My first year in Cambridge, I was all about technology. I wanted to learn everything, be cutting edge, ahead of the curve. I even thought maybe I’d become a Technology Integration Teacher at the end of those two years. It started fast: one day a large SMART board arrived in my classroom and two days later was installed. My friend IG who was the Tech-Integration Teacher, did a workshop on cool tools to use with the SMART board– some of which to this day when I click on, bring her to mind. She was my guru, I her sage. I absorbed everything I could, priding myself in the ability to trouble shoot as the first line of defense.
But that first year, I was not as savvy as I wished to be and there were many glitches in my shift from a Windows OS school district to the Mac OS school district, I now worked for. During this time, I’d be mid-class, mid-back-to-school-night, mid-presentation and something would happen with the technology and I’d email IG for support. Her response time 98% of the time was faster than the speed of light. She’d arrive with multiple solutions and teach me what to do next time this happened, all with a smile on her face! Now, it wasn’t a couple of times that I’d send her these emails requests mind you, it was throughout the day, sometimes even into the evenings! All the subject lines for these emails would be marked URGENT. Well, because there were, in mind. Whether she saw them this way or not, was not relevant to me. I needed a solution and I needed it then and there. Perhaps, she enabled me a bit in the beginning by flying in like Supergirl and fixing it all like magic. So, there I was a spoiled lil’ teacher o’ technology. A toddler, throwing tantrums marked URGENT. Never considering that she was juggling a million plates at the same time as receiving my messages. [Even today, she is the first person I think of and go to with a tech related question.]
One evening at Happy Hour, IG joked that all my emails to her were always marked URGENT. It wasn’t until she “joked” about it that it occurred to me that I was running around as if my life, my job, my current situation was life or death. (If IG didn’t fix it, I or someone in front of me would die!) That night I drove home, a little embarrassed, a lot reflective. Why did I feel that a problem equaled urgency? Why couldn’t I navigate it with calm? (I’m sure you could link this back to my childhood or even my DNA, if you wanted to, but instead of the why, I’d like to move to what happened after.)
Seven years have passed since IG, my Supergirl, and I worked together that first year. It’s a Friday, 68 degrees, early November. I’m sitting on the single bench in the courtyard which gets the most direct sunlight. I am warm, bordering on hot, but I don’t care. I am in the sun, it’s lunch time and I am calm. I flicker my eyes from the bright light and rest my head against the back of the wooden bench, feeling the eyes of passersby–students and faculty. Again. I. Don’t. Care. For I am calm. As I roll my head to my right shoulder, I see a familiar face and smile. It’s a colleague with her hands full of folders, papers. She says, “I wish I had time to do that today. I have to run and make copies and a bunch of other things!” I roll my head back and am reminded of the twenty-nine year old me who ran up and down three flights of stairs multiples times a day to get it all done, but was still left feeling inadequate, and generally shitty.
I used think all matters were urgent, marking them respectively, chasing solutions. Now, my favorite phrase to bring the hyperbolic drama of being a teacher back down to earth is: “I’m not performing surgery here, no one will die because I didn’t have time to make that copy.”
So Dear Ms. G,
Thank you for supporting me that year, but more than that thank you for making fun of my urgent emails! Your remark was the beginning of this shift for me and I can’t be more grateful!