Hidden Talents — SOLSC 26

Okay, so yesterday I finally wrote about my trip to the plumbers’ training center. But I didn’t tell all. First, there was one more student display that I could have included:

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Yes, had to get myself in the picture, too.

But the main piece I left out is a little more hands on. On the tour, a machine in an alcove caught my eye.

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It was a virtual reality welding machine. Right? You’re excited to hear about it, too. After the meeting, just after I’d put on my coat and was ready for the long trek to lower Manhattan, I joked to one of the instructors that I wish I’d had a chance to try it out.

Yes. That wish was granted instantly. I was escorted back downstairs and set up on the machine. It was as much fun to play with as I’d imagined it wIMG_6773ould be. Even better, it seems I’m an ace! Both instructors exclaimed over my steady hand, my complete coverage. That’s me, a natural welder!

In high school, we took those awful aptitude tests. My results offered up some very clear recommendations: I was meant to be either a high-ranking military official or the world’s best mechanic. My scores were apparently off the charts for these two careers. You
could almost say that the whole of my actual career has been an effort to deny those results, move as far away from them as possible.

And then here comes this toy welding machine. Now, sure, one turn on the VR machine doesn’t make me job ready. Of course. But it does make me think. We were talking to the facility manager about his efforts to recruit women —  saw only two in the classes we visited — and he lamented his lack of success, lamented the struggle to overcome the stereotype of who’s-a-plumber (as he said, “You know it: the neanderthal with the butt crack and a beer.”).

That VR machine is definitely part of the answer. And a better marketing campaign is the other. If he went to job fairs with that machine and let girls play with it, more than a few of them would stick around to hear more. I was entertaining some second-career thoughts my own self! And making it clear that the trade is about more than fixing toilets would help his cause, too. Welding, solar heating system installation, system design … seriously, my second-career thoughts were strong.

And, of course, I remembered those decades-old aptitude test results. I am in no way sorry to have found my way to teaching, to have spent many years in many different kinds of classrooms. It’s hard to imagine a job I would love more than teaching — current job, as much as I enjoy it, included. But my turn as a VR welder got me thinking. I do a LOT of things with my hands, I love making things, I love learning how to use tools and equipment. I never connected any of that to those test results, but now I wonder. When we got back upstairs from my turn on the welding machine, I basked for a moment in the glory of being a VR welding prodigy. Someone asked if I was a knitter. I am. And that’s apparently a thing: the kinds of motor skills you need for good welding are the same as those needed for knitting, for hand-crafts. I wish those aptitude tests had given more detail, some clue as to what actual skills led to the the test conclusions. Maybe I would have found my way to a more hands-on kind of job.


It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

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