At first, I was apprehensive. Panel carving class? Whoever heard of such a thing? I had just been given the gift of an extra free block only to have it ripped away twice a week along with a biweekly loss of a long block. I knew I had to carve a panel, but I did not know there was complex scheduling involved too. To me, the woodshop was a foreign land and wood carving was a language in which I knew not one single word. Nibble nibble? Skim Skim? What’s that supposed to mean? To be brutally honest, the whole process was daunting. Your panel is the one literal mark you leave on Belmont Hill. It even takes precedence over your face in the obituary section of the bulletin. In short, it has to be good and it has to represent your essence. Therefore, as I looked down on the failed sketches and my little piece of wood, I grew anxious. And that anxiety translated into a slow creative process filled with nervy self-introspection, sketching, and tracing. During that time, I tried to find myself in the dust of the woodshop as little as necessary. And that comes down to the very bottom of the argument, the panel carving class is mission critical for keeping seniors in the panel carving room.
There is some merit in giving seniors the liberty and responsibility of budgeting their own time in order to finish their panels by graduation day. But let’s be honest: seniors would put off panel carving during the bustle of school days due to a variety of distractions such as technology (e.g., computers to watch Fortnite videos), food (e.g., infinite numbers of burritos and subs to be picked up), and sleep (e.g., the couches in Goodband Commons). It takes a few mandated classes before most seniors get “hooked” on panel carving and decide to carve during other free periods. When I finally broke ground on my panel at the drill press, I felt a serene sense of calm and purpose. The sense of peace I lose during other classes, I can find in carving my panel. Envisioning the campus as a heat map gauging stress, the red (high-stress levels) area covers the quad and progressively lightens to a shade of yellow (medium to low stress) from the lunchroom to the art building to the music building to the Jordan. That is not to say stress cannot be found in these places, but rather that the stress can be released through creativity, elaborate artisanship, and independence. Lastly, panel carving creates a unifying experience among seniors as they work side by side in the pursuit of creative goals. Hence, it is imperative that panel carving class be mandated for seniors.
Although I wish there were a tiny bit more flexibility in the class schedule, the panel carving experience and the essential but relentless carving class times are a hallmark of the Belmont Hill experience. Mr. Kaplan–and now most of the seniors–wouldn’t want it any other way.