Sue Clark: Technical schmechnical, an old-school teacher learns hi-tech tricks | TheUnion.com
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Sue Clark: Technical schmechnical, an old-school teacher learns hi-tech tricks

Forty years ago, I was a young teacher not much older than my junior high students. I taught English at a Southern California junior high in Orange. Clicking around in 2-inch heels, nylons and dresses (we were not supposed to wear jeans), I hung out in the work room, high on the smell of purple ditto fluid.

Dittos, and the advanced skill of thermofaxing (burning a ditto original) occupied much of our break times. The dittos were then handed out to each of my English classes (average 33 per class) and heartlessly preserved my typos, much to the amusement of the students.

Forty years later, the copy machine and I are once again facing off. In the most comfortable and friendly teachers’ workroom I’ve ever known. I am determined not to whine for any other staff to walk me through making copies. In fact, when I approach my mechanical nemesis, other teachers are suddenly buried in their own work, eyes averted. God bless them; they have assisted me repeatedly over the last two years.



One, in fact, had told me gently that “I had to learn by doing it myself.”

I’ve struggled through a steep learning curve upon starting to teach two high school classes at this school. I’ve already mastered writing up a worksheet or lesson on my laptop and sending it floating cloud-like to my printer. The day I sent one from my phone in the living room to the printer, I giggled with delight.




I have sweet students helping me learn how to stream a TED talk or a PBS Shakespeare special (again, one has gently told me he will watch me do it myself, so I will not have to depend on him).

I’ve also finally understood and used the digital grade book and have gotten to like it (it calculates grade percentages instantly, and I can attach the assignments for those forgetful kids — no excuses!).

Still, I again face Goliath with my stack of single-sided classroom rules, summer vignette assignment, and an opening research paper.

I note that it has been turned on previously. Once I was first in the room and waited uncertainly until the science teacher came in and showed me how to turn it on.

I creep up to the machine and insert my sheets on the top thing, because they have to be two-sided (“1 to 2” in Goliath’s language), collated and stapled. If I just need a one-page copy, I know I have to put it in the bottom thing on that glass plate. The right way for 8.5 x 11. Not the way I did it before, sideways.

OK. On the top — 1-2 — staple in top left corner: check!

But no. “Out of paper” blinks at me with a diagram of where to insert paper. I take off my glasses, peer at the diagram and push a button. Slowly the paper drawer opens; I thrust a slab of paper in, push a button and it whirs up to the proper place like an elevator.

Now, then: I ask for 20 copies, as my class size is more sane at this school. More blinking: PAPER JAM! Another diagram, off with the glasses, locate and rip out the paper.

Finally, success!

Triumphantly I tote the copies to my classroom in my little portable cart, at which the kids chuckle. A girl opens the door for me and class begins.

I pass out the copies, start to speak, but boy in the back makes a face between laughing and crying and asks if he can speak to me outside.

“I have to tell you this before the other students see it,” he says quietly. “You wrote for us to be sure and ‘proffread.’ I wanted you to know before the kids start joking.” Too late.

“I did that on purpose to see if you would see it,” I tell him.

He gives me that teen look; we walk back in and class begins.

Sue Clark works in an awesome school in Nevada City, and literally wears jeans every day. She lives in Grass Valley.


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