My morning routine at school is fairly predictable. Sometimes there are copies or print jobs to be collected, but usually I’ve taken care of those the day before. There’s always an Edmodo post for each class, but it’s a rare day when I haven’t written that the previous afternoon – thanks to the “Scheduled Post” feature, a relatively new addition to Edmodo’s toolbox that still leaves me endlessly grateful. Sometimes I need to make a tweak or revision to the “outline of what we’re doing today” slide show that I use with each group, a legacy of many years when I wrote a daily agenda on chart paper. But usually it’s a matter of greeting people, checking the temperature of our classroom, plugging in the school-issued laptop to its various peripherals, and things like that.
But sometimes there are technical glitches, and sometimes you need to restart. How do you know when it’s time?
On Wednesday morning, the school-issued laptop and the interactive whiteboard kept refusing to recognize each other’s existence. For Ms. X, who still thinks interactive whiteboard means projection screen, that wouldn’t be an issue … but the Latin Family tends to write things and move things and touch things, and that’s hard to do when board and computer won’t communicate. Restarting always solves the problem, but it can also cause frustrating delays. But not restarting causes other kinds of frustrations!
As it turned out, after about 15 or 20 minutes, everything “automagically” started working properly. But I kept thinking about restarting all day – especially when I rediscovered the sample of Mitch Joel’s newish book Ctrl Alt Delete that I’d downloaded a few months ago, read it again, and realized it was time to purchase (and start reading) the whole thing.
It was Progress Report day at school; the “general” report, which looks like a report card but comes at the half-way point in the reporting period, was distributed at the end of the day, and teachers theoretically distributed detailed reports for their classes to those students who “need” them according to the school’s policies. The New Student Information System has a feature that allows parents to see assignments and grades, but it’s a brand-new feature and our policies haven’t quite caught up with the technology. So at the half-way point of each reporting period, we still sacrifice a few reams of paper to the Greater Cause of keeping parents and students informed … even though they’re already informed and, in a few cases, have already been in touch to find out why D’s score on that one assignment was so low, or whether H has turned in that one missing thing.
It’s interesting to see students’ responses to those detailed reports, too. I hope Ms. X prepared a lot of them, given what I saw on the “general” reports I handed out in the afternoon! “What’s up with you in That Class?” I asked C, N, and some others. “It’s hard, and I think she made a mistake or something!” is the typical response … but C, N, and the others were talking about needing to focus and remembering to turn stuff in, about working harder and learning things better. At a time when their predecessors often gave up and hoped for a miracle, C, N, and their friends are restarting – and I don’t know exactly why, but it seems like a positive change indeed.
“D,” I said, when I handed him his report, “you have been doing so much better, but That Number is still low because of the first Minor Assessment. I know you all started working on a product, but I haven’t seen it yet, and I need it.” And D, who once would have given up or shrugged sadly, was happy … because he knows what he needs to do, and he knows he can do it. And for D, whose mom was so concerned when I saw her last month, knowing you can is an incredible restart.
B, B, and U in the upper-level class had been distracted and distracting for a while, but – in a sharp contrast with past conversations we’ve had about focus and consideration of others – they’ve started to see how and why their lack of focus has been affecting their academic performance. Something is restarting for them, too – and for their friend D, who did the assignment and showed it to me, who moved away from the distracting place to the place where it’s easier for him to focus.
Something is helping with all this restarting, and I have to think it has to do with the joyful learning community we’ve been building. It’s not easy, and it’s not finished, and it’s not “perfect” in 20th-century terms … but it doesn’t have to be any of those things, and it probably can’t be. When you’re building and sustaining joyful communities of any kind, restarting is a daily need and reality. But it’s not as dramatic a restart as the computer kind, and it doesn’t have to cause frustration or delays. It’s just part of the community-building, community-sustaining process, and sometimes – like the laptop and the IWB Wednesday morning – there’s a communications breakthrough precisely when you think things are hopelessly stuck.
I wonder what breakthroughs and other adventures await us all today!