Monday, October 24, 2011

Lessons Derailed by Copiers

Two things led to the pre-dawn alteration of my history lesson today.  The first: some MTA driver found it fitting to drive his 6 train off the tracks before getting to the Brooklyn Bridge stop.  This backed up train traffic all the way across the city and got me to work forty-five minutes late.  The second was a copier malfunction- the bane of many an educator's existence.  While things weren't so bad this morning, I was quickly reminded of past years when a broken copier would send me reeling into such a sorry state of despair that it was a wonder I've had any success as an educator since.

What I term "copier mood" is prevalent in many industries and was made famous in 1999 by Michael Bolton in the American cult classic: Office Space.  I have only experienced copier mood in the capacity of a teacher, the worst of it being my third day on the job.  After being thoroughly trounced by 115 eighth graders for two straight days, I had crawled to my mentor teacher, all of my conceptions of good teaching thrown to the wind, and begged her for something I could throw at the rebels.  What she gave me was an extremely structured, paper and pencil lesson that started with the basics of teaching and being a student.  With no further ideas left about what my job actually was, I took it gladly and willingly and spent hours pouring over it that evening, terrified by every transition and word I'd have to say in the morning.  

When I showed up early the next morning, many other first year teachers had jammed the teachers' work room with the similar goal of making copies for the day, leading me to believe that the first year teachers in the building were under some kind of siege.  After my level of anxiety skyrocketed by a lack of available copiers, my mind exploded into blind panic as I discovered the copiers weren't actually working.  The one I had selected kept jamming and my inexperience with using the machines led me into an odd, barely restrained rage that might have been mistaken to be an odd line dance, especially given the fact that I was the squirrely, skinny white guy from the Midwest. 

I'm not sure what happened the rest of that day.  It was at that point when the days (including the weekends) started melting together into a fretful mess of first year teaching hysteria.  What I do know is that the copier played a major, terrible role in speeding me toward complete insanity, which was eventually prevented only by my mentors and by my now fiancee.
This morning was not so bad when I discovered the copiers to be down.  I just switch one small thing in my lesson, printed out a smaller set of copies from a printer, and went on with life.  The beginning of my first whack at guiding students through a project on the Civil War went rather well in fact.  It was nice to look back and see the massive change from year one to year four.  Copier mood can be avoided, as it turns out, and now #6 trains derail down in Manhattan instead of derailing my classroom, running me into the ground, backing up, and running me down again.

I prefer it this way, though the east side of Manhattan might not.

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