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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Loopbacks on the Last Day



Today was the last day.  My students were filling out their last day surveys (where I ask them to be open and honest and get 70% feedback that is helpful along with a few potshots!)  Most of them wrote their names on the anonymous surveys -- so much for anonymous!!

Then, we do the typical, "help Mrs. Vicki clean her room" and as the first class was tidying up around 9:30 am - POW - the Network went down.  I ran to the back room to check the server -- CRASH, it was down - couldn't even get the monitor to come back up -- it was bad!  The students kept cleaning, meanwhile I pulled a whole slew of dust bunnies down on my head, shirt, and pants!  As I dashed between my room and the back server room, I kept being interrupted:

Do you know the network is down?  What is wrong with it?  When will it be back up?


Really, I don't mind people telling me the network is down.
  Despite what some think, I spend a LOT of time with students and so twitter, blogging, and often email are not part of my daily routine during the school day.

But, if I knew what was wrong with the network - it would be fixed.  And if I knew when it would be back up, I wouldn't have this look on my face like I'm about to steal the schoolbus and go to the mall!

Right away, I knew what it was.  As I looked at the network traffic - it was most definitely the infernal, the detestable, the ignorant waste of time but fatal loopback error.  Now, not being a super-guru technie person, I'm not sure if that is the technical name, but that is what I call it.  Sort of like a microphone squealing when it is caught behind a speaker, this happens when both ends of the same network cable are plugged into the wall!  As the switch sends out its gentle "ping" (a tiny packet of data) - it loops back into the network, creating more and more traffic until it literally pings itself to death!

After 30 minutes of pulling cable and checking links, I felt gross - all those dust bunnies!  So, I reached to my automatic hand sanitizer dispenser - nothing.  Room next door - nothing.  Teachers lounge -- nothing.  It was the last day, after all.  So, I ran back to my room and not thinking, I put my infernally hard, but dusty head up under the hand sanitizer dispenser to look into the bowels of its workings when - "shhhhhh" -- it dispensed right in the middle of my forehead!  Well, my head was sanitary!

After an hour and a half, I called my technical guru, BloughTech down in Cairo, Georgia -- they'd have someone down after lunch.  So, I ate lunch with my friends the other teachers.  And then we went to a meeting. 

Loopbacks of Life


Sometimes the parents aren't upset, and things are just fine - but everyone is so tired and cranky that we channel tired, cranky behavior into the system.  Everyone else is tired and cranky so they give it right back.  It is a loop back error.

Mama always told me never to make decisions when I was overtired or overemotional.  That means I have to be extra careful on the last few weeks of school!

Every teacher I know is overemotional on the last day. Sure, we're ready to get out for summer break, but in many ways, an empty classroom is sort of like an empty nest for parents who love having kids.  Something is just missing.  The vibrancy and life and laughter and learning -- it is part of who we are.  And now that I have the teaching bug, I really am most happy when I'm teaching.  The last day is great but it is also very very sad.  Those kids empty out and a welling emptiness fills me that won't top off until August.

Yes, I need some rest - desperately and in fact, am writing this blog post at 11:45 pm at night while my graduation movie renders.  This will be my third night this week up past midnight!


So, those of you who might just wonder how my network got back up - my friend Charlie from BloughTech and I had to unplug everything and I set up my laptop to continually ping my internal server (cool trick - just go into the command prompt by going to Run --> type "cmd" then type ping yahoo.com -t and it will keep pinging until you type command C -- or ping google.com or your server or whatever) -- anyway I had to watch this pinging to see when Charlie plugged something in that knocked down the network.  It was pretty instant.

Turned out, I had not one but THREE loopbacks.  We found the first two and Charlie was about to leave but on a hunch rewired a few cables and bam - the network was down again -- we unplugged and started pinging again -- then, the naughty nasty cable was found -- IT WAS UNDER CHARLIE's FEET under the rug in the front of my room-- one side was in the wall and the other came out the other side of the carpet - someone cleaning up the front of my room, instead of plugging it in the computer, plugged it in the wall!  After all - it looked neater that way!

So, we got the network up and I got back home around 6:45 pm -- yes, that is right 9 hours, NINE HOURS, after it happened.

Here are some conclusions I drew from this:
  1. Loopbacks happen - With humans, they happen when the people plugged into the system are overtired and overemotional.  The only way to stop the systemic errors is to UNPLUG them from the system, at least temporarily. Sometimes it means delaying the meeting.  For me it means delaying MYSELF with a little lip control.

  2. You often need someone to help you when you cannot find the loopback -- feel comfortable asking for help from someone who knows more than you do.

  3. Listen to the person who you've asked to help you - particularly if you're tired and upset and they are not!  I was ready for Charlie to go at 4 pm and thought we had it fixed.  If I hadn't said, "OK, Charlie, do what you think needs to happen" - I would have been in tomorrow and the network would have still been down!

  4. Sometimes the answer to problems is right under your feet. -- Look in the obvious places.  You don't have to travel across town or across the country to find your answers -- you might see that an answer to a nagging problem can be solved or fixed by the person who is next door to you.  Take time to look local - you might be surprised.

  5. Sometimes the right way for something to work is messier than the wrong way! 

  6. Sometimes well intentioned passersby try to help and end up hurting.  Let people who really understand things help fix it!

  7. Realize when you're over the top that this too shall pass.
You know - I'm upset right now.  I feel alone, tired, exhausted, underappreciated and defeated.  But sometimes my feelings don't line up with the truth.  And when I'm in the last few days of school - particularly the last day of school with students, like today, I have to make myself wait to make major decisions and pull back when I feel ready to call Tonto to my side so we can charge into the melee.  Now is not the time to take it out on my fellow compatriots.

You see, I love these teachers.  They're not perfect but neither am I and if I was in a pinch, I'd want them to be beside me.  They are good people and they're doing their best.  Often they don't realize when they've totally wounded me but I probably don't know when I've done it to them either.

Today I finished up my seventh year teaching middle and high schoolers (before that it was adults and college) and to be in any place for any period of time it takes a whole lot of forgiveness.

You see, systems flail and die under loopback errors.  And to help this school thrive and succeed, I have to sometimes realize that my own exhaustion can bring the school and others down and should have enough sense to say -
"OK, for your good and mine, I'm going to state my opinion once (if I really have to) and let it go."

Remember, teachers, that you will make it.  There may be some policies that are being changed for next year that you hate with the fire of a thousand suns, but you've had policies you've hated before and you made it.  So, keep on going and remember why you do this.  Your students may be scattered to the four winds for now but they'll need you in August, whether they know it or not.

And the best thing you can do to be a good teacher in the fall is to UNPLUG - at least for now.

Keep the faith, teacher, and remember your noble calling!


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