you have so much going on then I suggest writing it down on paper before you go to bed. I will quite often write my to-do list the night before so that I am clear what I want to get out of the next day; transferring it from my head to the paper seems to work for me most of the time and would recommend it.

So there you go, two pieces of practical advice (tricking yourself and writing things down) and the suggestion that putting the kettle on, putting your feet up and having some chocolate will help you problem solve! I’m not endorsed in anyway by the chocolate factory but I’ll say it anyway, have a break, have a Kit Kat!

The art of the mistake

At the end of this school year one of my leaving 6th year students came to see me to say thank you and to give me a gift. I was very humbled by this. I was proud of the boy and while I would never expect anything from anyone it is always nice when someone shows their appreciation.

I could talk about how well this pupil had done in his D&T career, about the skills and confidence that he developed over the course of the past six years, or about the fact his projects have been recognised with success in UK competitions, but what I was most impressed with was the gift he gave me and what it showed me he had learned.

He gave me a wall plaque that said “There are no such things as mistakes, only lessons”. I thought this was superb and put it above my board straight away so that every pupil would see it all the time they were in the class. This gift showed me that this pupil would be absolutely fine in life, that he understood and that he would not be afraid to ‘have a go’.

Sometimes the fear of failure cripples us and even stops us from doing anything. If we can all heed this advice then perhaps we will have the courage to try things. It doesn’t mean do whatever you want and then use this as an excuse, there must always be an element of control in there somewhere; I referred to the basic model of plan-do-reflect in a previous blog and this is very relevant to this.

Quite often mistakes can end up being the best thing for us and, while we rarely see this as the case at the time, if we stopped to reflect on where we are and how we got here, I’m sure we would uncover mistakes made along the way that inspired us or played key roles in getting us there.

I’m sure we could recount a story we heard about a famous entrepreneur/artist/designer etc who had to overcome many setbacks and even failures en route to success. I can’t think of any who ‘nailed it’ first time. http://beyondbelief2010.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/failures-of-bill-gates-henry-ford-and-other-famous-entrepreneurs/

One of my favourites is the story of Thomas Edison, who, when asked by a reporter about his many failures before coming up with his light bulb, replied: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

Mistakes help to shape us, to form our character and also to reveal it. Can you take the setback and turn it into a positive? If you can, you will be fine. This is not easy though and like anything requires thought and practise.

Napoleon Hill
“Before success comes in any man’s life he is sure to meet with much temporary defeat and, perhaps, some failures. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and most logical thing to do is to quit. That is exactly what the majority of men do.”

H. Stanley Judd
“Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t waste energy trying to cover up failure. Learn from your failures and go on to the next challenge. It’s OK to fail. If you’re not failing, you’re not growing.”

You will know some people who will give a hundred reasons why something can’t be done, these people quite often have a massive fear of failure and may find themselves not achieving as much as they could.

Hopefully you will also know some people who will give a hundred reason why something can be done. These are the people who you need to surround yourself with, listen to and trust.

So take my pupil’s advice and don’t let the fear of failure stop you from even trying; have a go, learn the lessons along the way and then enjoy!





Never trust a skinny chef!

Many of us will have had to undertake CPD (Continued Professional Development) at some point in our careers, much of which we may not have enjoyed or seen the point in. Should we be made to go through this? Although it may feel a bit of a pain at the time, I do believe that this is very important. My attitude is that if I learn one new thing, it is totally worth it; but it’s the same with anything, if you approach it with  a positive frame of mind you will always benefit in some way.

I have already blogged that there is always something we can improve on, and if we want to be the best we can be (this isn’t an ad for the Army by the way!) then we must continue to develop ourselves and immerse ourselves in our trade.

It is important to practise your passion and make time for it. The difference between being a good whatever you are and a great one, is the effort and time you put into it outside the ‘normal’ working day. This can be applied to anything, but if I use the example of the Design & Technology teacher (conveniently), who wants a to be taught how to design and make stuff by someone who themself does not design and make stuff? If we want to encourage our pupils to come up with innovative and creative project ideas and then be able to realise them with skill and precision, we must continually test ourselves and keep up with, or ideally ahead of, the curve.

One of my pupils this year wants to make a ukelele! This means I will need to learn how to make a ukelele. It is  a journey we will take together in order to come up with the best solution, and as something new it means that I will learn as much as my pupil: This is why I love my job!

A friend of mine set up his own property letting agency business a few years ago, and not being content with just being another letting agent, he always looks for ways to improve himself and his business. He started a blog a short while ago, which I highly recommend you take a look at – particularly if you have an interest in property: http://alan-nash.blogspot.co.uk/and he has also started a networking group for people involved in property and rugby – Property Rugby Club.

I’m not just trying to peddle these, but do want to illustrate them as excellent ways in which we can envelope ourselves in our passions/careers in the name of self-improvement. By choosing to do this we not only improve ourselves but we instill confidence in others. Confidence that if they require our services, be it teaching, letting property, sandwich making or whatever, they know they will receive our best.

Never trust a skinny chef? This is perhaps a bit extreme but it does make a point (and I think it’s quite funny!), highlighting the attitude of taking pride in ones work and showing folk that you want to be doing it.

Pride can spur us on to great things. It is an attitude and one that needs to be encouraged in modern society, with so many us settling for the easy option.

Dumbledore (Harry Potter’s Headmaster) said that we must choose between what is right and what is easy (or something like that) and I couldn’t agree more. There will be times when we could cut corners, but does anyone benefit from this? Certainly not our customers/pupils, who may feel duped, and in the long term not us either, as our customers leave or we pick up too many bad habits.

Instilling pride in pupils is vital in teaching. If we can do this, then everything that follows becomes a lot easier. It’s the teacher’s job to explain why what they are teaching is relevant, why it matters, how it can be applied in the real world and why it is so important to take pride in everything we do. After this it is up to the individual to decide how far they want to take it.

Please do not misinterpret what I am saying about pride. There is a BIG difference in being a ‘proud’ person and taking pride in ones work and these two differing quotes below should hopefully illustrate this:

“Some of the proudest and most arrogant people I have known were morons and paupers, while some of the most wonderful and humble were wealthy.”

— F. Howard Callahan

“A great business success was probably never attained by chasing the dollar, but is due to pride in one’s work-the pride that makes business an art.”

— Henry L. Doherty

It’s up to us. Do we want to be as great as we can be?

The spice of life?

I think you can guess what I want to talk about today. Is variety the spice of life? I have a few different views on this… the first is that yes it is and that it keeps you interested and interesting.

Personally I love variety and being able to try my hand at many things in life really suits me. I wear many different hats and enjoy every single one of them. I’m not sure just how much I would enjoy it, however, if I had to keep one of them on all the time. I fear I would become stale or resentful towards something I love, and I don’t ever want that to be the case. I feel there is always something you can do better or aspire to improve in, even if it is something that you may be considered an expert in.

Having said that, I have nothing but the highest respect and admiration for people who  apply their trade with focus and discipline for their entire working life. These are the true experts in their field and boy do we need these guys!  [This actually reminds of the farmer who won a Nobel prize for being ‘out standing’ in his field… queue the groans!].

If you are being paid for something you love, then you are very lucky indeed. Not everyone has the luxury of this or is able to pursue their passion; appreciate it. It’s not about having what you want, it’s about wanting what you have (taken from a song, not sure which one – maybe a Sheryl Crow one?).

If you struggle at times and are finding things monotonous or just a bit of a slog, try to shake things up a bit by changing your routine. This can be as simple as changing what you have for breakfast, what you do for training, the medium you work with etc… Not exactly rock and roll I know but there is also a lot to be said for ‘keeping calm and carrying on’, and mixing things around a bit might just help you do this.

If I can put my teaching hat on for a moment, I feel that this is especially important in the classroom. If you’ve been in the game a while, it is likely that there will be several lessons that you have delivered umpteen times. While you might think you have the lessons down, you will probably find that they’re maybe not as interesting as you think! You know the content and while it’s not new to you it will be for your pupils and they deserve its delivery to be as enthusiastic as it was the first time round. As with anything you must go through a simple process to ensure you continually improve (or are least aware of how you are doing): Plan – do – reflect.

You have probably seen this basic process in many many other guises and applied to all sorts of things.

Like the hearing the drums in the jungle you only need to be afraid when they stop! How many people do you know who were superb at what they do but somewhere along the way they just lost the will and started to resent what they were doing? Maybe they stayed in the same game too long? Like I said before, not everyone has the luxury of doing what they want and it is easy to become stuck in a rut…

I am extremely fortunate to teach a subject that provides great variety every single year and to work with young and creative minds is a real joy. Design & Technology is the type of subject that will continue to evolve and can be interpreted in many ways, allowing the practitioner to change things up and keep things interesting (if they want to and are willing to adapt!) for the pupils and themselves. The projects below show great variety and many more can be seen on the MAKE Summer School Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.424891617533060.95955.354561317899424&type=3)

A portable charcoal BBQ

A Portable DJ stand



Personal bagpipe case made of oak & teak

How can one get bored working with kids who want to come up with projects like these?

Having justified my own need for variety, there is real comfort in routine; I especially look forward to ‘Fishy Friday’ in the school dining hall and was gutted when they started to change things up! We are naturally resistant to any change, but now and again we have to be brave and have a go at something different. It is always worth it if it’s done for the right reasons. But change and the fear thereof sounds like a topic for another night, so I’ll leave it here









Got your number!

I’m going to keep this one short tonight, I got a little too into it last night and wrote quite a lot (that much text would probably put me off reading anything!).

Today has been another great day but one thing happened that demonstrates just how reliant we are on our technology… you guessed it (if you live in the UK and have a contract with O2 that is!), the network failure at O2. I have no idea what’s going on with it and haven’t even had a chance to switch on the news or look it up to find out, I’m just glad to have some means of communicating!

It does highlight our dependency on modern tech though, and illustrates the stress and anguish that a malfunction can bring to so many people. My problems today were mere inconveniences, my car was in the garage having the exhaust fixed and I was waiting all afternoon for them to call me, but the call never came. At 5:30pm I pulled my phone out of my pocket and tried to call them but it wasn’t working (I thought it was goosed!), so then I Googled the garage to find out their number and promptly called them using a landline (how much longer will we have these?). The mechanic told me he had been trying to get hold of me but that a message came up saying that there was a fault with the line, I explained (wrongly now it would seem) that my phone was playing up.

Luckily I just caught him and he was about to take off for the night and I managed to make arrangements to pick up my car… Boo hoo right? Like I say, it was a minor inconvenience. I would be interested to hear how it affected everyone else. You might have been waiting for a call about a job or worse still you may have needed to urgently get hold of someone or worse still, the emergency services – the latter two issues are much more significant than minor inconveniences.

What on earth did we do before mobile phones?

I think we planned ahead a bit more for starters and made more use of our memories. I could still tell you not only my old phone number but those of my friends growing up, and their dates of birth! I’m not kidding, I could. Why? Because I had to know them at the time if I wanted to call them and somehow have managed to retain the information. Their dates of birth? I’m not sure why I know these, although it could’ve been because at my school we were really horrible to each other on our birthdays for some reason; giving you the dumps or worse still pouring a concoction of substances on your head (this actually happened and from that day the birthday boy has also had a random grey patch on the top of his very ginger head!!!) – birthdays were a fearful time and a good excuse to skive!

I’m drifting off point here. I could tell you these numbers but I couldn’t tell you any of my friend’s or family’s mobile numbers nowadays purely and simply because I don’t need to know them… until I lose my phone.

Could we survive without our tech today? I think we could but we’d have to change our strategy. We’d have to re-train our brains and get our memories working again. I think mine has retired. I can barely remember what I did last week until I sit down and really think about it; is this just me? Is this down to the busyness of life these days and the frantic pace we live at? I don’t know, for all I know I’ve just got a dodgy memory!


Anyway, I did say I’d keep it short so will leave it here. I would be interested to hear any views you might have on this issue so feel free to add your comments.

Bloggety blog

Wowee! What an amazing response to my first couple of blogs! Thank you very much for reading them, I never thought that many people would be interested… but then again we do quite often under-value ourselves and what we have to offer others.

Why do we  under-sell ourselves so much? Is it a Scottish/British thing? I like to think that as a nation we are actually quite humble and see service to others as more important than self-promotion (but then again I can be hopelessly romantic in my views at times!).

Promoting oneself does not come naturally to many of us and like most things in life it is something that has to be learned, developed and perfected. I am fast learning that self-promotion is not necessarily a bad thing. If you have something positive to offer why shouldn’t it be shared with folk? How are they expected to know if you don’t tell them? I always tell my kids to ask as many questions as possible and that I may not have the answers but we could at least try to find them if we know what it is we want to find out.

A great friend of mine instilled in me at uni the belief of “A shy bairn’s a hungry bairn” (translated from Leith to English “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”) and I have tried where possible to apply this; although it is not always easy and is something I very much have to consciously practice.

Britain differs from the US and many other nations in that we’re not as bold (in general terms: I know plenty brazen British characters!) when it comes to asking for what we want and we often find ourselves settling for second best just in case we offend or upset anyone, and quite often these are the people who couldn’t care less about us. Self-confidence is a big player in this game and a lot of this comes down to up-bringing, the messages you hear from a variety of people and the lessons you live growing up.

If my rugby coaches back home in Jed told me to run through a brick wall for the good of the team, I would have done it (or at least I would have had the confidence to do it). I’m not saying I would jump off a cliff or anything, I just mean that people of influence in our lives do have great affects on us and how we think of ourselves and act around others.

Children learn what they live so if we turn this around and look at it from the other point of view, we can affect the lives of everyone around us just by the way we interact with them (I don’t mean this to turn into a preach by the way!) and we can help each other through encouragement and justified praise.

The term justified, I feel, is key here. Empty praise does not build confidence in kids, or adults for that matter, as much as (if at all) praise that has been earned. I don’t mean only offering praise or encouragement if someone does something outstanding or ‘wins’ at something, but when you can see where they were, where they are now and the efforts they have made to get there, no matter how small or large. This is the type of recognition that will warrant a positive esteem-building response.

I think what I am really trying to say is, all that people need to help them grow in confidence is fairness. I am a big believer in giving credit where credit is due and when people receive this it stokes that fire of confidence in them.

My own journey of starting a business and self-promotion (or promotion of the business anyway) has been a fantastic one so far and I have learned loads along the way. I have designed my own website, developed projects for the summer school, done all my accounts, organised staff and taken bookings among many many other things, but while it might seem like a one man show, this could not be farther from the truth!

The key to me having the confidence to undertake this project (a concept I have had for over 15 years by the way!) is the help, support and encourage from friends, family and outside agents (I’ll explain this in a minute, ‘outside agents’ might not be the right term anyway). There is no way I could have done this alone. The thought of designing a website was terrifying, I had no clue where to start, but luckily I’ve two amazing friends (one of whom even designed the MAKE Summer School logo that you see on this blog, on my website and Facebook page) who do, and they tutored me through it all until they were able to take the training wheels off and let me go; hoping I don’t fall off and graze my knee!

As far as everything else goes, I had help, support and encouragement from many many different people along the way and without this I wouldn’t even be where I am now, let alone writing a blog!

The people around you are key.

What is your business? What you think your business is and what it really is might be two completely different things. Think of McDonalds, most people would assume that their business is hamburgers and fast food. Hands up who can make a nicer burger than McDonalds. I know I can (please see below)



[I have always had a fascination with monster sandwiches (I always tried to cover the main food groups) and these two bad boys were born as a result of me watching Man v Food..]

Anyway, I digress.





McDonald’s business is real estate. Think about it. How many McDonalds ‘restaurants’ have you seen in your life? You could probably say the same for Starbucks nowadays too.

My point with this is make ‘people’ your business. Any good business has people at its core and while I am by no means in any position to give business advice, I have been a consumer for a good portion of my life and know that customer loyalty comes down to how well (or not) you have been treated. The same is said for the employer/employee relationship and this is very much also the case in the classroom, where you must treat each individual with genuine respect in order for it to be reciprocated (children’s perceptions of you are very heavily affected by the way they see you treating others and the fairness of your actions towards them). Reading this back, I’m starting to sound like Jerry springer! So I’ll stop.

There are people out there who want you to succeed and there is always help available if you are willing to look for and ask for it. The outside agencies I mentioned before have played an integral role in the development of my confidence and businesses. As previously mentioned, I have had the concept for the summer school for years but it wasn’t until I had the guts to pursue a search for help with another project that I found the tools I needed to make it happen.

Back in 2010 I was developing a design for a brand new type of product (I could tell you what it is but then I’d have to kill you, and I really don’t want to do that) and in looking for help I came across Stephen Burns at EDTC (http://www.edtc.org.uk/) and this was the start of an incredible journey that led me to the Cultural Enterprise office (www.culturalenterpriseoffice.co.uk/) and eventually onto their Starter for Six programme (www.culturalenterpriseoffice.co.uk/starterfor6/) where I met more fantastic people who helped and inspired me.

People were interested in my ideas and they gave me the tools and the confidence to ‘have a go’: The same sort of advice I would gladly give to others but very much needed to hear for myself.

We do need help and should not be afraid to ask for it, I have found that most folk do want to help you and feel part of the whole experience too. Like I said before (quite romantically) we do rate service to others very highly and rightly feel good when we help others…

So, if so many good things can come from not being a “shy bairn” then why not ask? Why not tell folk what you’ve been up to and what you have achieved and are looking to achieve? Why not involve as many other people as possible and try to create a ‘win, win’ situation?

It is a long road ahead for me and believe it or not I was a bit reluctant to continue with this blog in case people thought it came across as preachy or arrogant. The truth is it is actually quite a healthy way to communicate and let people know what’s going on in my head – my wife will tell you I do often think that people are mind readers and should automatically know what I know (like James Bond I tend to deliver messages on a need to know basis). Like I said self-promotion and communication are skills that need to be practiced – for some more than others!

So in that light I would like to direct you to my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/MAKE-Summer-School/354561317899424) where I’d like you to “Like” the page. I would also like you to follow @makesummerscool on Twitter, ask your friends to do the same and also take a look at www.makesummerschool.co.uk. If this is not enough, can you please follow my blog and tell all your friends about it too?

Jeeez, that was tough, but it’s getting a little bit easier every time, and soon I’ll understand that just having a great product is no good if people don’t know about it!

A marriage MADE in heaven…

Sunday was my wife’s and my 6 year wedding anniversary – I won’t mention that she spent it on a plane to the USA for a professional development course for the whole of July (probably the best thing to do given the miserable weather here though!) but I will mention that we exchanged gifts on Saturday before she left and that there was a very creative theme.

Being quite an old fashioned guy I did my research and found out that the traditional gift for 6 years of wedded bliss was steel… this made me happy!

I had taught myself to weld a few years ago and really love it. I saw the nuts and bolts figures at the German Christmas market on Princes street and was inspired by the creativity and genius of using simple and plentiful objects and turning them into works of art. From then I thought I really ought to try it out.

The beauty of these figurines is that they can be made completely personal to person they will be gifted to (check out this website: http://www.steelman24.co.uk/ ) and that personal touch is what really matters to folk (I think so anyway).

Anyhoo, turning the clock back a few years a good friend and colleague was moving on to a new role at a different school so I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to have a go (having a go at making different things may come up as a running theme in these blogs because I am always looking to learn something new or perfect a new skill) at making my first nuts and bolts figure… This is it here:



It’s supposed to be a rugby player scoring a try. Looking back I don’t think I quite got the proportions rights (he’s certainly not that tall!) but I was able to add some oversized washers for his ears, which I thought was quite funny! The point is, I may not have been 100% satisfied with it but he was and being the recipient he didn’t nit pick as much as I did as the creator. We can be very harsh on ourselves at times (I certainly am) and we notice every tiny blemish and imperfection in our own work (some other people do have a knack of nit picking as well without being constructive, but I won’t go into this now), but reflecting on it it’s just great to have had the chance to make anything… Anyway, I had had a go at it, enjoyed it and wanted to get better at it.

The next time I made use of the nuts ‘n’ bolts figures it wasn’t me doing the making. A friend of mine was between jobs a couple of Christmases ago and mentioned to me that he had always wanted to learn how to weld. I was on my Christmas holidays (“Booooo! Hisssssss!” I hear you cry) and I offered to teach him.

I strongly believe that if you want someone to fully engage in what they are learning, they have to have an interest in it or at least see the point in it, so I asked him to think of something he really wanted to make and what he would use it for. He said that he has not yet got his dad a Christmas gift and that his dad loved boxing (I played rugby with this chap and he was not shy of a bit of pugilism himself!) so that was that… We went ahead and sourced all the bits and bobs required for the sculpture and after the health and safety lesson and a few practice welds he got straight into it and produced this in a couple of hours:



Making these figures is also a great way to learn ergonomics, and looking back at this project it is clear that we should have had the right arm pulled further back and at more of an angle (I told you I was nit picky!), but there are no such things as mistakes, only lessons! If you really want to learn something you should roll up your sleeves, have a go, then teach what you have learned to someone else – you are 90% more likely to retain what you have learned if you do and this is a technique I employ with my pupils (it also really develops their confidence).

If you are wondering how we did the boxing gloves, we heated the ‘hands’ and then dipped them in powdered plastic; the plastic then melts evenly onto the metal and can then be trimmed nice and even once cool.

It was only last year that I made my second attempt – I usually need a reason to make something – and my great uncle’s 70th birthday did nicely. I wanted to do something special seeing as I was unable to make it down to Liverpool for the party and felt that a nuts ‘n’ bolts figure would fit the bill. I asked his son what his real passions were and planned to use these to create a personal gift. He is a writer (very creative) and also loves the music of Frank Sinatra (having done a bit of crooning himself in his younger days)… I thought that a writer at a desk was a wee bit bland and wanted to give him something with a bit more character, so I came up with this:


So, with a rugby player, a boxer and a singer in my back pocket I felt that steel being the material of choice for a 6 year wedding anniversary was another opportunity for me to have a go. The difficult part was coming up with something original for my wife. After racking my brain I came up with a meditating figure as she is pretty much a Jedi Knight when it comes to alternative healing and this was the most visual representation I could think of that was close to what she does. I wanted it to be simple but convincing (I shouldn’t mention that I only had two hours to come up with the idea, design it and then make it in case she reads this!) so I really wanted to get the ergonomics right (make the limbs in the correct position, make it proportional etc..). This entailed me every so often sitting down in the welding bay cross legged to check positions – if anyone walked in they have thought I ‘d gone mad!

This is what I came up with:


I have promised myself not to be be too nit-picky with this one seeing as I had quite a tight time limit but I know that can still do better and will endeavor to do so next time. I am very pleased with it though and think it’s quite cute. I was desperate to give this to my wife (think the opposite of a kid at Christmas – there are a lot of references to Christmas in this blog!) and wrapped it up in newspaper and tied it up with some binder twine.

It is certainly a one of a kind and she did like it, which was a relief, and her posting it on Facebook was proof enough of this.

Now it was my turn and being quite difficult to buy for (I never really need or want much ) I wondered what on earth she would have for me. Well, I won’t lie, when I felt it was a book under the wrapping paper it did not bode well. I hardly have enough time to read a magazine let alone another book (she got me an interesting book for Christmas – here we go again with the Christmas references – who’s doing a word count on this?). So I faked a smile (kidding, I was delighted to receive anything at all!) and tore away the paper and what lay beneath was actually pretty cool…


She had bought me a book that is about something I really aspire to do – MAKE something every day.

The concept is excellent and this is something I would highly recommend everybody try – perhaps not everyday, and the book even talks about not putting yourself under undue pressure to do this, but at least more often than we currently do. The beauty of it is that the medium can be whatever you like, paper, painting, woodwork, cooking (I often experiment in the kitchen), music, writing etc… You could pick a theme and then go about being creative by making something to do with that theme: As mentioned before, it is vital that the theme is something you are genuinely interested in and see the point in.

Another point about the book is that it recommends that you share your ideas/creations with as many people as possible (possibly through a blog :O} ) and let them give you feedback and ideas for other things you can make. If you take a look at the MAKE Summer School Facebook page (come and “Like” us if you haven’t already please!) you will see that we have encouraged folk to post pictures of stuff they have made in all sorts of media and I’m sure they would very much welcome your comments.

The satisfaction from making something is wonderful and giving a gift that you have conceived and realised yourself is even better and something I highly recommend. A gift need not be expensive to be meaningful; my two year old niece gave me a daisy from the garden a couple of weeks ago and it was one of the best gifts I have ever received (incidentally her name is Daisy and it is the first and only thing she has given me).

So roll up those sleeves and have a go at making something today, start small then think bigger and who knows, you might surprise yourself!

By the way the traditional material for 7 years is copper so any suggestions would be most welcome!!!

MAKE the most of your summer!

Well, here we go… this August will mark the start of MAKE Summer School and hopefully the inaugural event will lead to many more opportunities for youngsters to come and learn new skills and show off their natural creativity through our workshops.

These are really exciting times and I am very much looking forward to the challenge of it. I have taught Design and Technology for 11 years and simply love my job. I am head of my department and work with some outstanding practitioners with whom I bounce ideas and constantly challenge ourselves.

As the kind of guy that can’t sit still for too long I usually find plenty of things to do to occupy my time in the summer holidays (queue the boos and hisses from all the non-teachers!). I find this easy to do now that I’m a grown up (well in legal terms anyway) but when I was a lad growing up on the farm I usually had to find things to entertain myself with otherwise I was put to work! Needless to say, as necessity is the mother of all invention, I would find excuses to do my own thing!

I always loved woodwork and just making stuff, and when we moved to a farm just outside Jedburgh I discovered an old chicken hut and promptly claimed it as my new toolshed. Over the years I collected various tools and after a couple of birthdays I had built up quite a collection (I did have to muck it out and clean it up a bit first!). These aided my in the building of go-karts, tree houses, club houses among other things and these projects, as well as getting me out of the house, really helped me to develop many skills.

Looking back, it was the freedom to play and experiment and just try things out for myself which really helped to develop my creativity and sadly I feel that these opportunities are few and far between for many youngsters today.

So the idea behind MAKE Summer School was to give kids the chance to hone their natural creativity through a variety of projects that also develop their practical skills, such as the jacob’s ladder toy shown below. In many primary schools I have found that the creative and practical lessons often take a back seat in the development of children due to the lack of confidence by the teacher (this is not always the case and I know many excellent primary schools that provide superb opportunities for their pupils in Design and Technology). I still remember to this day the Headmaster of my primary school in Jedburgh taking a small group of us to do D&T related work where we would do problem solving through practical tasks; I loved it and will never forget it!

The plan is not just to limit the summer school to woodwork, but to eventually expand to as many creative exercises as possible to give the ‘Apprentices’ experience working with many media, from cookery to art and possibly even stop-motion animation to music and who knows where after that?

So, that’s the basic plan and there will be a lot of hard work along the way but at least it will be loads of fun and will get me out of the house!

Here’s an Apprentice playing with the Jacob’s ladder toy.

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