Everything old is new again

One of the offshoots of my new teaching gig is the retro-yet-contemporary feel to my classroom; I have a ceiling-mounted projector with which I can utilize my school provided ELMO document camera. Anything from a single sheet of paper to a teachers edition-thick textbook can be placed under the camera and shown on-screen, and ELMO also projects computer or other electronic images. The camera itself is on a pliable neck and can be rotated, twisted and manipulated to point and focus on most anything in the room, so you can record and playback student presentations (or behavior!) and the like, as long as you have a memory card. A nifty little gizmo.

Unlike having a wall-mounted smart-board, however, the retractable projector screen that pulls down via a slim, white rope from its metal case mounted above the green chalkboard is somewhat less high-tech and tends to sway as I walk around it; my new technology meets 1965. Annoyance factor: minimal.

Yeah, you read correctly; I said chalkboard – there is nearly thirty feet of green pseudo-slate in the front of the room, slightly less than that on the back wall. I post info that can stay a while on the back chalkboard, but up in front of the class I spend a lot of time each day writing with chalk, and come home every day with chalky fingerprints and smudges in various pastel hues on my clothing and trailing little wisps of chalk dust as I go. Like the character Pig Pen in the Peanuts comic strip. Only…chalkier, and more colorful.

I feel so teacherish.

There are no dry-erase whiteboards in my classroom, no high-tech ‘smart boards’ ala the CNN election coverage set. I have chalkboards, different color sticks of chalk, and a pull down (“Filmstrip time!”) movie screen.

It’s working out quite well.

Let’s review:

Over my first three years teaching here in New Orleans, I have had three separate classrooms to call my own. The first room featured a smart-board that continually outsmarted the guys who installed it, as it never functioned properly, and the tech guys couldn’t get it squared away. I never had it functional for classroom use more than three consecutive days. A true waste of wonderful and donated technology.

It did, however, make a very expensive, super smooth easel and frame for all of the sheets of flip-chart paper I used that year.

My second classroom (same school, different grades) had no smart-board, but did have an overhead projector – but no screen, at first. Fortunately, the wall on one end of the room was white and relatively smooth, and a few sheets of that nifty flip-chart paper can tape together nicely to make a screen of sorts, in a pinch. It was moderately functional until the overhead bulb burned out and the school wouldn’t order me a replacement, so I scrounged one from an older overhead in a storeroom and used that until it too, burned out.

And boy, did I enjoy printing up all those nifty transparencies.

Last year I had a smart-board and an ELMO in my high school classroom, but ended up using the smart-board as simply my ELMO screen most of the time as the video and audio drivers in my school-issued laptop didn’t always play nicely with the software of the smart-board. We were able to make it through a few video presentations with the seniors without a glitch of some sort. A few.

Oh, those previous classrooms did have dry-erase white boards…sort of. One classroom had four-by-eight sheets of glazed bathroom wallboard attached over the original whiteboard. (I saw this all the time in my year as a sub around the area; when a white board gets damaged, they put the $9-at-Home Depot 4 x 8  sheet of waterproof wallboard up over them. This works fine at first, until the finish starts getting worn off, and the dry-erase ink doesn’t totally erase. Cheap, and oh-so-moderately effective.)

My whiteboards last year were damaged by custodians who accidentally used abrasive cleanser trying to clean off permanent marker. This left the whiteboard unusable, so they got most of the permanent markings off, then covered it with plastic laminating film. Like the wallboard, the laminating film works fine for a few weeks until the finish starts to wear and then all the dry erase ink doesn’t erase. Plus, in putting up the film, they had some big air bubbles and creases that never got smoothed out. Writing on a white board with numerous speed bumps led to illegibility, so I mostly wrote around them. This gave my board a somewhat Dr.Seuss feel, with sentences resembling roller coaster blueprints.

Did I mention that in the rooms I have had that did have smart boards, they were mounted in odd locations with skewed sight lines and also mounted over prime, usable whiteboard space?  That is also an issue all over the area; installation locales frequently defy logic.

This year, I’m doing quite nicely with my ELMO, slide-show screen, chalkboards and colored chalk – thank you very much.

There is one small glitch with my retro-feel set up: the chalk leeches all of the moisture out of my hands, and at the end of some days they resemble bleached-out beef jerky. Hand lotion doesn’t help much, as I mostly end up with pastel mud on my hands.

What I really need is good ol’ Madge, the Palmolive lady. Remember her? Her television commercials always featured Madge giving a woman a manicure; while she worked on one of the woman’s hands, the other hand was soaking in green, Palmolive liquid. When a dishwashing liquid was revealed as the cuticle-softener, the woman would inevitably gasp, and pull her hand out while Madge calmed her, and, laughing,  put the skeptical hand back in the Palmolive.

Okay, truth be told, it’s not just the dry hands that are really the issue here. Maybe I’m just looking for a manicurist who will take care of my hands the way Madge did. And no, this is not some weird Madge fantasy thing from my teen years. Madge never did much for me. But I digress.

My new school has nice copiers (that actually work – another rarity in my time here) available for teacher use, though we also have a bit of a throwback at our disposal: a Duplo duplicating machine.

Yeah, a Duplo. Remember the mimeograph machines of your school youth, the purple-inked, smelled-of-that-mysterious/mood-altering duplicating fluid? We have a much more contemporary version that lets you program various settings, adjust quality, much like a copier – and in black, not purple.

But this thing still uses a rotating drum and real ink and who knows what all to make copies. Each teacher has his/her own carton of ink that must be put in/taken out for each use – less some other teacher come along and use up your ink to make copies – so it’s not like just walking up to a copier, punching in some codes and hitting ‘start.’

I haven’t seen, let alone used one of these things, in at least fifteen years.

Its messy – most of the teachers I have seen using it wear latex gloves when handling the ink cartons – but the copy quality is good, and as we are apparently supposed to use it only for big copy jobs of thirty-five copies or more, so I probably won’t be using it much.

Still, I need to order my box of ink so I can relive the thrilling days of yesteryear today.

Then get a memory card for my ELMO so I can make my classroom as interactive as it can be.

And I need to find my ‘Madge’.

Hey, its 2011. Real men can get manicures – or at least blog about them wistfully.  All of that dusty chalk…


2 thoughts on “Everything old is new again

  1. Jill October 4, 2011 / 10:34 am

    You do make me smile. And, oh … the nostalgia you seem to weave through your posts.

    Keep on keeping on….


    • poetluckerate October 9, 2011 / 10:59 am

      Thanks, Jill. You should really enjoy the most recent post then. ;-{)


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