Friday, January 22, 2010

The Bethmeister is Makin' Copies

I volunteered in my son's first grade classroom for an hour today. Somedays, the teacher has me work with small groups of kids, other days, she has me make endless copies of mind numbingly boring worksheets. As a technologically inept former Kindergarten teacher, I generally prefer working with students, but today was a copying day. I know all too well how busy teachers are, so I was glad to help anyhow. I'm always amazed at how trusting the people at my kids' school are with turning parent volunteers loose without any training whatsoever on their laminating machines (where the only instructions posted are "Watch out! Machine gets very hot!"), die cut tools, and multi-thousand dollar copy machines. Now, I've used lots of copy machines in my day *puffs out chest with pride*, but this school has some seriously fancy and complicated machines-I'm a little nervous about being in the same room with them, frankly. Also, considering that I'm not good at figuring out mechanical things, much less beaucoup expensive ones, I'm a little intimidated at the whole copying for the teacher thing. (Side note here-we only JUST figured out that our little copier at work will colate/sort papers when the repair guy casually mentioned it. We've been doing it the hard way for YEARS.)

But, the expensive, fancy copy machines aren't the only reason that I find this task so intimidating. Xeroxing at school is a serious, competitive business, in which only the very patient, or very lucky succeed. See, unlike where I taught in backwater Mississippi, our suburban school is heavily armed with parent volunteers, all of whom are initiated into the Copy Club at some point with no instruction other than a vague description of the location of the machine, and the sticky notes labeling each paper with the number of copies needed. Competition for the 4 machines in the school is fierce!

So, clutching the manilla folder chock full of worksheets to copy, I leave the comfy classroom where the kids are listening to a story, and head for the First Grade Workroom. Score! I couldn't believe my luck as I peeked in the room, and saw no one else there. I quickly glanced up and down the hallway protectively, and rushed inside. My hopes were dashed as I saw an error message on the screen. I followed the directions it gave me, to no avail. I had no choice, but to look for another. As I left the room, another Mom came in-probably nearly giddy with joy at the sight of the empty machine as I had been. Once. I warned her about the defective machine, because I'm nice like that, and she thanked me. Eyeing me a bit suspiciously, she informed me that she had heard that the other machines were backed up. The pressure was on. We struck out in separate directions. I scurried off to the Second Grade Workroom. A large woman was defensively standing near the humming copier colating papers on the counter. Large amounts of papers. *sigh* "Oh, do you have a lot?", I said hopefully in a voice that sounded a little too high pitched in my own ears. "Yes, sorry! I'll be here for a long time", she said (a little too brightly, in my opinon), as she stiffened up her already protective posture. Well, so much for that one. I headed toward the next workroom, which I'd heard was in the third grade wing, only I wasn't exactly sure where that was. I wandered through the halls, warily watching for other parent volunteers with their own manilla folders. After finally locating the workroom, and finding it even busier, I struck out towards the office. I passed the Mom I had seen in the first grade hall. "Any luck?"

"Nope, you?"


"Well, good luck!"

"Thanks, you too!"

We rushed off, once again in different directions.
I couldn't return to the teacher job undone. Thankfully, the office lady took pity on me and let me use the copier there. Ahhhhhh! Victory at last. Stepping up to the machine, I nervously opened the folder. The sticky note on the first set of papers requested 10 copies of each, single sided. "Yes! I can do this!" I thought. I dove in to the task, only pausing to allow a volunteer who only needed three copies to jump in. ('Cause, like I said, I'm nice like that.) Afterwards, I got back to work. Oooooo! Twenty copies, single sided for the next set-yeah! Ocasionally, another Mom would step in, clutching her own folder hopefully, and I would eye her defensively (but kindly-'cause I'm nice, remember?) with pittying eyes, and say "Sorry, I have a lot!" I even figured out how to copy to pages at once and have the machine staple them-I felt like the copy master, I tell you! Ok, so I had "copied" and stapled 10 totally blank sets before I realized that I had put the originals in upside down. Oops. But, let's move on, shall we? Feeling qualified to work for NASA, I pushed buttons on the little screen and figured out how to do double sided copies. Correctly, no less! I was the Rock Star of Hewlett Packard operations, baby! Feeling pretty confident, I looked at the next set of papers. Multiple pages, double sided AND stapled. Uh, oh. I looked at the next stack, multiple pages, double sided, folded into books, and then stapled. *gasp* My brain started to spin as I tried to figure how to accomplish either of the tasks left in the folder. "Hmmm, let's see-I can do double sided, but will it sort them for me? How do I get it to do that? What if I get them out of order and stapled wrong-she'll think I'm a dork.", I thought to myself, starting to get nervous.

I looked at the clock over the door hopefully. Hooray! My hour was up. Happily, I returned to the classroom with about two reams worth of freshly dittoed (do they still call them dittos?) worksheets, and handed them over to the teacher. I kissed my son goodbye (they still actually let you do that in first grade!), and headed for home. I survived the Copy Game. Oh no, a roomful of 6 year olds don't scare me, but high demand office equipment does.

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