Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Teacher's Purgatory: Summer School and Technology

If you've read my posts about how the iPhone jacks up my life, or if you've interacted with me in person for more than fifteen minutes, you know that technology and I have a tumultuous relationship.

I accept the necessity technological competency; I accept the benefits of technological progress. If it weren't for computers, it would have taken a lot longer to produce my novels. And yes, I am willing to admit that it has contributed to my growth as a writer because I can type in time with my thoughts and experiment with different genres and styles more easily.


It complicates my life, much like the iPhone. My attitude doesn't exactly help: it bores me and because of that I don't spend a lot of time futzing with it. So when I have problems (which I frequently do), I am unwilling to spend a lot of grey cells or time on it. If I have a computer issue during one of my high school classes, I just freak out until a student helps me either out of pity or out of a desire to shut me up. If I have one at home, I call everyone I know until I find someone who knows how to fix it.  If I can't find a lifeline, I take my laptop to a repair shop run by a couple of Russian gentlemen and roll in with a lot of cleavage, batting my eyelashes and feigning helplessness.

I have yet to pay for computer repair, but I'm pretty sure they are on to my game.

The fact that I am publishing some of my work online is pure irony. Or hypocrisy. Whatever:  TomatO, TomAto. (Note that I can't even figure out how to add an accent mark to the appropriate letters. Oh well, can't capitalization be used in any way that I need it?)

Therefore, my feelings about technology + the importance of technology in contemporary society + the fact that I'm OCD + the fact that I have the worst memory = disaster.  Add to that the trials and tribulations of summer school and you'll begin to understand that I am armed to bring in the apocalypse (I need to give Apple some competition).

Allow me to explain.

I am teaching two classes this summer: one high school; one junior college. Two different campuses; two different classrooms (neither of which are mine during the regular school year).  FIVE different computers.

I try to avoid using my personal computer for work--courtesy of OCD--, but in the cases that I absolutely have to, I save everything to a flash drive. My personal computer has Microsoft Office 2010; the computer in my classroom has Microsoft Office 2007. Simpatico.  But I am not in my classroom for either of my summer classes.

No problem, the high school just bought me a laptop; I cart that sucker around.

Silly me. I should have known that even though the school was generous enough to purchase me a laptop, it couldn't help throwing in a monkey wrench: Microsoft 2003.

No problem. I happen to have bought Microsoft 2010 to install on three computers and since I only own one, that leaves two computers to benefit from my generosity. As it turns out, I can't even change the date and time on the computer without an administrative password, and believe me, no one in their right mind would put the word "administrative" anywhere near my job description.

I called one of the head mucky-mucks of technology for our district and asked if I could run my new laptop by his office so he could install the program for me. He told me that he couldn't do that. Apparently, only programs bought by the district can be installed on its computers. In other words, they can't install one program that I bought onto one of their computers, but if the district buys it, okie dokie. Only after I put in a work order and wait for two months for them to get to me.

My plan to install a program that will single-handedly bring down the entire school district under the guise of Microsoft 2010 was thwarted.

But, I had a plan B: I re-saved all my files onto a flash drive in Microsoft 2003 format  and then transferred them to my work laptop and if I used only that computer for work I wouldn't have to keep remembering to save in 2003, because with my memory, I'd forget more than I'd remember. And I didn't worry about not wanting to haul the laptop around because my OCD would demand it.

In the classroom that I teach my high school summer class, I use my laptop for instruction, but I have to use that room's computer to go online so I can take attendance and update grades. If the district won't allow me to install Microsoft, it sure as fuck isn't going to give me the password to tap into the wireless network (believe me, I've already asked about that. Their answer: NO ONE has the wireless access code).

Clearly, I don't get paid enough to understand this shit.

No biggie. Running back and fourth between computers gets some exercise in. It does get risky when it comes to printing, because I have to remember to eject my flash drive so I have it for my college class.

For my JC class, I have a computer in that classroom which is hooked up to a LCD projector, DVD player and surround sound speakers. But, no printer. I have to go down the hall to the part-time faculty lounge to print anything.

At least their computers don't have Microsoft 1800 on them.

Despite all of the differences between computers, I had been managing with few hiccups . . . until last week.

One of my JC students asked if he could take the final early so that he could attend a family reunion and I acquiesced. He was more than willing to work around my schedule and made sure to ask me before adding the class. When the time came to do so, I had to scramble to get it together because I had procrastinated. For those of you who aren't teachers, writing a test is actually quite difficult. And it takes a lot of time.  And if you are me, you will make it 10x more difficult than it needs to be (refer back to the formula for the apocolypse).

The night before I needed the final ready, I decided to go to dinner with a couple friends, drink some wine, and then go home and write the test.  Great plan, right?  It gets better: I left my work laptop at the high school.

But I had my flash drive (because I have that thing duct-taped to my body at all times).  After dinner, I simultaneously wrote my final, chatted with my friends, and drank more wine. Once finished, I printed that bad-boy up and put it and my flash drive into the bag I carry all my JC stuff in.  How responsible am I?

But, I did not lay the bag against my front door, so the next morning, I left WITHOUT it. No final. No flash drive. No brain.

I didn't realize my error until I had reached the high school. I live too far away to turn around and get it before my morning class, but I could go in-between my high school and JC class. But, the extra two hours that would put me on the freeway was not attractive.

Luckily, my friend Cher works from home and lives only blocks from me. And she has a key to my apartment.

I called her to tell her about my dilemma. After she finished laughing, she told me to email her all the passwords, name of files, etc she would need to get onto my personal computer and email it to me. She ducked out during her lunch break, emailed me every file with the word "final," "test," and "exam" in its title and even took my personal laptop home with her just in case.

Cher may be on a mission to ruin my playlist, but she also is on a mission to save me from myself. Thank God.

Six files were emailed to me; none of them was the final I had written the previous night. As I was reaching for the phone to give her a call, I remembered that I had saved the final to my flash drive only.

Fuck me.

Let's all say "yay" for OCD.

Cher would have been willing to go back to my place to get my flash drive, but I figured I had asked enough of her for one day. Keeping me alive is a tough job, and I wanted her to save her strength for the next time I screwed up. Also, all my materials for my JC class were also at home, and even though I have my JC files on my high school computer, they were probably out-dated (I revise my curriculum often). I had been willing to wing it, but now I figured I had better just man-up and drive home.

The round-trip commute should have taken about 1 1/2 hours. It took 2 1/2 because a) It was 3 p.m. and b) every street between my job and my home is currently undergoing major road construction.

I showed up to administer the final late, sweaty, and pissed. But the real bummer is that the only person I had to blame was myself.

Moral of the story: do not disrupt The Vancester's system.


  1. I can't get rid of my books from college either. I am staring at two Norton anthologies right now. Staring, not reading.

  2. Great post! There's nothing wrong with paper books. While I've read online, I also enjoy sprawling out on the beach and paper books don't really suffer the same damage as an electronic reader.

    They can even survive accidents such as coffee spills.

    I recall when the senior partner of my ex-husband's firm walked me into his library. I was like a child in a playground. There were so many books! I'm not sure I would have been as excited if he'd flipped open his laptop to show me how many books he downloaded. Libraries just have this...smell.

    You're not alone in your love/hate relationship with technology. Strange that it was supposed to free up our time, and now it seems to suck so much of it!


Please validate my existence.