Real skills include troubleshooting

I’ve joked all year long that I’m going before a judge to have my middle name changed to Troubleshooter.

I’ve always introduced myself in chats saying I teach journalism and English, but I’ve added some classes I’ve invented and I’ve come to look at teaching a bit differently. Now I like to think that I teach kids, and they teach me. My classes consist of intro to journalism, newspaper, which now includes online, yearbook, English and digital communications.

I have a Mac lab that looks pretty impressive when students first walk into my room, but truthfully, when I have two publications staffs and three other classes of students who aren’t sure how to use a Mac using them, let alone the other software on it, little problems creep up. This one won’t load GoogleDocs, those four no longer recognize the color printer and that one over there can’t seem to find the Internet. InDesign constantly crashes on the one closest to the server. All year long, if it wasn’t one thing, it was 12 others. We worked our way through most of the problems, some of which were simply that our school doesn’t have enough bandwidth this year. But that’s coming soon.

The real test came last week – production week for our print issue. The newspaper staff had stayed until 10 p.m. the night before laying out pages. This is known as Late Night. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun, and this was the last one of the year – the last one for my two senior co-managing editors, my dynamic duo. The following day, Wednesday afternoon, the staff was to tie up loose ends, do final edits and meet a publisher’s press deadline of 5 p.m.

Five minutes before school was over, the power went out briefly – several times – then everything went dark. We stayed in this dark limbo, wondering how  we were going to get our baby to press, for about a half hour, when the power came back on and things looked good. However, there was no Internet. We were told it would be back up in about five minutes, which stretched to a half hour and more before we finally decided to call the publisher and push our deadline back a day. Instead of delivering that Friday, we wouldn’t be able to deliver until the following Tuesday. The advantage was that the awards assembly was the next day, and we could include our school’s biggest award, the Crossman, on the front page, which was good. This would take the place of a story that had never materialized (that was bad). That was one of the loose ends that needed tying. Everyone went home with intentions of finishing up Thursday.

No Internet Thursday. It was clear midway through morning newspaper class that we needed a plan B. By this time, co-ME Foster had already begun experimenting with the hotspot on his phone, so they continued working that angle. Co-ME Skyler finally succeeded in downloading final story drafts from GoogleDocs and images needed for reviews onto a laptop. Other items simply had to be retyped from another source. At last the paper was complete, the pages were PDF’d and saved onto a flashdrive. The editors drove to the local paper who said we could use their facilities for anything we needed. From there the kids FTP’d their pages onto the publisher’s server.

We received our final issue on time Tuesday, and it’s probably been the most read issue all year.

In all, the district went three days with no Internet, and the entire debacle has been blamed on a squirrel, may he rest in peace. But few grownups were at peace those three days. We are entirely too dependent on the Internet. I spoke with one frustrated school employee who was having to work around her usual way to accomplish her tasks, and I know attendance and many other tasks we take for granted had to have been very difficult to implement another way. However, once again, students have proven their resilience to me. We think they are all so very addicted to their devices and wonder what in the world they’d do without their connectivity. From what I have seen, they’ll find a way to do what needs to be done. When they are the ones in charge, and they know that they are, they get the work done.

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About teachjournalism
I am a high school teacher of journalism, technology and reading. I advise the school's newspaper and yearbook, both student-led publications. Documenting and sharing my experiences is a way of reflecting to improve my own work and and inviting commentary so that we might all benefit. I believe, as I tell my students each year, that we all learn from each other.

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