What’s in the box? Episode 2 (One of the 25 jobs)

Someone taking our picture was odd for the times, it was the school photographer with his giant square camera and his blinding flash. Even as an adult, I feared him and his box of combs.

Someone taking our picture was odd for the times, it was the school photographer with his giant square camera and his blinding flash. Even as an adult, I feared him and his box of combs.

I peel another photo out of the memory box, ill-named, as there are things there I do not remember at all. Hand-written scraps in script that don’t ring a bell. Sad things, those little photos you get at funeral parlors, with a Psalm on one side and the dead’s picture on the other. This picture is a happy thing, and it rings a school bell! There are some old computers in this classroom,  and yes, that is a 5 1/4″  floppy drive on the desk, along with a dot-matrix printer. This stuff would replace the IBM Selectric Typewriters in a few short years. For now, it was like something out of Star Trek.

I spent a school year volunteering to help out in the new (first) computer lab at the kid’s elementary school. I did this because like computers and figured I was capable of the task; it seemed the least painful way to be a part of the school (read: not much interaction with other authority figures), it would enhance my resume. But I mostly did it for selfish reasons. I needed to know what my little angels, just down the hall, were up to, and this gave me a little glimpse.

I can’t remember the little girl’s name but she was my favorite. She had a calm demeanor and really liked the computers. I liked hearing her call me Mrs. Roth. She had the audacity to chew gum, and I never stopped her. We had an understanding.

This picture is so old, not every was on board with computers in the classroom, and entire PTA meetings would be devoted to the topic. Today the questions lean towards “Should we still be teaching cursive writing?” I feel Bernice shaking her head.

This was the same grammar school I attended I as a child, the school I was supposed to walk to the day I had to be bailed out. The only kid who needed a map for grammar school, that was me.

The notes on the wall said things like “plug in before use” and “do not use with wet hands.” The difference between keyboarding and word processing was painstakingly written out.

My glasses kept getting larger and heavier each year.The color of cough medicine, this particular pair  had a liquid look to the rims and were likely the “daring “ pair on the rack when I bought them. The photo proves I took the advice to dress casually to the next level. Sometimes we crawled around on the floor to plug things in, we were our own IT department. My daughters were in grade school and I still appear to be wearing maternity clothes. The teachers all wore skirts and nylons, so it was easy to separate the grown-ups.

I took this assignment without knowing I would be the only adult in the classroom. Since the job was titled “Technology Aid” I somehow expected to be aiding someone. Since I was an Audio Visual Aid Society member in high-school, I figured I could surely keep a room full of networked computers running for a couple of hours a week.

This was during the time I also sold Avon. I did these things because the thought of a full-time job and child-care was overwhelming, but also, I liked doing them. The kids in the class were little enough to enjoy learning and were respectful, except one or two that you already knew were going to spend most of their later lives in some form of detention.

They let me have coffee in the teacher’s room, an empty room save the coffee pot that made twelve cups at a time. Primarily a place where teachers went to smoke, I enjoyed feeling connected to the education world by hanging out after class. A few of the teachers had me as a student, and I couldn’t believe they were still at it. I would last one year in this volunteer position.

One more thing, that kid raising his hand in the back of the room? He probably just needed a reboot. I didn’t yet know it yet, but I did, too.

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