Working With Frustration

Chrissy McLeanAll, Boatshop, Girls' Boat Project, Youth Programs

While the hard skills of woodworking and boating might be the most tangible things we work on, many days learning the soft skills of how to operate as a human in the world are even more important. This week, our returning wood workers started a more advanced bench project- making a mallet. The first step in mallet making is laying out the mortise for the handle to go through the mallet head. This involves precise measuring, square lines, sharp pencils, and dividing fractions- all of which can be challenging and frustrating.

Each day at the beginning of class, we post a question on the board. This week we asked, “What positive strategies do you use to deal with frustration?” Girls offered ideas that they had which included talking to a friend, petting an animal, listening to music, going outside, or getting some exercise. We also talked about negative strategies like slamming doors, yelling at people, or breaking things.

We checked in on the challenges of getting frustrated in a shop environment- we use sharp tools, are close to other people, and are making projects that we care about. Finally, we brainstormed ways to handle the potential frustration of laying out a mallet head. Chrissy started off by sharing her challenges with the project. Then the girls came up with ideas they could try when they reached a frustrating point like putting their work down and taking a break, pausing to look around at what others are doing, asking for help, taking a deep breath, or taking a drink of water.

When we got to work in the shop, the attention was focused. The girls were determined to conquer their mallet heads. The boat crew practiced chiseling prepared to finish chamfering the stringers for the boat. We all worked hard. And when it was time for a break, we went out to the beach and ran around knowing that this time was important to our work. Coming back inside we were able to reset and focus reviewing our work, erasing and perfecting lines and practicing our chisel skills.

At the end of day, we reported on how we met with frustration and what we did. We acknowledged the hard parts, took deep breaths, helped each other, stepped back from our work, and remembered that frustration can be dealt with.