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When the Lights Went Out

Yesterday, when I went into work, I turned on my Smartboard and computer, as is my routine.

Something was off, though.

At first, I thought my computer wasn’t working properly.

One look at the monitor told me otherwise.  The computer was working fine.

It appeared as though the Smartboard wasn’t lighting up as brightly as usual.

Uh oh.

I played with the projector’s settings.  The projector is mounted from the ceiling, by the way.  This makes it nearly impossible to get into it to diagnose problems.

I tried to manually brighten the screen, but nothing really worked.

Ugh.

I immediately sent an email to the technician assigned to my school, and I made do the best I could.

A helpdesk ticket was submitted, but I was told that the bulbs, which cost about $600 each, were on back order.

Ugh.

I have taught every day with that Smartboard.

When I write my lesson plans, I used the “approved” template in Microsoft Word and create a Smart Notebook file to accompany each week’s plan.  Both weekly files get added to my school’s network drive for safe keeping.

Not only do I use the Smart file to engage my students, but I use the information as visual cues for the lesson itself.

After the helpdesk ticket was submitted, I crossed my fingers.  The technician had mentioned that I teach Intensive Reading and am prepping my kids intensely in the two weeks we have left before our state reading exams.

Today, my projector was in the same condition.

I taught first/second period (all of my classes are blocked).

I began teaching fourth/fifth period.

I had already planned on spending fifth period teaching the second Reading Endorsement lesson I had created for this final certification class.  A fellow teacher was giving up her planning period to come in and film…for the second time.

So, during fourth period, I began teaching what I was teaching to my other classes during their second hour.

I turned off the lights so my students could see the internet sites I was trying to show them.

As my back was turned to the Smartboard, I heard a loud POP.  It sounded like a balloon had popped, and it scared the bejeepers out of me!

I turned around and looked up.  The power button on the projector was flashing red.

The entire Smartboard darkened.

Ugh.

What to do?!

Fortunately, my students were going to be working in stations, so I called out their station assignments, and we got down to work.

Meanwhile, the wheels in my brain were turning.

What was I going to do about that lesson plan I would be filming shortly?

I had created a separate Smart Notebook file for it.

The first plan I’d filmed had been filled with a lot of “um’s” and “uh’s” due to my nervousness and reliance on the written script I’d prepared.  Hence, the Smart file.

Which I now could not display on the Smartboard.

Part of my lesson required a punctuation highlighting key.

When the bell rang for the break between fourth and fifth periods, I quickly grabbed a large pad of paper…the kind you see teachers write on and tear off and tape to classroom walls.

I recreated the punctuation key and grabbed the highlighters I’d bought.  I added the color that the kids would have seen on the Smartboard.

I also grabbed my iPad, which I’d decided at the last minute to take to school with me, and wirelessly connected to my desktop using a free program called Doceri, which I’ve used in the past.

Doceri allows a user to control another computer remotely, so the user can be walking around a room, see what’s on the desktop via the iPad, and actually change screens or do other stuff from afar.

Though I couldn’t show my students the cute pictures, charts, and text that I would have shown them with the Smartboard, I could look at my iPad for the visual cues I needed.

I’d had the foresight to prepare hard copies of the items I had planned on showing on my screen, so my students had everything they needed up close.

Thankfully, my knowledge of “teacherly” things had recently grown to include the bit about kids needing things in front of them to manipulate…highlight…interact with, if you will.

Whew!

Those packets saved my behind!

Although I feel as though the lesson was rushed, my friend who filmed it said I did a better job teaching it because I wasn’t so tied to a script…the language flowed naturally.

Meanwhile, my angst grew because I still had one more class to teach, and this class needs to be constantly engaged to keep them under control.

I went with the flow, even when the kids were disruptive, which really had nothing to do with the Smartboard not working but with my mental attitude about my technology woes.

I was still discouraged after school.

I wasn’t sure if or when I would get a new bulb.

Then I checked my email and saw that a technician had been assigned to take the bulb out of the projector in an unused room next door and install it into mine.

The technician is supposed to make the switch first thing Wednesday!!

Yay for answered prayers!

Yay for administrators who haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be in a classroom and quickly approved the request for the switch.

I learned a few things today.

First and foremost is to never rely on technology to teach my lessons.

While I’m comfortable with the content, I think I’ve grown too dependent on the bells and whistles that my district has been blessed with.  How quickly they can go away!

A second lesson is to always have a Plan B.

I kind of did, which worked out well.

The third lesson I learned is to not let mishaps throw me off of my game.

I became quite grumpy, and it affected my ability to calmly deal with a class that is already difficult.

I allowed those kids to get under my skin today…all because my board wasn’t working properly.

Grrr.

One thing I will say is that I hope that the district finds a way to pay for the maintenance that our new technology requires.

Technology is supposed to enhance learning, and teachers can’t implement such mandates without the tools to do so.

Watching the lights go out today made me have a new appreciation for teachers of old…teachers like my friend, “Dinosaur,” who taught the good old fashioned way with paper, markers, and lots of sass.

While the Waters Were Rising

While the waters were rising in town, on the beach, and down the road hundreds of miles away, I was home.

My school district had cancelled classes for the day because of the risk of tornadoes and flooding.

Fortunately, we only experienced minimal effects.  I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, though.

For today, however, it meant that I had been given a gift of time.

The beginning of the school year is extremely hectic, and with this only being my third year of teaching, my lesson plans are still things I struggle with.

It seems that the more I learn about differentiating for various learning styles and disabilities, the more particular I become about getting everything into my plans.

Added to that nervousness (not wanting to leave anyone out), I am creating student-friendly presentations in SMART Notebook, the software that goes with the new SMART boards that were installed in March.

So, if you combine my overachieving tendencies with my tech-know-how, you’ve got one busy gal!

I must say, though, that I am pleased with my efforts, and my students seem to be responding well.

One thing I am very cognizant of this year is time.  Last year, my lessons constantly ran over, and my students grew very frustrated at having to be let out late.  We only have five minutes between classes, so it’s imperative that I let them out on time.

Thanks to the procedures I am putting into place, students are mastering the routine of retrieving and putting away their working folders.

The agenda is my responsibility.  Here’s a sample of what I create for each day…

Precise, eh?

I’m learning how to flow…cutting minutes where I need to.  Surprisingly, though, I am managing to get most things accomplished.

Students seem AMAZED when they see everything we need to do.  When they start giving me trouble by talking too much, I point to the agenda and warn them that we WILL get through it, even if that means that they don’t get their five minute break between sessions.

That usually works.

😀

An activity that gets my students going when they walk into class is the bellwork.  I began giving them Rebus puzzles to activate critical thinking, stretch their phonological awareness skills, and help them begin learning new figurative language phrases.  Eventually, I will help them create their own (an activity idea I borrowed from another reading teacher).

The kids LOVE these and even commented about how they are a favorite activity!

Another thing that’s a MUST in my SMART files are the standards (put in student-friendly language) and essential questions for the units…

I try to show these to my students every day of a unit plan so they stay focused.

I’ve been using a lot of the new tricks I learned during technology training (layering and grouping is the name of the game) to create fun pages in my SMART files.  The following is a quick little review I created last week…

When I tapped on the screen, the correct answers appeared…

Here’s a fun thing I created to help my students master the art of previewing text.  My goal is to help them recognize text features as tools that authors use to organize information and aid comprehension…

When I tap on each colored rectangle, students will see the following…

As you can see, I love to use color.

What I discovered the first couple of days of school was that I was trying to share too much information on each page, so I needed things to stand out.

So that, my friends, is a snapshot of how I spent my day…how I spend my time when I’m at home.

I am constantly working on lesson plans and creating these SMART files.  My hope is that next year, I’ll have these files to use and won’t have to start from scratch.

Fingers crossed!

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