Nothing puts me in a good mood first thing on a Monday like having to traipse over to another building in the pouring rain because a teacher forgot that YouTube has its own mute, and that they pressed it last time they watched a video.
I walked into an unlocked classroom yesterday to diagnose a reported printer problem, and sat for 15 minutes at a teacher’s unattended, logged-in workstation, with their car keys and iPhone 5 sitting cheerfully on the desk next to the mouse.
Now, last time I encountered this level of wilful ignorance of security, I emailed the Head from their account to resign, drove their car out to the nearest clifftop, and left it there with the door open and engine running after sending a text to their spouse reading “GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD”. However, my parole officer has been discouraging me from this sort of behaviour, so this time I just locked their workstation and left them a post-it note.
I think I might be going soft in my old age.
Recently I wrote some code for our Intranet that issues somewhat blunt reminders to teachers who don’t have their attendance registers done on time (or in some cases, at all).
This has historically been a problem for us, and despite marked improvement in the last year since we changed our electronic registration system, I was keen to finally eradicate the problem forever. However, aware that my usual tone does not always meet with universal approval, I consulted senior management as to whether I should word the reminders more… diplomatically.
Their response could best be summarised as: “f*** diplomacy”.
I’m thinking of having the email framed.
Question: How many teachers does it take to turn on a projector?
- One to claim it’s broken when they try to get their presentation working 2 minutes after assembly starts,
- one to send a student to fetch the technician, and
- one to tell the technician that they’ve now found the remote as soon as he arrives.
Recently I was informed that the DVD drive in our geography teacher’s computer had stopped working. Specifically, it had stopped reading DVDs and started making horrible clunking noises whenever a disc was inserted.
Our geography teacher is quite technology friendly, a trait I’ve noticed in a disproportionate number of geography teachers, so I had no reason to doubt him; even less so once I’d heard the noise for myself.
Assuming mechanical failure, I dutifully swapped the drive with that from the identical computer in the next room, confirming that the problem followed the drive in order to expedite the replacement process with Dell. It still made the horrible noise, but when opened the tray to confirm it still wouldn’t read a disc, this is what I saw:
Yes, this DVD drive had an acute case of “That Shouldn’t Be There”.
The office phone rings.
“Hi, I’m in the IT lab and I’ve got the projector on, but it says ‘no signal’, is there something I need to do on the computer?”
“Look to your right. What do you see?”
“And on the wall?”
“There’s a bit of paper that says How to switch the computer onto the proj… oh. Right. Oops.”
“Glad I could help.”
I have a policy that any software purchase by anyone in the school has to be done through the IT department. There are several stated reasons for this:
- To check that the software actually works on a domain with a non-admin logon.
- To check it doesn’t have ridiculous copy protection measures such as having to have the CD in the drive (our lab machines don’t have CD drives).
- To ensure we shop around for the best price (instead of being suckered by a single overpriced supplier who happened to send a mailshot to a teacher).
- To make sure we actually buy the right number of licenses (we’ve all had requests to install single user editions on an entire lab – or more – and refusal often offends).
However, there are also some unofficial reasons. One of these is to make sure we’re not wasting the school’s money on utter junk. Another reason is to prevent the situation we had this week:
- I was passed some new software for install that had just been bought by a department head.
- I looked at the CD case and realised I’d installed software from this manufacturer before so it would probably be nice and easy.
- I looked a bit harder and realised it was in fact the same software I installed before, that we had owned a site licence for since before I worked at the school, and that was installed on the department head’s computer in 2010.
A quick visit to the teacher in question revealed that the software was in fact on the Start Menu under their department folder, and was working just fine.
They had just forgotten it existed, and never actually used it. Still, it made for an easy install.
Last term we had a lot of problems with missed deadlines for school reports, which resulted in almost every single form’s reports having to be rerun from our electronic reporting system. This caused a lot of hassle all round, even for me, since at the time the software was up the creek and would take about half an hour per form even when run on the fastest computer in the school.
Guess whose computer is the fastest in the school?
Today, I suggested that for this term’s reports we implement a hard cut-off date for report writing, with the condition that “cut-off date” means “if you miss the date, we will cut your head off”.
I’m not sure the suggestion was well received.
Teacher: “When do you think they’ll finally make computers that never go wrong?”
AngryTechnician: “The same time they start making children that never throw up in your classroom.”
Teacher: “You must feel like your job is never-ending with all the things that go wrong.”
AngryTechnician: “You get a new class of kids every year, surely yours is never-ending too?”
Teacher: “Don’t you ever get sick of working with computers?”
AngryTechnician: “Don’t you ever get of sick of working with children?”
One of the odd things about working in a school is that the majority of the staff all have exactly the same profession, and almost all of them enjoy their job and view it as a career (except for the rare miserable git who is only still teaching because they’d otherwise be unemployed). Sure, there are specialist teachers for different subjects, but they are all teachers, and that makes it very easy for them to relate to one another. This mutual understanding breeds a mentality where they forget that it’s quite normal not to understand some of your co-workers jobs. They look at the rest of us with puzzlement, and begin to assume, even if only subconsciously, that everyone else in the school who isn’t a teacher must be unhappy in their job, or find it very frustrating.
Therefore, I must look at them and long to be a teacher. My job must be horrible, and be absolutely nothing like teaching in any way. In fact, there are some interesting similarities. We both spend all day attempting to convince our charges to behave and follow instructions – charges that are prone to sudden strops without warning, produce large amounts of hot air when there are more than a few of them in one room, and generally respond badly to physical violence (as much as we would wish otherwise).
For the first 2 years in my last school I was asked if I wanted to become a teacher on an almost fortnightly basis (often by the same people). It only stopped after I started responding, “No, I hate children. Why else would I work in a school?”