People keep asking me how many days I have left, as if I have a terminal medical condition. They seem disappointed when I don’t have an answer. I don’t count. I’ve never counted. Now that we have three weeks to go with a day off for Memorial Day, the number comes easily of course, but in a few days, if someone asks, I will have to pause again to calculate. It’s not like I’m striving to drink the most from each moment, though that does happen occasionally. And I do try to enjoy every sandwich, as the late singer Warren Zevon advised when interviewed about his terminal condition. 

The next question that invariably arises: what are you going to do after you retire? I shrug because I have never been much of a planner. I wouldn’t call myself spontaneous and certainly not adventurous, but I’m averse to mapping out nearly any kind of destination, which is why I don’t budget and why I hate outlines and why I don’t pay attention in meetings. But I need to dredge up a better answer because people must think I’m pathetic. I can finally pursue my dream of going to medical school. I’m going to be a movie star… a rock star.  I’ve told people that I wouldn’t mind delivering potato chips to stores. I’d get to drive around in one of those trucks without a driver door and banter with customers who smile when they see all those bags of chips—and the product is light and won’t strain my back. You can tell I’ve given this some thought! I feel compelled to try something entirely different from teaching. Suggestions are welcome. 

Another crazy week of AP testing and low attendance. One student sent a Tweet during a break in one of the tests and potentially voided the scores of our entire school, and this after hundreds of hours of classroom time and early morning study sessions. The AP gods decided not to nullify the entire slate. Who was more relieved? The multitudes or the Tweeter? 

I spent every free minute cleaning out filing cabinets. I may not be a planner, but I am a collector. And 31 years of files provides its own history lesson. 
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First there were mimeograph machines, which seemed ancient even in 1981. But the fragrance of that ink! 


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Then my documents went straight from my snazzy electric typewriter with the light touch to the photocopier. No personal computers yet. I can’t quite remember what that was like, other than we used to be much more careful when typing.


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With the advent of personal computers came dot-matrix printers. While mimeographs provided pungency, these newfangled printers offered a satisfying rhythm, which shook desks with their urgency. But no one misses dot-matrix, especially lining up the holes at the end of the perforated sheets to the pronged rollers, which caused some cussing. And the quality was a step down from the typewriter.


Not much has changed since laser printers appeared in the 90s, except for speed. A ten-page document back then might take about three minutes to print. 

My found collection of computer disks offered a similar history. Personal computers began with ugly 4” by 4” floppy disks, which magically spun when they worked, which occurred about fifty percent of the time. I remember making a big show of crushing and shoe-grinding one of these disks at the beginning of each semester to remind students not to store their only copy on those pieces of crap. Next came 2 x 2 disks that were sturdier and somewhat more reliable, followed by thick zip disks that really did zip along. Now, everything will be stored in some ether cloud that I don’t quite understand and that will come with its own hurtles, I’m sure. The cloud is down? 

As you may have surmised. I both love and hate technology, and nothing better exemplifies that than the cell phone. While cleaning, I came across my first phone, which I’d brought in to show. But that phone could only make and receive calls. That’s a throwback I’d welcome. We teachers must constantly battle the “smart” phones for attention, and this doesn’t seem like a fair fight. 

Other items found: notes on napkins, which seems cliché but it’s true; plastic overlays for the overhead projector; a few handwritten tests; old versions of tests that I never intended to use again because I’d revised them; paperclips that had rusted the corners of papers. 

What kind of warped security did I achieve by keeping all this stuff?

 


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