Archives: 2014 & Earlier

The Xerox Complex

Vox, Atlanta

“This has to be a crime,” I thought to myself bitterly. “Two inches. … Two inches is the limit, and here I am pushing four!”

Exasperated, I watched my binder creak, moan, and then finally snap apart, sending my chemistry papers up in the air. Its metal rings were bent beyond recognition. Looking closely, you could probably make out a nice rivulet of smoke.

“Great,” I griped. “My binder is now officially dead, another uncharted casualty of the Xerox Complex.”

The Xerox Complex is that oh-so-nagging penchant certain teachers have to make love to their photocopiers, churning out limitless copies as “constructive assignments,” with no regard whatsoever for growing boredom and academic failure.

Mangled school supplies are a problem easily fixed with the right sequence of dollar bills at my local, congested Wal-Mart. More disturbing and less easily fixed was the fact that my teacher had copied a massive heap of study packets in the fruitless hope that the Xerox machine would teach for her. And it was only the first semester.

In all fairness, my teacher was an approachable and intelligent person, so the fact that she frequently resorted to torturing our Xerox machine made very little sense to me. Surely she wasn’t a cold-hearted deviant bent on binder destruction.

After hours of thoughtful observation, I decided her problem wasn’t malice, but misguidance and misconception. She really thought we students benefited from her tactics. Dumbfounded by my class’s refusal to participate and our incessant failure on exams, my teacher pleaded with us to read the packet. Embrace the packet. Finish the packet. Marry the packet.

We responded with blank stares. We wanted her to explain the packet. No, wait – just drop the effing packet and teach!

She met our simple suggestions of reform with elongated responses that caused our heads to spin and our eyes to cross. After several failed attempts, we took education into our own hands, with varying results. A couple of students – genetically altered geniuses – fared well without help. Some passed exams by questionable means. And others, myself included, failed the course miserably.

Somewhere down the line, my teacher had confused elementary and high school teaching methods entirely. In elementary school, our curriculum consisted of worksheets piled on, one after another, which was oddly acceptable, even efficient.

But high school teaching requires an engaged interaction between teacher and student. No longer is it acceptable for us students to idly ingest information without exploring or questioning what exactly we were supposed to gain. We know that whatever we take from our studies travels with us, to better pave the way toward our future careers. Taking nothing valuable away from school is a total and devastating waste of time.

My U.S. history teacher was a shining example of what it took to reel students in for the ultimate learning experience. Textbooks were dead to her. Packets, if used at all, were cruel and unusual (and effective) punishment for slacking off. Everything she taught was broken down in her own words and presented in ways that we could understand. It was rare to see students at a loss for what to do or asleep. The energy in the room was always wild and vibrant, and I felt I was never in a state of confusion that couldn’t be fixed.

After having that taste of real teaching in my system, returning to the confines of the Xerox Complex felt like an insult to my intelligence.

So, to all teachers who are leaning toward the temptations of the Xerox: Stop, in the name of rationality. It takes passion to help someone learn.

But take heart: All it takes is a little effort. Being available for a one-on-one talk and being willing to repeat yourself over and over (and over again) until the lesson sinks in are just the simplest examples. Plus, it never hurts to be a little creative in your lessons.

Since I escaped the dreadful four walls of chemistry class, I am left to contemplate the reasons for my failing grade. My lack of intelligence in that field was largely to blame, but I believe firmly that if not for the clutches of the Xerox Complex, I could have passed with flying colors (or at least a modest C).

But I can’t whine forever. All I can hope is that senior year has a specialized quarantine for the copying disease.

Copyright 2007 VOX Teen Communications

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