This is not an easy topic to write about. It’s taken me a while to actually put into words this horrific experience. But if it can help at least one person out there, it will be worth it.
A few weeks ago I got to work and I could tell something was amiss. Right away. Because people were conversing with one another.
No one was hulled away in their classrooms staring at their laptops. People were in the halls. Communicating.
I knew it was going to be bad. But really nothing could prepare me for what I was about to learn. We were without WiFi.
Oh. My. God. Excuse me? But then I thought obvi this was some sort of sick joke. I figured it must be April 1st or something. But when I tried to look up the date, I couldn’t. Because there was no WiFi.
At first I tried to play it cool. Oh it’s not a big deal. I’m sure it will be back up lickety-split. I mean, after all, this is CPS. The Chicago Public School system. Known for it’s state of the art everything. It would be back up in no time.
Then I tried to take attendance. I could not. Because there was no WiFi. I had to find a sheet of paper and a writing utensil and jot down 100% attendance on it. Then I had to have two students walk it down to the office for me.
They were like, what? You want me to take it where? Who do I give it to? What do I say?
I had to be honest with them. I do not know. I’ve never been in this situation before. All I could do was wish them well.
Then I tried to pull up my lesson plans. But I could not. Because there was no WiFi. Who knew google docs required an internet connection? Not me.
This is when I got nervous. What the hell am I supposed to do with these students all day? Everything I do in my classroom requires technology of some sort. I actually had an escape room planned for that day. The kids were looking forward to it. But now what?
Well obvi I’d have to show a movie. I mean what were my alternatives? But when I went to pull up Netflix, I realized that didn’t work without WiFi either.
So using my super amazing creative teacher skills I searched the closets. And I found exactly what I was looking for. An old-fashioned DVD. Now all I had to do was figure out how to make it play from my laptop to the projector. After about a half hour I had that movie rolling.
<wipe sweat from brow>
I explained to the students that instead of the super fun escape room I had promised them, we were going to play an even better game. It’s called “1987”.
We’re going to spend the entire day pretending we’re living in the late 1900’s. Like when I was your age. It will be so not fun. And there will be lots of eye contact. It’s going to be awkward. But it will be a lesson in perseverance.
There were tears. And then one especially bright child asked how we were going to play this game when there was no color in 1987. It was all black and white. And this is just one example of why teachers should be allowed to drink on the job.
Shit got for real, real when it came time to order lunch. We had to send notes back and forth to one another. Like neanderthals. Sending students across the hall with hand written notes. My hand is still cramped.
What are we getting for lunch? More importantly, how are we ordering lunch?
Another teacher had to step into the hall and place the order via telephone. She had to have an actual conversation with another human being and explain that I wanted my tuna on rye with extra mayo, cut in half, with the pickle on the side. But the real kicker came when the delivery man arrived and we had to pay cash. It’s just no way to live.
By this time I had had it. I’m in a union. I have rights. Surely these working conditions violated something in our contract. I’m a teacher, not a miner.
When I approached my Assistant Principal and explained how I was going to file a grievance, she asked me to calm down and take a few steps back. Apparently I was “invading” her “personal space”. I normally just email her. I don’t know what is socially acceptable anymore. None of us do.
She politely explained that we did not have WiFi. But we did, indeed, still have “the internet”. I’m still not quite sure what the hell she was talking about. It was obviously her way of trying to use complex concepts that she knew would intimidate me as a way to undermine my valid concerns. And it worked.
My AP is lucky. I would have filed that grievance. But there was no WiFi and I didn’t know how to go about such a task without it. And my union rep was on the other side of the building. So that was not an option.
I just thought it was important to share my story with anyone else out there who might be experiencing something similar. This is not an easy subject to talk about. But this is 2018 and it’s time we start the conversation. You are not alone.