Monday, October 13, 2008

Teaching with Elmo

Today was my first day back at school in a week, 9 days to be exact. Not only did getting back to school alleviate my guilt of not being there, but it almost made things seem normal again. Not being able to drive myself yet, my wife not only took me to school this morning, but she carried up everything for me. She even forced me to use the elevator, which I would have likely avoided if I were on my own. Stairs to me are not just more adventurous on crutches, but they are a form of "rehab" for my recovery. Once in my room, there was much to do to get ready for the day, including rearranging my room to accommodate me teaching from my desk with a document camera, known as an "Elmo."

As she kissed me goodbye and left the classroom after getting me perfectly set up, I knew I was on my own the rest of the day. I felt momentarily sad and helpless. That is until the first student came in for help saying, "Hey, Korpi! Glad you're back. How are you feeling, anyway, I have a few question on the homework from last week . . . . ." I barely had a chance to talk about how my knee was still rather swollen and that I was still enduring constant pain and discomfort but that I was nonetheless glad to be back before I was solicited for math help. Yep, I knew I was back.

And so my day went, as each new student trickled into class, they'd ask how I was, I'd reply briefly, succinctly, and as humorously as possible. Students were there to learn math, and I was there to teach it to them. Discussion about my knee, the infection, stories of my hospital stay, etc. were kept to a minimum. As each student entered the room, their warm up problem was displayed on the data projector as usual and the quote board was filled with the typically healthy dose of new sayings, aphorisms, word puzzles, vocabulary words, and even limericks. Yep, they were glad to have me back. It was interesting for me to watch them try to find their seat as they entered the room. As a result of me teaching entirely on the data projector screen as opposed to the dry erase board on the adjacent wall, my wife had turned each desk ninety degrees to face the projector screen, making rows out of columns and columns out of rows. Most classes simply sat in an analogous configuration to what they previously sat, but some sat in the exact same spot, so that their old front row spot now put them near the back along the left side of the room.

Luckily for me, my old TV producer was kind enough to deliver the "Elmo" from the filming studios, which enabled me to be off my feet the entire day. To improve the visibility and increase the contrast, I turned off the lights in the classroom so that the only light source was the projector on one end and the sunlight coming through the windows on the other side. It felt a bit strange looking out at nothing but silhouettes of students as I instructed, but I still knew they were out there, awake, I wasn't sure, but physically there, I was certain. Not only was there a soporific risk of slumber by students because of the darkened room, but I noticed that teaching from a stationary point does not inspire the same quality of bombast or levity as does teaching from a more commanding, upright, mobile position. Although I did my best to be enthusiastic and entertaining from by chair in the dark at the front of the room, partially hidden behind the tall arm of the "Elmo," I feel like I was somewhat boring the students, if not myself.

I do hope this is an ephemeral situation and that I can be back on my feet by next week, jumping around, delivering my math in the fluid, jovial way I'm used to. But if today is any indication, that day may be far away. As I finished the day, I was not only physically exhausted, blame it on the antibiotics and their anemic side-effects or the fact that I'm getting about 1 hour of sleep each night as I toss and turn writhing in pain as my knee throbs and throbs with each beat of my pulse, but my knee actually was more swollen, in more pain, and less flexible than it was at the start of the day--and I had done what I was supposed to, right down to using the elevator! I'm guessing that because I was sitting at my desk without my bad leg elevated (it would put me in a very uncomfortable position and make it difficult to reach the digital camera platform), the blood just pooled in my knee as it rested all day long 18 inches below my heart.

Tomorrow, I must figure out a way to keep my leg elevated above my heart, while writing 90 minutes worth of notes on the "Elmo," working through the pain and discomfort to deliver a coherent, cogent lesson that is also entertaining and stimulating all while I'm being observed by an assistant principal for my professional evaluation.

It should be an exciting day once again.


Anonymous said...

Gah! Sounds like a nightmare! Good to know you're back at school, though. It was a boring week without your bi-daily dose of humorous math lessons.

Anonymous said...

I know your students are glad to have you back at school. Take it easy. Let Elmo do the work for you. NO STAIRS!!