A Year of Morning Thanks
My son is a grad student in film studies, I should know how to show a film. But I'd never done it before in class--spun a dvd out of a computer, through a projector, and onto a screen. I wanted that film studied, so I'd put in bookmarks to mark the spots I wanted shown. I had the procedure down. I swear, I had it down. I like technology, but I've had more than my share of miscues when I rely on it in class.
I got there early. I got things set up before the class was supposed to start. I plugged in all the right cords and hit all the right buttons. Nothing worked. The clock was ticking. Nothing was working.
I told a student to run to the tech people just down the hall and grab someone, anyone. The computer kept telling me that the disk was locked, kept bumping me back to the opening screen. That blasted dvd just wouldn't run. It had never been so peculiarly obstinate before. And now we're ten minutes into the class period.
I start lecturing, shooting from the hip. I hadn't planned on talking about Native American history, but the topic is roughly connected, and with my technology under the surgeon's knife, I've got absolutely nothing else for a back-up plan.
My techie savior rushes in, and initially she's powerless. The blasted thing keeps refusing to show the video. I keep looking back up at her when somewhere around 1880 and the Dawes Act, this whole blame lecture coming right out of the seat of my pants. The students are looking at me as if they want their money back, and I understand.
Finally, she says she's got it running. She's got it going in some other software, not in the program where I'd so deftly tucked all my bookmarks. Okay. Deal. We'll do it like the old video casette days and just press the fast forward button indefinitely. But the blasted software only crawls forward. Big deal. It's better than more off-the-cuff lecturing, even though I'm almost surprising myself at how well I'm doing. The students still look like their getting cheated.
I push the fast-forward button until we get relatively close to the passage where I want to be, and hit "play." No sound. No shit--no sound. I look at my equally distressed techie. She shrugs her shoulder and runs out to get some other savior.
By now we've got fifteen minutes left, and I tell the students to open to their books--I wanted to read through a couple of poems but only after discussing the film. We'll try find some other way to fill the exasperation.
Suddenly, I've got two techies, one of whom discovers that someone had pulled an obscure wire out of the back of the projector or boom box or whatever--hence, no sound. Now at least I've got sound. But it's also 1:45, and the class ends in five minutes.
I tell my students to leave. It's hopeless, and I feel like a abject chunk of old carpet.
So what's there to be thankful for? Failure? Okay, failure. But I'm not some sweet, Sunday School moralizer. I suppose I could say that my ineptitude (it really wasn't my fault; it was, in fact, a tech problem) is humbling, and that I'm a better human being this morning for all that abject failure.
Sorry. That's not what I'm thinking. All I'm thinking is that to my students, whose derision was written in bold face all over their mugs, I'm an aging, bumbling klutz.
Not in my entire life have I simply blown an entire class period because of tech failures--not in what's getting uncomfortably close to 40 years of teaching.
Maybe the thanks is the fact that I'm up even earlier than usual, determined that I'm not going through that again. Determined. Maybe that's what I'm thankful for this morning. For not sleeping well.
Maybe I'll just say I'm thankful to know that the Lord will forgive my sin this morning, the sin of not being thankful. There. Amen.