Being Nice: Not Just for Secretaries and Custodians Anymore

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Being Nice: Not Just for Secretaries and Custodians Anymore

The first thing you should know about running a 2.0 classroom is that the tech guys and gals in your district are indispensable.  They are the ones who fix computer glitches, solve network access issues, wire your projector, undo incomprehensible damage to operating systems, and control access to various websites.  Unfortunately, in my experience these individuals are unappreciated.  For your sake and the sake of your students, don’t make the mistake of taking these important people for granted.  Here are some simple guidelines to keep in mind to foster healthy relationships with your techies.

Acknowledge and Appreciate

Welcome your tech people into your classroom community.  Whenever Scott or Derek walk into my room to fix something, I tell my students exactly who and how amazing they are.  Something along the lines of “Hey Guys.  This is Scott and he’s here to rescue our mobile lab from immanent destruction.  Say hi!” works great for my high school students.  I then thank Scott or Derek profusely and have students thank them as well.

Take an Interest

If you’re comfortable with computers and networking, then use the language when talking with your tech people.  In help requests, refer to components as monitors, CPUs, VGAs, and not that thing that sticks out of your computer with holes in it (huh???).  If computers make you squeamish, then it’s really important to ask questions.  Be careful not to take this too far.  Tech guys are busy and probably don’t have 20 minutes to spend explaining how your interactive white board (IWB) works.  But asking questions that can be answered in less than 30 seconds will help you AND help them.  See if they can teach you how to overcome minor issues so you can call on them less and free up some of their time for the BIG problems.

Be Patient

Tech guys are busy.  I mean BUSY.  In our district, we have 4 techies to catch all the problems with

  • 100+ SmartBoards (one for every classroom plus a few extra)
  • 100+ teacher and administrator laptops
  • at least 10 stationary computer labs
  • at least 5 mobile labs
  • 5 Satellite TVs
  • and the network that holds it all together

Our guys run between the high school, middle school, 3 elementary schools, and the administrative offices answering requests as fast as they can.  If it’s going to be a real inconvenience for techies to show up during instruction time, put in a request for them to come during your planning period.  But if I were you, I would be grateful for any appearance they can make.

Never complain about “how long” it took your techies to show up.  If you don’t get a response to a request in 2-3 days, then send in another request.  Politely refer to your outstanding request, but don’t be rude or impatient.  The tech department, like all of us, has to prioritize, and if you’re problem is relatively small (your projector has to be refocused every morning, for example), it’ll probably be put towards the bottom of the list.

Ask Fellow Teachers for Help

If you run into a problem – especially with hardware – ask the teachers in your hall if they know what’s going on.  This not only saves your techies time, but it also improves relationships with colleagues.  Perfect example: at the beginning of the year, my projector stopped automatically reading my laptop.  A special ed teacher suggested that I hit Fn+F7 (your computer settings might be different!), and the projector started reading my computer again.  3 months later I helped 2 other teachers with the same problem.  Rather than waiting 2 days to get help with a really simple issue that would have hurt instructional time, we addressed the issue within less than 5 minutes AND freed up the techies to take care of really big problems.

A Little Goes a Long Way

Techies (and yes, techies is a term of endearment, not an insult!), just like secretaries and custodians, can make or break your classroom.  While very few people would go out of their way to make your life more difficult, you will find your support staff quicker and more eager to respond if you treat them with basic courtesy.  Get to know your support staff early and try to take 2 minutes out of each day to take a genuine interest in their well-being.

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