Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Hurry up & Wait – My New Interactive Whiteboard: Part II

By on August 24, 2008

So, I had my online training.  I met the Whiteboard sales guy in my classroom to discuss where the board is to be mounted.  I talked with my principal to develop an interactive whiteboard presentation during our first staff development in an attempt to drum up excitement amongst the somewhat less-than-tech-enthused staff.  I spent time over my summer developing my own curriculum for the first quarter: pulling out my books, pacing my units, and choosing those individual static lessons that I will expand into Interactive board lessons.  

It wasn’t long, however, that I began to suspect I had wasted my time.  The odor of bullshit was in the air…



It all began when I eagerly met the sales guy in my classroom for the board’s fitting. My excitement was immediately given a reality check because that was when he first mentioned the possibility that we wouldn’t have our boards for the first two weeks of school, “or so.”  My happy anticipation for the opportunity to use 21st Century tools in my ELA classroom descended from Defcon 1 to 3.  He mentioned something about being booked, his kid starting Kindergarten, and other such reasons that he wouldn’t get the boards to us by our deadline.  

In fact, I have since heard a rumor that our actual date to receive the whiteboards will be more like 2 1/2 months from the start of school. Thus, the free time I have had to create lessons for the first quarter has been wasted and the lessons that I have created are null and void.  In addition, when I do receive the board I will have had no time (and, I bet you, no prior heads-up notice in advance) to prep lessons to use immediately.  What the delay will be between installment and actual use will be based on what I can develop in my free time.  Down my excitement goes to Defcon 4, combined with a whole lot of “harrumphing.”   

This all actually got me thinking about deadlines, timelines, and the question of private industry buy-in in support of the educational system.  We in education are never surprised as to the slow, almost Pangaea-pace that schools, districts, and the state moves in order to get anything done.  But I can’t help but wonder about whether private industries work the same.  

I mean, if I were the CEO of a corporation rather than of a classroom, would I have received my board within 24 hours?  Or, once again, did my enthusiasm and I get betrayed by our own profession?  Did the district not get the paperwork out on time?  Did a contract that needed to get signed sit on a desk through the summer?  Or, which is equally possible, when faced with a salesman with apologies and excuses, did we cave like the Florence Nightingales that many of us seem to be and say, “Oh, it’s alright.  Just get it to us when you can.”  

In business, it’s, “Can you get it to us by our deadline?  No?  Well, then, we’ll be talking to your competitor.” But in education, we seem so grateful to be working with private industries that we demean our own money by treating ourselves like we don’t deserve to be exact with our requirements.  One year I got new carpets installed because the ones I had were 30 years old and frayed like Miss Havershim’s hemline.  The workers left it unfinished, but the school didn’t pursue it because it was “good enough.”

So how can I blame the whiteboard company when there is evidence to prove that somewhere, in the district, the ball was dropped or not insisted upon?  There are times, after all, when a school ought to be run more like a business.  Our clients are in need.  Our employees are in need.

For the enthusiastic teacher, it’s like we’re living that sketch of Lucy and Charlie Brown and that damn football:

 “Here, kick the football Charlie Brown!”=”Here’s new technology that will make teaching more engaging and easier!”

“Don’t worry, Charlie Brown.  I’ll hold it for you.”=”Don’t worry teachers.  Get excited.  Start working now and we’ll train you and support you.”

Needless to say, time and time again, whether it is for the newest technology, the textbook classroom set that should have arrived a month ago, or the broken window that should have been fixed at the first work order, the educational football is pulled away just when we begin to believe the promise.

Down to Defcon 5 we go.  And so the school will have lost its most prized possession: an enthusiastic teacher with buy-in for change.

Dear Interactive Whiteboard or District guy: All I ask at this point is that you call me in advance when I’m getting my board.  And, please, don’t arrive unexpectedly in the middle of my 3rd period class to do it.  I will have developed some engaging ELA lesson and we will be in the middle of some activity, laughing and learning the old-fashioned way.  

And this time I’ll make you wait. 


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