Jesper wants to highlight craftsmanship, creativity and practical skills in sloyd.
After working for several years as a carpenter, Jesper Aaröe applied to HDK-Valand to study to become a teacher in sloyd instead. Today he teaches at a lower secondary school teacher in Mölnlycke. “The students are demanding in terms of time and commitment,” he says, “but everything I invest in my job I get back – with interest.”
Jesper Aaröe likes to pass the time on the train by knitting, and people are sometimes startled. A man. Knitting. What’s more, he’s mostly knitting baby clothes for the new-born at home.
“I love knitting,” he says, “but there are so many gender-based norms in crafts. That much is clear when you see how students in the school choose between woodworking and textiles.”
He hopes that, as a craft teacher in the Ekdala School in Mölnlycke, he will be able to show students that they can do both crochet and carving. They can build furniture and sew clothing – regardless of gender.
“Before I applied to the teacher training programme,” says Jesper, “I thought you had to choose teaching either woodworking or textile crafts, but I soon realised it doesn’t work like that anymore. That makes me happy. I have students in all kinds of crafts, and I think that’s how it should be.”
Jesper has become just as skilled with his fingers when working with soft materials as with hard ones. But he admits that this wasn’t the case at HDK-Valand when they were studying the different craft techniques. Knitting was particularly challenging for him.
“At HDK-Valand, I had to start from the very beginning and just learn how to hold the needles,” he says. “Try to master those muscle movements. I really got a chance to experience what it’s like to be a student and break the code, which benefits me greatly now in my teaching.”
At the Ekdala School, the craft workshops are on the lower level, right next to each other. Jesper enjoys being there and working, as do most of the students. Sloyd, which consists of practice in handiwork and crafts is a popular school subject. The Swedish National Agency for Education has come to the same conclusion in nearly every one of its studies.
At the same time, Jesper has gotten used to occasionally having to defend the time devoted to crafts in the school curriculum. Sometimes students say, “I’m not going to be a carpenter, so why do I need to know how to do this?” and such critical voices can be heard from fellow teachers and parents as well.
Jesper feels confident that he has plenty of arguments in support of craft classes when the need arises.
“There are so many arguments for crafts in school,” he says. “Students get to work with processes, develop the ability to solve problems and other skills they can use. Besides, the subject is a hot topic right now because of the sustainability aspect and how craftsmanship is tied to quality.”
Nevertheless, Jesper is reluctant to engage in debate with the critics on their terms. “There is some risk that craft is only valued in relation to theoretical subjects and professions,” he says.
“I would rather emphasise the artisanry, the creativity and the practical expertise.”
When Jesper himself made the decision to change course from working in a practical trade to becoming a teacher, he was motivated primarily by the attraction to craft. But as a student in the graduate teaching programme for grades 7–9 he got a chance to combine his primary subject with others in a particular field, and for him language was the natural choice. His current job therefore involves teaching both crafts and English, which Jesper describes as a good combination, with the most intensive periods distributed differently across the academic year. He is also qualified to teach Swedish as a second language.
But the real high point of the programme were the hours spent in HDK-Valand’s craft workshop.
“Yeah, wow, I was so happy I had crafts to look forward to,” says Jesper. “There was an intimacy there that made those of us who sat there working feel like a little family. We students were able to form lots of close relationships both with teachers and with one another. Somehow that time gave me a powerful sense of loyalty to the craft teacher programme at HDK-Valand.”
At the same time, Jesper’s studies strengthened his identity as a creative person. That’s something that spills over into his free time today.
“I make something as soon as I get the chance,” he says. “Exactly what that might be changes from one period to the next. I have done some carving. Lately I’ve been making a lot of furniture. I’ve made wardrobes, a TV cabinet, and a chest of drawers for the hallway.”
By Camilla Adolfsson