Sunday, September 17, 2006

I cried and they asked if I was getting married

One of the many frustrations this fall is that I don't have enough computers for all of my students. Two of my classes are doing a one-to-one laptop program, so usually they have enough laptops. (Though last week two suffered problems and the loaners didn't work. But I kept teaching anyway.) The other classes have 22 kids each. We have 24 computers. Four are broken. They're under warranty, so they'll be fixed eventually, but in the meantime, I don't have enough computers.

I discovered this DURING class. A class where I'd assigned the students to finish an assignment using software I don't expect them to have at home because it is very expensive. So I'm holding a broken computer, looking at a room full of kids in which I am going to have to tell one student she can't finish the assignment and has to spend the next hour watching the other students work. Meanwhile, I have about four other kids yelling my name because they can't log in. (The definition of "computer works" includes "runs the software I need to teach" but does not include "kids can log in".)

I couldn't take it. I don't know how to teach, in the moment, in that kind of chaos. I felt tears fill my eyes. So I thought, "okay, the only thing to do is to throw myself on the mercy of the kids and ask for patience." I sat on my desk and asked for their attention.

This is the best part.

"Are you getting married too?" (Another teacher just announced her engagement.) "No, she's already married!" "Are you really married?" "How come we didn't know you're married?" "Are you having a baby?" "Are you moving away?" It never occured to them that I couldn't teach them. If I had Big News, it must be personal.

It was quite the let-down for them when I said I just wanted patience while everything keeps breaking and not working.

And we made it through the day, through a combination of absences and students who'd already finished the assignment. I've switched to teaching Computer Science Unplugged until I either have enough computers or can come up with lesson plans for pair programming. I don't want to hold off on the computer stuff for too long, for a variety of reasons, but I don't want to just tell them to sit with a partner without thinking through how to do pair programming *well*, which means wresting my attention away from all the sysadmining I've been doing and actually being a teacher.

On the other hand, I got to teach binary on Thursday, which was fun, and Tuesday's lesson features a debate about the impact of technology on society, springboarding off the introduction of the word "binary" into the vernacular.

1 comment:

Jane said...

Sounds like you handled the situation very well---and those offline lesson plans sound great! It must have been a bad week for computers---I had a really bad class in the computer lab last week (no one could log in). Luckily, the students were really good-natured about it and dealt quite well. Hope your computers get fixed soon!