Thursday, August 30, 2012

I'm Dreaming iPads!

Last week came the moment the students at Cristo Rey have been anxiously awaiting - we handed out their iPads.

The logistics of the rollout were my responsibility, and I am relieved to say it went well.  There were a few bumps in the road - most notably a major run-in with the Apple fraud servers.  My account team forgot to tell me I needed to have the school's IP address whitelisted with Apple, and after the first ten or so IDs we'd create each day, the Apple fraud servers would start rejecting them.  Seems that if you create 80+ IDs in three hours from a single location, they think there's something fishy going on, and shut you down.  Go figure.

That frustration and the resulting cleanup aside, it was great.  I got to give a speech - 16 times; once each night at the class parent meetings, three times each of the following days to the split groups of students in each class.  I got pretty good at it, if I do say so myself.

My biggest kick has been watching the students as they work and play with their new devices.  The students of Cristo Rey are drawn from the inner city.  Over 95% of the student body is eligible for free and reduced lunches.  This means they usually just watch from the sidelines as something new and exciting hits the market.  Not this time - we are the first high school in Kansas City to deploy the devices to the entire student body.

One of the local TV stations covered the story (there goes 2 seconds of my fifteen minutes of fame):

Those who didn't get their iPads last week, have been trickling into my office all of this.  With big eyes and missing paperwork clutched in their hands, they tentatively stick their heads into the room.  "Can I get my iPad now?"  Their faces fall as I explain they may not miss any core classes to go through the setup process; I will hand them out only during study time and right after school.  But later, they come back and the magic moment comes.  I hand them their new iPad and 30 minutes later, they leave - faces beaming; iPad carefully held in hand.  (We did have one student learn the hard way that the devices don't do well negotiating the stairs on their own.   It still functioned, but the screen was crazed with cracks.  Good thing we have insurance for breakage on them.)

Me?  I'm exhausted, with a newly renewed respect for teachers.  Last week took a LOT of energy!

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I knew it wasn't a great idea, as far as completing my summer work was concerned, to take two weeks off for surgery in mid-July.

The school has completely turned its telecom infrastructure on its head this summer.  We got in a new telephone service provider, a new internet pipe, new wireless within the school, new internet and e-mail filters, new outsourced servers, new cell phones, and swapped out all of the teacher and staff computers for newer models.  And did I mention we're implementing a 1 to 1 initiative, and handing out iPads to all the staff and students?  All this had to happen after July 1, when the new budget year began, and I'm in charge of coordinating the whole shebang.

So, it's been no real surprise to me that since I've returned to work, I've worked long days every workday, and on 4 of the 6 weekend days.   I'm thinkin' this is NOT what the surgeon had in mind when he cleared me to return to work.  I'm about ready to drop.

Fortunately for what little remains of my stamina, school starts at the end of next week.  I lose the first three days next week to back-to-school staff/teacher welcome meetings, but because of the weekend work I've done, and invaluable help from my partners in crime in the tech department at school, I think we'll actually be ready to hand out the iPads to the students the week of 8/20.  (Those four days, full with handing out iPads during the day, and parent meetings in the evening, SHOULD mark the end of the excessive overtime for a while.  I hope.)

I work with computers and new equipment so often, the fun of getting a new gadget is lost on me.  Probably because I don't get to use the stuff; I just set it up and hand it off.  I've been reminded of the joy as I run into the kids in the hallway.  They're full of excitement and questions, anxious to make sure they've not missed anything in their summer packets that would keep them from getting their iPads on schedule.

The teachers are also excited.  They have been playing and learning; working on how to integrate the devices into their classrooms.

It's organized chaos, but it's finally looking like it just might come together.  **whew**

Monday, August 6, 2012

Happy Moments

Colorado Sunset
I've been working too hard for too many days in a row since going back to work after my surgery, and tonight a good friend lured me away from work on time to go out to dinner.  We went to a local vegetarian restaurant, Cafe Gratitude, where the food is great.  They also have a question of the day.  Today's question was:  What was the happiest moment in your life?

The question brought me out of work-exhaustion mode, and I started to cast my mind back through the years.  It didn't take too long for a moment to come to mind, though I seldom think of the incident these years.  I don't know it was THE happiest moment, but it certainly ranks up there.

I was seventeen, starting my senior year of high school, convinced that no one was EVER going to want to go out with me or find me attractive.  I'd joined the diving team that year, and had a huge crush on the diving coach, who was just a year older than I.  He paid me no more or less attention than any other girl on the team, but I thought he was the cutest guy EVER.

The team had gone up to northern Minnesota for an overnight swim meet, and the event was followed by a cookout at the home of one of the girls on the other team, whose family owned a place on one of the local lakes.  It was shortly after the first anniversary of Mom's death, and I felt disconnected and alone in the group laughing around the campfire.  So I left, and made my way down to the dock to sit by myself for a bit.

It was a cool night, with a new moon.  The sky was clear and you could see a gazillion stars.  As I sat there, feeling the chill of fall in the air, drinking in the beauty before me, starting to feel a little better, I heard someone else coming down the hill.  At first I was annoyed to find my solitude interrupted, but then I realized it was Bob, the diving coach.  He said hullo, and sat down on the dock near me.  Just a few minutes later, as we were talking, he moved closer.  He sat right behind me, so I could lean back against him, and he began to point out the constellations.  We sat this way for perhaps thirty minutes before someone else came down to the dock and he moved away.

For those thirty minutes, I was the happiest teenager in the whole. wide. world.

Never mind the next day when he went back to his cool, professional self, and I was crushed.  The hurt faded after a short time.  The joy, however, has stayed with me through the years.  That night I learned that sometimes, even if it's just for a short while, dreams can come true.

Even for gawky, too tall, socially inept, shy teenaged girls, who are unaware of how beautiful they really are.