- Using the resources around you when a lesson isn’t going as planned can help you overcome the obstacle.
- This post shares a story of the importance being able to adapt when a lesson plan doesn’t go your way and the transparency that helped Jesse understand he was in the right place he needed to be.
My 4th grade teacher was upset, so much so that several beads of perspiration fell on the overhead projector transparency. The entire class and I saw the sweat bleed into the red Vis-à-vis ink, blurring out the word problem in a lava lamp, like nonsense that nobody could understand. The class focus was off. It could’ve been a combination of the school air conditioning system going out or the tragic death of Selena Quintanilla. Hailing from deep South Texas, we all knew where we were when the news broke. I was staring at a bare wall that projected a transparency. In an attempt to make magic out of this newfound technology, I stared at the “x” for multiplication warp into a “y.” My teacher would wipe her forehead and more beads would dribble down on the transparency.
Sonia, a girl that wore different colored Chuck Taylors every day, kicked me and double-nodded her head to our principal in the corner. Our school principal sat on a wooden stool in the far corner of the classroom. He sat there, quietly evaluating my 4th grade teacher. Maybe she wasn’t upset, but nervous.
If somebody was staring at me the same way he staring at my teacher, I’d be nervous, too.
I quietly pulled my hand out of the bag of gummy bears I was hiding under my desk and raised my hand up in the air.
“Miss…excuse me, miss…it’s very blurry, the screen,” I said.
“Maybe you need to get your eyes checked!” she spat back. I’m not entirely sure if she literally spat back or if it was just beads of sweat jumping off her forehead. However the case, she was right. I really needed to go to the optometrist. As a shy 4th grader, I didn’t want to tell my parents about my poor vision.
Suddenly, the overhead projector bulb popped and the class was immediately engulfed in a sea of darkness. Our classroom walls were plastered with laminated Lisa Frank dolphin and Discovery shark posters. We really were engulfed in a sea of darkness. Our principal flicked the classroom lights on, snarled at us, told us to behave, and behave we did. He handed our teacher a new overhead projector bulb. He continued to evaluate her on how she would overcome this obstacle.I had to think on my toes for a way to teach without WiFi, the same way I had to power on a 1-hour set of jokes where nobody was laughing. Click To Tweet
“Hi class, welcome to Digital Interactive Media! It’s a joy to see you! Have you ever heard about how magazine covers use Photoshop? No, you say? Well, Photoshop is an industry program that we’re going to learn all about today. You see, Photoshop adds filters and can truly enhance an image dramatically. Are you ready to learn with me?” I envisioned a formal observation had to be picture perfect and for that reason, I would rehearse my opening hook in front of my bathroom mirror for hours.
I practiced this opening hook the same way I had rehearsed my opening monologue of jokes. Prior to teaching, I attended graduate school and paid for it by doing standup at coffee houses. I’d scribble my own jokes on index cards, memorize them, and slam it out of the park or just get slammed on stage. It was always a 50/50 gamble and it was an absolute thrill. I’d take my hat off and it would get passed around to different patrons and sometimes I’d earn $20. On really outrageous days, I’d earn $75. The gamble was that I could’ve had a hard audience that wasn’t laughing or vibing with my jokes and yet I’d earn $75. You just never knew.
Just like I didn’t know that come time for my formal observation, a couple things would go awry.
I stood at the front of my classroom lab that mixed with PCs and iMacs. My 10th grade students gazed up from their backpacks, some still settling into their seats.
“Hi class, welcome to Digital Interactive Media! It’s a joy to see you! Have you ever heard about how magazine covers use Photoshop? No, you say?”
“Sir, isn’t Photoshop kinda like Instagram?” Eric, a 10th grader questioned.
“No…um…” my eyes dodged behind the student and at my principal who sat at the far corner of my classroom lab.
“Is Photoshop kind of like Instagram? Well, Instagram is what I usually call my grandma when I need to get a hold of her…instantly…Instagram,” I quipped.
The class erupted in laughter. I giggled, too. It was more of a nervous giggle because I really didn’t know what Instagram was.
I returned to my opening hook.
“Well, Photoshop is an industry program that we’re going to learn all about today. You see Photoshop adds filters and can truly enhance an image dramatically. Are you ready to learn with me?” The class stared back at me, emotionless.
“Let’s get to our computers and log into Blackboard.”
“What are we going to do? Nothing works. There’s no WiFi,” Eric yawned back. The class erupted in laughter.
Beads of sweat started to build on my forehead and upper lip when I realized that the school WiFi had just gone off.
My classroom computer lab was basically invisible and almost unusable now. I looked at my principal. She smiled back at me. I smiled back, however, it was more of a please-help-me-type of a smile. Eric, the class clown, began to fumble around his backpack and I immediately knew two things: he was looking for his cell phone and his behavior would be contagious to the rest of the class.
In just a matter of seconds, I could inevitably lose the class. Lose classroom attention, lose classroom management, lose respect, lose it all. I had to think on my toes for a way to teach without WiFi, the same way I had to power on a 1-hour set of jokes where nobody was laughing.
One of the funny things was my classroom lab was a storage facility for all things old technology.[scroll down to keep reading]
After making several failed attempts to get the WiFi going in my classroom, I noticed a vintage overhead projector was off in the corner, right on top of a stool.
I walked over, past my principal who continued to evaluate me. I pulled the dusty plastic sheet off the stool, revealing the projector with bare transparencies.
And I quickly plugged it in then turned off the classroom lights.
“What is that?” one student quickly chirped faster than a tweet.
“Is that making the classroom hot?” another student added.
“It’s an overhead projector from the 90s,” I added.
“Are you crying, sir?” Eric yelped.
A bead of my sweat fell on top of the overhead projector transparency.
“Class, they used to use this back when I was 10 years old. I haven’t seen one of these in forever. My teacher would write with these markers and her hands would get all stained with the ink. She’d hover over like this and beads of sweat would fall all over the transparencies,” I slowly choked up as I looked at my principal.
The classroom bell rang. My students got up and walked out.
“I believe I bombed that class,” I muttered to my principal.
“Two things: we don’t say ‘bomb’ in schools and you actually did a great job at recovering from a lack of WiFi. You kept teaching, you overcame that obstacle and became resourceful. You’re going to do amazing things.”
I wiped the tears from my face and looked down at my overhead projector transparency.
About Jesse Fidelio
Dr. Fidelio is a Technology Integration Coordinator for the Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District, Texas, USA. With over 10 years of experience, he’s a former English 4 AP/Dual, Technology Applications, and IB Film teacher. To pay for graduate school, he worked part-time as a production runner and stand-in for ABC Family. He also did stand-up at various coffee shops; his biggest event was in Miami, Florida.
Dr. Fidelio’s fascination with production and making people feel good was at the core of his love. His passion was to be the teacher students needed. His Doctoral studies have taken him backpacking in the lush jungles of Honduras, trekking across through a chandeliered Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, and walking among deer in the island of Itsukushima, known as Miyajima (Shrine Island).