Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Saga of the Copy Machine

I wrote before that Friday was a normal day for me. This was true: I went to classes and assisted the teachers, instead of visiting for the first time or going to a trip to Bonn. My first class on Friday, however, was one sympathetic teacher away from being an unmitigated disaster.

Friday is my long day, starting with a class at 8am and going almost straight through until 12:30pm. I recognize from the start that this is not a long day to anyone (or any teacher) who works full time, and I know my complaints can be called "whining" without the least bit of untruth. Having said that, it's a stressful and early day for me, with a range of ages (13-18) and a range of different levels of English to keep in mind.

My first hour on Fridays is the 10th grade class with the boy who laughed at my English. The teacher for this class asked me to bring in a story in English. I decided on "The Lady and the Tiger" by Frank Stockton (it's good, I recommend reading it), and presumed she was going to use it later in the year. I presumed wrong. She was planning that I would teach the class on Friday, and I found this out at 7:55 on Friday. To make matters worse, I'd thought I could quickly print out and copy the story before class started, so I didn't even have a paper version, though I thought I'd been clever in bringing my USB drive so I didn't need an internet-connected computer to print it out. Ha.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti's Proserpine was the picture my high-school textbook used to accompany the story of "The Lady and the Tiger" and I present it to you as an accompaniment to my own story.

The teacher assured me that she could take over for this class and we would plan on me teaching on Tuesday. I could take the class time to print and copy the stories, then give them to the students before the end of the class period, which is forty-five minutes long. Plenty of time.

I discovered earlier in the week that the computers without internet needed a username and password, and so dutifully asked the nearest teacher what those might be. She sent me to the secretary, who told me there was a general password and I should ask the teachers. I found another teacher who gave me the password and I plugged in my USB drive, only to find that the computer is running old software and can't read the file. No problem, I got the story off the internet in the first place, I'll get it off the internet again. Scurrying into the storage room with internet-connected computers, I discovered that they need a separate, individual username and password, for reasons I do not know. Back to the secretary, who tells me that someone else is in charge of those and I can find him in the smaller teacher's lounge. I can't. Thankfully one of the student teachers kindly allows me to use his account for the moment, so I chase down the story, copy it over, add a bit of vocabulary at the bottom, and print it out.

Now to copy. I ask one of the teachers I'll be working with later that day to tell me how to use the copy machine, and she tells me that I first need a copy card. Europe in general is attached to environmentalism, and so teachers at the school must purchase a card to make copies, thereby encouraging them not to do so. The secretary tells me my first card is free, and I should initial it so as not to lose it. Obstacle #1: overcome.

The teacher and I go back to the copy machine, where I attempt to make my one-sided stories two-sided in order to save paper. After five minutes of hunting for this option, we make a trial copy, which proceeds to jam up the copy machine and cause it to beep loudly while I'm scrambling to find the source of the problem. A technically-inclined teacher happens by and sees our difficulties, so he stops to help. We un-jam the copy machine, re-find the one-side-to-two-sides option, and try again. This time the machine beeps a little song and the words on the screen inform us it is out of paper. The paper closet, conveniently located right next to the machine, is also out of paper, so one of the teachers went downstairs to the supply closet or somewhere and found another box. We load the paper and finally make my thirty copies. It feel like too many, but when I count, there are indeed thirty copies and thirty people - twenty-nine students plus the teacher.

By this time class has finished and I hurry back to the classroom to find everyone gone. The teacher assures me that all is in order and I'll teach the story sometime next week. She insists that I don't worry about it. The day goes well after that except for accidentally being too informal with a member of the testing board for student teachers. Once she hears I'm American, she's not offended. Thank goodness for that.

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