As my school is a boarding school, I am on duty two nights a week, which means after classes and sports, I need to proctor a dorm, attend dinner, and monitor the sixth grade study hall for my boys. At first, the extra responsibilities seemed daunting and formidable as an elementary school teacher, but after 13 amazing years, it’s like second nature to me. Sure, I wish I had more free time to develop my curriculum and see my family, but it’s valuable to see my students all throughout the day.
Yesterday, I was on duty. Everything started off fine. I did wake-up in the morning for the 16 boys in my dorm. I play the Hump Day Geico Commercial to help casually awaken them from their slumber. The boys got right out of bed and began preparing for the morning. Breakfast and classes were fine. Wednesday is my light teaching morning and so I only taught two periods out of the six. I accomplished a bunch of extra work I’ve been meaning to finish for days. It felt good. Early in the afternoon, after my basketball team’s practice, we received an email from our technology department that the Internet was going to be down for about an hour between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. as they were replacing the Firewall program. It’s a fairly routine happening, and so I wasn’t alarmed or concerned. I finished all of my work early and watched one of the other basketball teams take on a local rival. It was great to see some of the players I had on my team last year playing at a higher level. Then I went to dinner. It was super tasty. I even made myself an ice cream sundae, which helped get me pumped to procter study hall. All was well, until after dinner.
When I returned to the classroom to prepare for evening study hall, I attempted to check my email to no avail. The Internet seemed to still be down. I couldn’t go anywhere or load anything online. Oh no, I thought. What will my students do as most of their work is online? Perhaps it will come back online by the start of study hall. To make a short story super long, the Internet was not working all evening. It didn’t come back online until about 10:15 p.m. last night. Many of my sixth grade students could not complete their homework because of this issue. It was manageable but frustrating.
The big question is, what do we do if this happens again. Rarely does the Internet go down for us on campus. We are really lucky to have such a great technology department that keeps things running smoothly. However, when it does go down, it’s usually down for a while. So, then what? As we are a 1-to-1 laptop school, most teachers make effective use of the available technology. All of our assignments are listed online and most writing occurs via Google Drive. What do we do when it goes down and stops working? The boys can’t complete their work or find out what it is in some cases. Although our sixth graders have a hard copy of their planbook in which they document all nightly assignments, most of the other grades do not. How will they complete their work? If they don’t do it, it sets teacher’s plans back. Then what? Should we rely on the technology as much as we do? Is it the most effective way to educate and prepare our students for meaningful lives in a global society? Since the world relies on technology and it will rule the world one day very soon, it seems fitting that our students should know how to effectively operate that technology. How can we balance that with the other skills? Do we need to have a campus-wide Plan B for when the technology doesn’t work?
As a faculty, we need to address this. We already have three tech free days as a school that we manage quite well. So, we must be able to navigate the waters well enough. Last night seemed frustrating but doable. However, our students were then a bit behind with their work today. So, what do we do then? We need to be more flexible with our due dates. If we want our students to focus on the skills and objectives, do due dates really matter? In the real world, will you lose your job if you don’t finish a task on time? Perhaps, but maybe not either. What really matters: Preparing students for lives in a global society or being sticklers on due dates? Let’s focus on the skills, objectives, and quality of work and let’s be lenient on due dates. This way, if technology goes down, the students won’t get punished for something that’s out of their control.