Sunday, March 5, 2017

When Tech Doesn't Tick and Deadlines Loom Large #SOL17 Day 5

March marks the month-long Slice of Life Story Challenge. 
Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers team for sponsoring this month's challenge and for promoting the writing life. 

Imagine an apocalyptic scenario in which just about everything that can go wrong with technology in a teacher's life does go wrong, and you'll have a pretty good notion about the kind of week I had the first week of our third trimester. 


I began working on the requisite recommendation for a student applying for the Presidential Scholars Program. It's an extensive application process, and I soon realized that my part--with a deadline Tuesday, 5:00 p.m. EST--necessitated uploading information I could procure only from administration: a school profile, etc. I texted Jena, my go-to girl (boss) for all my last-minute needs. 

I continued working on the reference, which one submits on a platform that does not allow saving information. Fortunately, I'd already written a letter for Emma, the student, so I had some work done. I saved responses in a Google doc until I had the information from Jena, which would be finalized on Tuesday. 


I took my laptop, a MacBook Pro, to school so I could keep the Presidential Scholars site open as I compiled and uploaded the information. I had to upload the school profile, Emma's transcript, and her AP scores--all official documents. 

I had Emma read through my responses and make a list of additional information I needed to add. That's when I learned Emma is a National Merit Finalist. I had no clue. Emma is humble and doesn't like bragging about herself. It took some stern coaxing to get her to agree to divulge information. 

Finished, I hit SEND. 

The site returned me to the transcript upload and in blaring red letters proclaimed: THIS IS A REQUIRED FIELD. 

Undeterred, I hit SEND again. And again. And again. I tried uploading the file in a new format. Still nothing. 

I tried calling the number given for assistance. No answer. Instead, a directive to email. I emailed and soon received a reply indicating the site was experiencing technical difficulties, and the deadline had been extended until the March 1.

The battery on my laptop was nearing the red line mark, and I had not brought the power cord with me. I sent a student to the basement to find a cord, which she did. 

By this time I had long ago reached panic mode. 

Since I had made significant changes to my responses in the required field boxes, I commenced putting all the information into a Google doc for saving. Remember, the site has no save option. 

I informed Emma of the problem. 


Once again I hauled my laptop to school, but this time I took the power cord. I arrived early so I could have my deja vu moment. I tried logging onto the network. Nothing. I turned on the desktop to check the internet. Nothing. 

I called the district help desk and learned they were having tech problems. This has been a common theme for the year, and I have had to call many times for numerous reasons. I was not humored by this latest issue. While on the phone, the internet started working. I begged the tech to leave everything alone until I finished the Presidential Scholars reference. I requested that the tech department get the internet working to the standard of a third-world country. Then I hung up. 

I finished uploading and submitting responses and hit SEND. Once again, the site booted me back to the transcript upload with the vivid message: THIS IS A REQUIRED FIELD. 

I felt tears begin welling in my eyes as I reached for my phone to call the site helpline. Lisa answered. 

Lisa is an angel sent from a divine being who showered grace on me at a time I needed it most. I explained my issue and the district tech debacle. Lisa explained that I needed to wait until the upload windows indicated that the uploads were complete. They had never shown that message but had constantly shown an uploading 100% window. 

A couple hours later, I was back on the phone with Lisa as the upload had not yet completed. 

I decided to refresh the window to see what would happen. That caused me to lose all the uploaded information and also realize the internet wasn't working on my laptop. I set Emma to working on reloading the information, and I finished it during lunch. 

At that point I was able to finish the upload. I called Lisa to inform her my reference was complete. I left a voicemail, and she called back a while later to ensure Emma had also been able to complete her 21 page application. 


Yes, there's more. 

I arrived at school and had planned to work on grades. I'm determined not to get behind this trimester, and I needed to finish setting up my grade book and record some grades. Almost immediately, Chrome crashed. I restarted the grading program. Chrome crashed. I restarted the program. Chrome crashed. 

I decided to try another browser. I opened the grading program. Firefox crashed. This happened a couple more times before I decided to do something else. 

I did not call the tech department. They have heard from me often, and I'm tired of talking to them as rather than deal with the problem, they always want to treat it as though I did something wrong or haven't done something I should have. None of the problems this year have originated with me. I've discussed this with our district building tech, who is always helpful and accommodating. 


At such times of frustration wrought by technology, I think of this poem by Richard Brautigan: 

All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky. 

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms. 

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.


  1. Love the poem!! Oh my, what a week you had. Truly, the only part that really matter was getting that Presidential Scholars application in - and what a herculean effort that was. I suspect Thursday would not have bothered you if you hadn't already shed so much "technological blood". Here's hoping this next week is smoother!

  2. I am sorry you had such a week. Tech people can be impatient. It's something I tried hard to avoid when I was doing it, but let's just say they have good reasons to be impatient (though I'm sure you never gave them any, knowing you). If it's any consolation, at least we have discovered the culprit! What a story this week, huh?