A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Deep breath... and let the whinging begin!

Okay, so I haven't been the best blogger in the world, and I most sincerely want you to know I am still among the living. I will try to be better, but my family has been diverting my attention-- which is a euphemism for "they've been driving me stark raving mad and I've barely been keeping it together." I'm sure many others can relate to the madness which overcomes one when one is the parent of teenagers.

So I wonder if anyone can also relate to this?

I am being punished by the district IT people. I am being kicked to the curb like a truculent ten year old... and my students are the ones who suffer, as well as my own frustration which of course is no consequence in the calculus of the modern school, as many of those who teach can attest.

I have a computer which is admittedly gimpy. It is about three years old, but has a rotten brain, as they say in Young Frankenstein. And I can't give this benighted piece of crap a "sedagive" to make it all better. But here's the best part, neither WILL the district IT people.

The district has hoops through which one must jump in order to receive the latest technology. These hoops require attending hours upon hours of classes on software that is either A) not necessary for my subject or grade level, or B) requires the use of ancillary items that are practically nonexistent in my building, thereby also rendering these programs useless. For instance, imagine taking a class in GarageBand with no access to microphones, or on iMovie with no access to a digital camera or a decent processor speed or updated hardware.

Imagine being expected to create a website on the district server (which goes down every time it rains, and we've had record rainfall) with software which is four years old and requires a "mere" fifteen to twenty hours to create a cartoony, clunky webpage which has all the charm of a watercolor done by an elephant. A blind elephant. With a broken trunk.

So I began this process, a while ago, but found that I resented the time away from my family to test out on software that would never either be willing or able to use. So I stopped. And anyone who knows me knows that "Never ever ever give up," is not just a quote from Winston Churchill to me, but is actually more of a creed.

So, now, even though the machine upon which I work has been recalled, the IT people refuse to replace it with one that actually is dependable and reliable. Unless I agree to twist my fat, middle-aged, and exhausted Great Dane body through poodle-sized hoops.

Then let us describe the firewall software that allegedly protects us and our students from dastardly images and video clips. F'r instance: type in the terms "Panama canal" or "analysis" or "breastworks" and you will run up against the firewall and its dire warnings that "this attempt to access inappropriate content has been recorded." Extra credit for those who can guess why the firewall is triggered by these terms. It's like smacking a fly with a dead and much-decayed mackerel, and then being surprised by the repugnant and yet completely ineffective results.

This is an IT department that is a confederacy of dunces. This is an IT department that lives and dies by the following sentiment: "Above all, we must abolish hope in the heart of man. A calm despair, without angry convulsions, without reproaches to Heaven, is the essence of wisdom."

So here's the deal: this computer will eventually die. You know it, evil IT bonobos.

And when it dies, I will sadly be unable to do all of the techy things, the mundane, annoying techy things like taking attendance, posting grades, answering parental emails, and the like that have been ladled onto me like two day old gravy by administrators and tech people who think that all I have to do in the world is dance to their evil, tinny, little organ grinding away like a scratchy rewound cassette recording of Justin Timberlake from back when he was a Mousketeer in lieu of this thing which is actually quite difficult called "teaching." I'm sure you've heard of it-- since...

it makes your insipid little job possible at all.

I thought I might remind you of this tiny fact, since if there were no teachers, there would be no students. And no students would equal no taxpayers who pay for you to waste countless hours listening to the Coverville podcast or whatever else you do in your ridiculous TRON T-shirts and anime tattoos.

And if you still don't get it, IT chimps, come on down and take a turn in front of thirty ennui-saturated teenagers and try to penetrate the fog of their existence with skills and curriculum. I dare you. And I'll spend a day in YOUR jobs, imagining that technology will some day replace actual teaching and human interaction.

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At 11/11/09, 8:00 PM, Blogger PamelaTrounstine said...

Can you really be somewhere in the midwest? (This sounds too Silicon Valley! Sad, isn't it?)

At 11/12/09, 4:56 AM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

That's terrible. I avoid all such problems by teaching in a trailer with no technology whatsoever. Last summer I bought a really light little laptop, which I now carry with me at all times.

At 11/12/09, 11:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What would happen, God forbid, if the system were to completely and utterly die? Like if a paperclip were to somehow become lodged in the cpu and fried the motherboard. Or since the school webpage goes down when it rains, what if, God forbid, the water would somehow inexplicably drip into the computer and fry the motherboard. Would the computer then be replaced

At 11/12/09, 3:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do front-line tech support...I might be rare in this, but I weep for these things as much as you do. I want to help teachers. I want to replace our old, clunky, poorly-written software with the cutting edge easy-to-use tools that would undoubtedly be better in every way. I want to re-allocate the spending, I want to change things that are required of teachers into optional tasks, and I want to build a strict usability test and anti-lock-in provisions into every RFP and cancel every current hardware and software deal we have that doesn't meet those requirements.

But I can't. I suggest these things, and I'm told it's a great idea, and it dies. Somewhere higher up the chain, someone has decided not to make user experience the priority, and it shows. I'm sorry. I'll bend the rules as far as I can (farther than you know, because I don't want you to feel guilty for requesting something that I should be able to give you), but, just like you, I know I can have a better impact on the problem if I stay to fight another day.

It's no excuse for your unacceptable computer, but I'm sorry. Maybe when you're a principal and I'm a tech director, we'll be able to fix these things. Hopefully we don't have to wait that long.

At 11/12/09, 5:57 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

PT--Oh no, this is waaaay too stupid not to be the midwest.

NYC-- Even if I brought my own computer, I still couldn't get past the firewall bullshit nor could I connect my computer to the printers or anything else, because somehow treating teachers like adults and professionals when it comes to technology is some sort of major security breach, according to the PTB.

Anonymous #1: wow-- I like the way you think; I almost can smell the sulfur and brimstone from here, and I say that with all the admiration in the world!

Anonymous #2-- I shall never be a principal, because I like my soul all fresh-smelling and pristine. To me principals are like prosecutors-- they have to make way too many deals that I find ethically and philosophically.... icky.

At 11/12/09, 8:22 PM, Blogger OKP said...

Extra credit me! Clearly, it's the 'anal' aspect. Our firewall wouldn't let the website "What It's Like on the Inside" -- because the last t in 'what' connected to 'it's'.

I'm so sorry for your woes.

At 11/13/09, 11:04 PM, Blogger ECHC said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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