Carpenter or Craftsman?

By Ryan Langferman, IPLI Mentor & Principal at Milan High School

Our administration team recently read “The Power of a Positive Team” by Jon Gordon in which there is a section titled “Craftsmen and Craftswomen.” Gordon describes the difference between a carpenter and a craftsman as, “A carpenter just builds, but a craftsman puts in the time, energy, effort, and care to build a work of art.”

This is a great analogy to use in the education profession. We are all carpenters. We do the basic requirements for organization, management, and evaluation. But how many of us are craftsmen and craftswomen? How many take the time and effort to go above and beyond the “construction process” to ensure student learning? Constructing could consist of giving an assignment, collecting the assignment, grading it, and recording it in the grade book. But a craftsman will take the time to give valuable feedback on the assignment, analyze the results, and reteach sections or rebuild lesson plans to meet the needs of the students based on the grade results.

In my mind, I interpreted this section to mean that a carpenter would most likely have his/her own personal interests as the priority, while a craftsman has the well being of his/her students as the priority. A carpenter’s goal is to be effective enough on his/her evaluation to keep their job.  A craftsman-style educator has no interest in the evaluation process; they are doing their job to the best of their ability and doesn’t need an evaluation to prove that. Administrators who consider themselves a craftsman or craftswoman measures the standard of “highly effective” by student successes and school culture, not an evaluation tool.

This section caused me to reflect on my own practices. Am I a carpenter or a craftsman? I’d like to think I’m a craftsman all the time, but truth be told, I have “carpenter” days and I have “craftsman” days. What does your self-reflection reveal? Do you have more craftsman days than carpenter days? If not, the thought of becoming a craftsman probably sounds exhausting. However, I would argue that we are all craftsmen! We wouldn’t have chosen education as a profession if we weren’t craftsmen. No one enters education because it’s going to be easy. There are many occupations that are better paying and allow you to “punch the clock” to receive a paycheck. We entered education because we wanted to be the “Changer of Worlds” (Buddy Berry), and sometimes we need to remind ourselves of those aspirations. As you reflect on your own practices, remember that we all have carpenter days, but do your best to minimize those days. Track your carpenter and craftsman days for the remainder of the year and remind yourself of the Muhammad Ali quote, “Don’t count the days….make the days count!”