Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Wasn't that a mighty storm?

There's a great sequence in the Reese Witherspoon/Matthew Broderick comedy Election, showing Broderick's teacher character teaching the same thing year after year. His chalkboard diagram is the same year after year. Only his clothes change.

You teach at a school for 24 years and you might think you've seen it all. But you haven't.

I've become somewhat accustomed to the delicate fragility of our school's electrical system. It takes very little in the way of wether to shut our electricity down.

And so it was with our first-of-the-season storm today. We weren't too deep into our first two-hour class when out went the lights. Nothing new? Oh, but this time there was a twist. All the neighboring classrooms had lights. Just not mine. My outlets seemed to work, but my projector would not light.

My mistake: to try to keep teaching. Can you blame me, though? I am a teacher. And the thing about two-hour classes? You better have some variety planned. Some of that variety might include presentations and video clips. No dice when the power is out.

After 20 minutes or so, an announcement came through the PA to the effect that, "The electricity is out. We're on it. Keep teaching. Send a student for a flashlight if your classroom doesn't have one. And don't forget to take roll. If you can't take roll via the online system, do so by hand."

After some failed wrangling, I had to abandon Plan A and go to Plan B. But time was wasted. And some of the lessons I planned for the two-hour period went untaught.

The power continued to come on and go out stochastically throughout the rest of the day. It's up. It's down. Up. Down. No, back up. No, back down. Light. Dark. Repeat. If there is a content-based lesson that engages student under such circumstances, I am unaware of it.

When the power came back one time, an announcement was made to the effect that, "Teachers, please take roll; the online system is up."

You would be forgiven if you came away from the day thinking that the most important thing that happens at school is The Taking Of The Roll. The harsh reality is that you are correct. Just as television programs serve as vehicles to deliver commercials, instruction serves as a backdrop to space the intervals at which attendance is taken.

One thing I can always count on during power outages is our classroom set of laptop computers. They work like a charm. In my second two-hour class, we used them for a while. We could have done a full sensor-based computer lab if we needed to (the sensors draw power from the computers).

I remember much worse weather, but no power failures during my schooldays in Michigan. Sacramento in general and Rio in particular are simply very delicate flowers when rain falls and wind blows.

Oh well, tomorrow's another day. Maybe I'll be able to teach.


stevieray said...

That's why mid-western folks thinks we Cowl-lee-fornians are Winter Wonderland Wussies. Every winter I think about the dairy farmers in Wisconsin who milk their cows twice a day, every day, sometimes in the middle of a blizzard. Think of that next time you order a Latte, non-fat, warmed but not frothed!

stevieray said...

Just one question about the "Great Power Outage of '09", did you ever take roll?

Dean Baird said...

I had taken roll in first period before the cut. And managed to seek it in sometime during third and fifth when the power was on.

I am nothing if not a team player.

stevieray said...

It's best to "roll" with the punches?

Dean Baird said...

With Jearl Walker's Kinetic Karnival posted online and our recent purchase of Mechanical Universe (HS) on DVD, I'm looking to loading our laptops with instructional video content. Combine that with our headphone sets of four per laptop, and you get a nice outage solution.

Anonymous said...

Kinetic Karnival is online? Might I ask where? A quick google search didn't turn up anything...

Dean Baird said...

Here ya go:

Dean Baird said...

Do a search for "Jearl Walker myspace"

Kinetic Karnival episodes are in his videos section.