I was prepared for the day. I had my handouts copied. I had my lesson book up on my screen to ensure I knew what classes I was teaching and when. My online quiz was ready to access for my students to take. I read my morning emails, downloaded the bulletin, and took my home room attendance.
Then the unthinkable happened. Our access to the Internet crashed.
As my students filed into first period they were all abuzz with the fact that there was no Internet. How would they cope? How could they take their quiz that they had studied so hard for? How would they be able to check Facebook at lunch? The horror of it all!
Much to the disappointment of my class, I had another project for them to start. The quiz could wait until Monday.
At varying times during the period students opened their laptops and seemed to be surfing.
“Why is your laptop open Steve?” I asked.
“Um, I don’t know really.” Steve replied.
The Internet is a bit like a drug: the mindless surfing, the mindless sharing, the multitasking, and the multi-window conversations. Our hands need to touch the track pad. We need to click between windows. We need to not fully engage in anything for we might miss out on something!
My students survived. They were fully engaged in their project. They talked, laughed and discussed the Causes of World War I in ways I’ve never seen in previous classes.
Maybe it was just the group. Maybe it was the task. Or maybe for the first time in a long time, they weren’t distracted. The choice was made for them. And even if they had tried to sneak a peak…there was nothing to peak at.
What did I busy myself with? I wandered the room listening. I engaged them in small group discussion. I let them alone. I cleaned off my desk and filed away copies of tasks. I finally got those Geography 1 books covered.
But then my students were off to their next class. I sat in my classroom alone in the quiet. The tasks I wanted to do for planning…couldn’t do them without the Internet. Couldn’t get caught up on the emails, the grade book, my student portal pages, attendance, or enter lessons for next week in my planner.
Oh no! My planner! I had no idea when my next class was going to be. It is the beginning of the school year and I haven’t memorized my schedule yet.
I walked to the office to get a copy of my timetable. Other teachers were wandering the halls with no certain destination. They too were struggling with the clear mind space that can only be found with the absence of the Internet.
This situation has only happened once in the year I have been here. Our systems here are so reliable that you really don’t need a plan B. In other schools I have worked, breakdowns in the networks were a frequent occurrence. But the exercise of living a day without the Internet Super Highway was a good one. We need to be more mindful. We need to create space within the day or week to be offline.
It is ok to set limits for students, and ourselves, when it comes to the time spent being online. It is ok to show our students, and ourselves that some tasks are really done better the old-fashioned way.
Instead of screaming at the IT people about the fact that you can’t do anything without the Internet, embrace the moment to be mindful and see what the empty space brings.
What do you do when the Internet goes down at your work place?