The Tortoise or the Hare

Do you remember the smell of mimeograph copies fresh from the machine?

If you are under 40, I doubt you can.

It was a smell that, when you received that worksheet, made you want to hunker down in your seat and get to work.

When I first started teaching, we were required to make copies of our lesson plans (handwritten) with blue ink copy paper and place it in the principal’s mailbox before we left on Friday. It was required and a disciplined teacher knew exactly what they were doing the next week, further out to the month, and quite possibly the year.


Boy, how times have changed!

Back then, there were no phones in classrooms (even hard wired ones), no computers, no overhead projectors (except the ones that used plastic overlays), no internet…

Things were not easier, just different. Sort of like the methodical pace of a tortoise.

.Many say it was a simpler time, but was it really?

Students needed to find facts from encyclopedias (many with outdated information). Reports covers were hand made. Research papers required 9ibid, loc.cit., op.cit.) recordings on each page. We had international food fairs in Social Studies and tapped maple trees. We valiantly became French Canadian Voyageurs, even though the cafeteria benches served as our canoes.

Life was not simpler. It was predictable. Units were taught at certain levels.

Today, teachers work in a frenzy. High speed and driven by neuroscience markers, these goals are here today, and gone tomorrow. Information is changing at warp speed. Keeping up with innovations seems to be what is tough for the teachers themselves.

The other day, as I was re-teaching myself the nuances of Google Drive and Slides, I thought how hilariously funny someone would think my early classroom teaching days to be.

One stands out in particular. I was having issues with my gut and found that being the last classroom down a long hall to the teacher’s bathroom was a sweat-inducing harrowing experience. It felt like a football field. I knew I could not leave my class unattended. So, I attached a note to a yardstick, opened the window and waved it frantically in front of the windows of the room next door. The teacher, who’s class was at a special, opened her window, took the note, and strolled over to relieve me.

True Story!

When you needed copies made, you had to go to the mimeograph machine, lube up the mimeo inked copy from the box, and turn the handle to deliver the amount you preferred. Heaven forbid you wanted to make copies while someone else was waiting…the room could not hold 2 people.

And yet, for all of its primitive procedures, no one knew of an easier way and it was somewhat soothing to sit in front of the television at night and fill in the roster for your students in the record book and attendance book by hand. Calculating grades as a fraction and then a percent, often had me holding my breath when I methodically made note of each missed assignment, added a total, divided by point possible….It is what we did.

Teaching is not easier today. It is much more demanding. It requires constant updating, much like a computer, to stay on top of the current trends in students’ abilities. It requires teaching with intentional focus, holding much of the wonder and magic at bay.

And yet, although numbers are dropping for those entering this field, there still is a calling for those who will heed that call and face the job with enthusiasm and joy.

Let's support all people who choose to educate kids.

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