Ode To That Old Photocopier … Finding It Hard To Let Go!

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with our school photocopier. It’s one of those older photocopiers, which consistently jams. Every time you press print, you cross your fingers and hope that a paper will appear. Don’t even think about doing double-sided copies … that causes a whole other realm of problems. Sometimes the photocopier makes that high-pitched squeaking sound, in which you quietly coax it to do its job, even though you know that a jam is imminent. The funny thing is that I’m not a fan of photocopiers anyway. I haven’t been for many, many years. I used to always say that a surefire way to change teacher practice was to get rid of the photocopier. Paper continues to scare me, and I still question the use of black line masters, but I do like to print our day book page every morning .. and I do so on the photocopier. Doing so, almost always results in a jam.

If I print the day book page and don’t head down to the staff room immediately to collect it, one of the other early arrivers, comes down within minutes to our classroom. “Did you print your day book again, Aviva?” Why yes! How did he know?! And off I head to the staff room to find that offending piece of paper, or maybe multiple pieces of paper, which caused the jam. 

Over my two years at Rousseau, I’ve become incredibly adept at fixing these jamming issues. This has almost become an enjoyable, self-regulating part of my morning routine: set-up the classroom, turn on the computer, pull up any websites or instructional videos that we need for the day, and find the offending piece of paper(s) that’s making the photocopier angry. 🙂 Consistency. Predictability. And a feeling of success. 

That’s the thing about teaching. On some days, you feel as though you’ve really made a difference, and on other days, your head is just full of questions. 

  • What could I have done better?
  • How might I have reached that child that I didn’t reach?
  • What do we need to change for tomorrow?
  • Will these changes make a difference?
  • Did my response trigger a bigger reaction from the child(ren)? 
  • What might have been a better response?

But each time that I get that photocopier to work — each time that I find the jam, that I extract the paper, that I hear the happy hum again — I know that I’ve done something right. Seeing as though the only time that I tend to use this photocopier is before 8:00 every morning, there’s nothing better than starting the day on this positive note: believing that what you’ve done, mattered. 

This is why I’m having such mixed feelings this week, when I saw our brand new photocopier on Thursday morning. We now have the Mercedes Benz of photocopiers. From a tech perspective, this thing is amazing.

  • It prints quickly.
  • It’s quiet.
  • It’s highly predictable.
  • It staples, it hole punches, it double sides, and it does so with ease.
  • You can even print from a USB port. 
  • If it would print our documentation in colour, I might actually hug this photocopier. 🙂

And yet, while this machine excites me, it also makes me feel sad. I wasn’t prepared for the change. All of a sudden, on Thursday morning, I had almost half-an-hour of extra time, where I couldn’t go back in our classroom yet because Before Care was there, but everything else was organized and ready to go. What was I supposed to do? While I joked on my Instagram post that I could enjoy my coffee, I was actually having a very hard time sitting still. My routine was disrupted, and I never got that successful feeling of finding the jam. I think that I missed that old, unreliable photocopier more than I anticipated

Strangely enough, this photocopier experience of the week, made me think about a quote that my previous principal, Gerry Smith, always included on his emails: “change is the only constant.” As somebody that has taught at seven different school and taught seven different grades (in some capacity), this is a quote that I believe in. But as I was reminded on Thursday, change is not always easy — even in the photocopier world — and when routines are interrupted, we all begin to feel the stress. So how do you cope? I really want to enjoy this Mercedes Benz of photocopiers, but I’m still missing that on-the-verge-of-death photocopier that brought me a little joy every morning. Maybe I need to find a new way to start my day feeling that bit of success that came with my “paper jam morning routine.” What would you do? If parking can inspire multiple, educational blog posts, then photocopying can surely inspire one. 🙂


8 thoughts on “Ode To That Old Photocopier … Finding It Hard To Let Go!

  1. Oh, Aviva. I can totally see you using that feeling of “yes! No matter what else happens,I have accomplished something” as a self-reg routine. I know mine (and I know @dougpete has blogged about this). Get in, put laptop on dock, start laptop up, start desktops, open windows. Make sure the day’s outline still looks like it’s going to work, tweak if not. Make sure the activities needed for at least the first block are organized. Breathe. Be ready to be at door when kids arrive. My photocopy fighting ideally is an end of day thing. I’m totally intrigued by what you’ll find to add to your daily ritual. A check-in at the office? Time to sort some bins?

    • Thanks Lisa! Strangely enough, many of the routine options you mentioned are a part of my morning too. I always get the computer up and running, and ensure that the SMART Board is working. I like to open a window too — even though it’s usually closed later — and I set-up what I can around the Before Care people that are in our classroom. I also turn off one set of lights. Somehow a little less brightness — minus the natural light from the windows — makes me feel calmer. Right now, I’ve been trying to connect with a few of our students from the Before Care program. Seeing what they’re doing, chatting with them, reading or writing with them, or maybe even extending their Before Care learning, all seem to help fill the void of the photocopier routine. That said, I do like some quiet in the morning, and I think fixing the photocopier provided that sense of quiet. I’ll need to find something else that’s quiet. Maybe exploring the books in the book room will help. We have some decodable readers from there that our kids love. Maybe I can find some more. Thanks for making me think more about this!


  2. Oooh, you just made me think! Maybe that’s my time to spend a little quiet meditative time in the library and checking in with a favourite book, or seeing what new resources have come in. Maybe deliberately not screen-based, thanks!

  3. I can so relate to this! New photocopiers arrived at my school about a month ago and I can’t let go of my suspicion. When I can easily program it to do something, and it does exactly what I wanted, it’s shocking! 🙂 I keep waiting for a jam, but it hasn’t happened yet. Basically, I knew how to clear all the jams in the old machine. Now, if I get a jam, I won’t have any idea what to do! It is possible this one really will just copy and print like it is supposed to, but I’m wary.

    My children go to my school, so we tend to arrive later than when it was just me. I tend to get everything ready the night before, and my morning routine involves nothing more than dropping my lunch into the fridge, then checking my mailbox.

    • Thanks Lisa! I’m glad that I’m not the only one. You bring up another great point about a different kind of stressor: feeling uncertain about if you would know what to do if there was a jam. This makes me think of Stuart Shanker’s work and stressors in the cognitive domain. While this new photocopier seems to work perfectly right now, I don’t think I’d be able to fix it if it didn’t. Hopefully it has some good instructions on the screen if a jam does occur.

      As for arriving later, this is something else that causes me stress. With the Before Care Program in our classroom right now, I could arrive much later than I do, but the thought worries me. So I come in early, work around Before Care, and then still run around minutes before the bell to set everything up when the room is all ours again. I’m guessing though that your morning routine has become normal and predictable for you, just as mine is for me.


      • A cognitive stressor, for sure! Also, I think, a prosocial stressor? I can’t just walk away from the jam and leave it for someone. I feel compelled to clear it, not leave it, then I start to worry (emotional stressor!) about being late for the next thing I need to get to, all while trying to convince the copier that I have done the thing it told me to do! *sigh*

        I used to work for a school board that had copy service. It required advance organization. I could send them one copy of something, along with a sheet of instructions, and magically a day or two later I’d have my copies in my mailbox! It was great. This was at a time when I taught math to 90 grade 5 students (rotary) and we all used a textbook. I even had, for a few units, all of my originals organized so I could just send them out a week or two before I started the unit and it was all done for me. I don’t teach at all that way now, but it was nice to have someone else fight the copier!

        • Lisa, I love your thinking about all the stressors associated with a copier. So true! Here we are pressing just one little button, and sometimes just hoping for a couple of pages to come out, but meanwhile, just the thought of a jam (or, at times, no jam), can cause us such stress.

          Thinking about this copier service in lieu of how I teach today would cause me a lot of stress. What if I don’t know what’s happening a week from now? While my teaching partner and I think ahead, we constantly change things depending on how kids respond. I can just imagine all of the wasted paper if we didn’t do what we sent in.

          I will say though, that I often went to Staples on the weekend just to print what I needed for Monday morning, even in the days of just wanting or needing my day book plan. Monday mornings are always so much busier, and I didn’t want to risk a paper jam. And now, here I am, kind of grieving over not having one. Go figure! Sometimes life is complicated.


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