A teacher who builds with hand tools and teaches his students to do the same

Clement Robertshaw

Clement Robertshaw 1962 –

An avid outdoorsman who runs an afterschool construction club at the Bruderhof’s high school, Clement has taught math, science, woodworking, and history for over thirty years. Surrounded by teenagers all day and dedicated to motivating them however he can, he is concerned that our reliance on technology and our tendency to settle for “the easy way out” is robbing us of the ability to think for ourselves.

I try to pass on the idea that a job well done is its own reward. Everyone knows that sports does more than keep you fit: it regenerates the soul. So does exertion of any kind, whereas ease and convenience kill. I’m 100 percent convinced of that. 

Recently, our woodworking club has constructed a picnic pavilion, and now a fifty-foot observation tower out of hand-cut oak beams, and other timber-framed structures, all built with hand tools in the traditional manner. We even drew up the plans by hand.  

When you do something the hard way, you develop perseverance. That’s hugely important. This goes for academic work too: learning is not just absorbing information. The real question is, “What tool am I using that I can rely on in the future? How does this translate into real life?”

But man, proud man,
Dressed in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assured –
His glassy essence – like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As makes the angels weep . . .
William Shakespeare
Clement’s woodworking class hand-drilling and notching the posts and beams for a fifty-foot tower

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