I know that someday you'll find better things.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Xerox Repair

If only it was offered as a professional development course, I could have been a demi-god in the teaching world.

When I taught in Dallas, photocopies were an essential tool for a couple of reasons.

Reason 1: My classroom did not have textbooks (or anything else, including air-conditioning and screens on the windows, both of which posed several additional problems that shall wait for a different opportunity to be shared.) The point here is, if anyone in that room was to read anything independently, it was going to have to be a.) written by me and/or b.) photocopied.

Reason 2: Most of the students did not have anything to write on or in. No binders with loose-leaf white-and-blues, no composition books, no spirals. If I could create a lesson on one side of the paper and provide an opportunity for written response and practice on the back, it was a two birds one stone victory.

As with all tragedies, the circumstances were complicated--unjustly, I believe--by the fact that the paper was heavily guarded under lock and key, only available when the key-keeper was able to be located.
Furthermore, the machines in the workroom were uncooperative.
And odd.

One was a bit persnickety, but the other was the real doozy. It was not the classic purple ink mimeograph but it was also a not-so-distant cousin—there were these sheets of inky carbon paper that you’d need to clean out from the back trap each time you were ready to copy a different item.

I started going to Kinko’s every morning before work. It was just easier than dealing with that mess. It was also more expensive, but at the time it seemed worth the sacrifice.

In Plano, there were THREE copy machines. Big, snazzy, powerful ones. That first year, the students’ supply packs each contained a ream of paper that the kids were directed to pass along to their homeroom teachers. That meant there were 27 reams of paper stacked at the back of my room. Crazy!

Eight years later, there were still at least 14 of those original reams of paper stacked at the back of my classroom. The reasons here were also two-fold.

Reason 1: After surviving the photocopy conditions in Dallas, I had a deep respect for conservation. It didn’t seem fair to squander these resources when others were making do with far less.

Reason 2: Those three snazzy copy machines were about as reliable as those awful two in Dallas. Maybe worse, honestly. I couldn't have used all that paper if I made it my sole mission.

They were constantly overheating and jamming and refusing to acknowledge the user’s presence and urgency of the task at hand. I think they had a superiority complex.

My love for those machines began to dwindle, and in turn, so did my need for them.
Because we were blessed with more resources for the students, I had the luxury of seeking alternatives to photocopies. Could the item be tweaked into a powerpoint and projected onto the screen? Could one print-out be paired with the document camera for all to see? Could the concept be replicated independently on notebook paper by the students? Could the official document be linked to the internet so that students could have access to it later and even print it out at home if they so desired?

My interaction with those Xerox machines became less and less frequent through the years.
There was really only ONE circumstance that absolutely required photocopies.

Lessons and plans for substitutes.

Never was there a time more urgent—more desperate—than the wee hours of the morn, just ahead of the arrival of staff, students, and the sweet soul assigned to supervise the students for the day, especially if you were toting a feverish pajama-clad toddler on your hip.

Never was there a time when the copy machines would be less reliable.

Certain as the sun, there’d be a sign taped to each and every machine with a pathetically scratched out attempt using whatever half-gnawed barely-functioning writing utensil that God and the custodial staff had overlooked.

Copier broken.
Service called.

If some brave, innovative, forward-thinking principal—just once—would send teachers to Xerox repair training instead of off to a conference to receive and read an enriching and life-changing book (that most of the teachers had already sought out independently months earlier) they could end or at least minimize the plight and the pain of this malfunctioning machinery.

1 comment:

  1. Courtney I wish you could come up to Calgary, Alberta to help repair our Xerox photocopy machine. I'm trying to get our management to spring for a new one, the current one is driving me crazy. The paper is always getting jammed and turns off & on by itself when it wants to. I may also need a priest, since it may be possessed.