Sometimes, like right now, I long for a pile of papers on my lap that I could speed through, grade with a series of checks and circles, a few scribbled lines of praise or condemnation, and drop into a shoebox on my desk and say, “Here are your essays!”
But I don’t have a desk. I have the cool classroom with a wide screen TV and a drop down screen, a seminar table and plenty of comfortable chairs, big new iMacs and even a recording studio. I haven’t used paper in years. I post my assignments, grades, flipped classroom videos and the literature we study online. I send out assignments via text, email, and online calendar. I let parents into the loop in an open and ongoing way. It is a really cool way to do things. Really… I get few complaints from kids or parents; I work pretty hard at what I do, and I get an incredible amount of support from bosses at school.
Lucky guy, me.
But not right now…right now I just want to turn it all off and return to a different time or a new time. I want to delete my blog post of a few days ago and join the Luddites in prayer. Hell, maybe I should just delete the whole damn blog and write the assignment on my board. (Though, damn, I don’t really have a board—and god forbid the kids see my actual handwriting.)
You see, the internet is slow tonight and that calamity has brought my enlightened ship to a standstill in calm waters, and I’m stuck here now with an old and seemingly clunky ipad and an app that works offline, but I feel slighted by the technology I’ve embraced so readily with my blinders on and oracles spouting. How will I face my anxious students who are expecting a grade tomorrow morning at 9:17?
If word gets out, I know there will be some smug satisfaction on the part of a few colleagues who will wave their piles of lab reports and essays in my face, and behind their smiles and expressions of concern will be a bubble-thought of suppressed glee. “Fitz get his comeuppance, finally.” In my paranoia, I imagine one of them beside my house in the dark rain jamming a Phillips head screw driver in my sparking Verizon box.
This really is a shutdown. Thank god we are reading The Odyssey in class, so I know this is just a test—an opportunity really—to exploit the heroic side of my personal journey. And I will get through this! Damn it! And I will grade those papers and leave audio comments and clean little boxes full of canned and specific feedback because if not, what? Will I have to swallow my pride and say, “Boys! could you please print out these essays out and have them on my desk by study hall.” (But, I remember bleakly, I don’t have a desk…)
I can hear my own voice coming back to haunt me: “Boys, figure it out. The only way out is through. An excuse is like a crutch. When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail…and oh how hollow that voice sounds as I pick up the shreds of my confidence, clarity, and misguided wisdom like shards of broken glass from the tear-stained carpet of my “technology classroom.”
But my students are, after all, fourteen and fifteen year old boys. I could just bring in several dozen donuts and yell,”Essay extension party in room B216!” Only the brilliant few would be offended as the majority celebrate the unexpected strawberry glazed rewards for the calculated sabotaging of my creed and mantra by a dark and looming force arrayed against me.
Maybe I’ll just email Google and ask them to write me an excuse. You see, google docs are great…when someone is not shorting out my internet! But right now, Google does not even exist. Do they even know how insubstantial they really are. One flip of a switch and they are as useless as a busted snowblower. (The snowblower, though, at least has a physical form, one that I can palpably feel and maybe even fix myself. But google right now is dead like a wicked witch, melted and gone, and my ipad is only 57 minutes away from the same fate.)
The solution is elusive and calls me away towards a new paradigm.
One that involves a book and a bed.
And a dose of humility.