Twas the week after Thanksgiving, and my computer had been examined by my father, who found the problem with my start button, and reinstalled it so it would work properly. Today was a special day in the classroom—Erika’s birthday—and Erika was wearing the class birthday crown.
When I entered Mrs. Shapiro’s room today, Mrs. Shapiro told me that her computer was not starting. Since she knew about my technical abilities, she asked me if I could troubleshoot her computer.
Since I went right to work, I did not see what lesson Mrs. Shapiro had taught that day. I went to the four computers in the room and saw that they worked fine. But when I went to Mrs. Shapiro’s computer on her desk, it would not start when I turned it on. Since I had just had the same problem on my laptop, I tried to turn it on five times. All five times failed, so I realized that it was not the fault of the start button.
Could there be a loose connection between the monitor and the computer? I looked to see only to find that since the computer was an iMac, the monitor was the computer. But it was connected to a modem, so I checked the connections between the modem and the computer. The computer still would not start. Then I checked the connection between the computer and its power supply. No success.
Since the other computers were working fine except this one, this test ruled out the possibility that the problem was due to the computer. I realized that the problem now was likely to be completely irrelevant to the computer—it could be electrical. Computers are almost always not attached to their power supplies so they can be easily moved—you have to plug them in not just to the wall via an electrical socket, but to a socket on the computer itself. The result of this is that the power supply, if not properly placed, can snap and short after being tugged enough times. (Two of my power supplies have shorted for this reason. After moving them enough times, the electrical wire snaps and the current stops flowing—and the computer will not run after the batteries are depleted).
I traced the power supply from the computer to the outlet it was plugged into only to find that it was placed in a stressed position—and would short after being positioned there long enough. A power supply often shorts quite suddenly without warning, so it could have broken overnight. My first test was to see if the power supply was running properly. If it was improperly placed, I could put it onto an extension cord, and then plug the extension cord in, and that might get it working again. I found no extension cords in the classroom except for the table with the overhead projector on it, which was attached to an extension cord. I took the overhead projector, removed it from the table, and moved it to the computer to begin my test.
I plugged the power supply into the cord on the projector table, and tried to turn on the computer. It still did not start. I realized I had to test the extension cord. So I took my computer’s power supply out and plugged it in. The green light on my power supply (which indicates if it is plugged in or not) did not turn on. This meant the extension cord was not working properly. Then I plugged in my laptop’s power supply to the outlet directly—and it did not light up either. I went back to the backpack, got out a speaker system I had in there, and tried to plug that into the outlet. They would not light up or run either. Thus I had figured out the problem—there was no electricity running to that outlet due to a blown fuse or a tripped breaker. To see if it would help matters, I turned the lights on and off shortly to see if that was affecting the flow of juice to the outlet. It didn’t. But the computer was not running because the outlet was not working.
Now I had to see if the nearby outlet was working. I took the extension cord from the projection table and extended it to the nearby outlet, and plugged in the power supply of the computer, my laptop’s power supply, and the speaker onto the extension cord. They all started up properly, and Mrs. Shapiro’s computer turned on. Thus, I had diagnosed the problem.
The computer and the power supply were fine—the outlet they were plugged into had shorted. Since the students were going to the Computer Lab shortly, rather than putting the projection table back where it was, I went back to work with the students and put the table back during Clean-Up Time. I informed Mrs. Shapiro of the problem who told me she would tell the office later.
Since Free Time was going on I took my computer out and asked if any student who could not go on Mrs. Shapiro’s computer wanted to go on mine. Erika wanted to, and since it was her birthday, I showed her how to make a special type of animation for her birthday—a flashing light effect. I would write the words “HAPPY BIRTHDAY ERIKA” on Microsoft Paint, and would color each letter individually, starting from the “H” in Happy to the “I” in Erika.
Then the pictures would be shown so quickly it would look like a flashing light. This “light” would flash on each letter, from H to I, and then back to H, and back to I again in a never-ending loop. The second effect was a flashing light like the flashing lights at the entrance of a theatre. I colored half of the letters pink on one picture and the other half pink on another picture. The animation software, Roxio PhotoRelay, would show each picture for less than half a second in a loop. The colors would move so fast it would look like flashing lights.
I made the pictures with Erika, Rosie, and Jessica. Free Time ended when we were done, so during Clean-Up Time, I went back to Mrs. Shapiro’s desk and put every power supply back to where it was before I started tinkering with it. Once I cleaned up the area, I went back to my laptop and started putting the slides I had made through my animation software while the students were seated in their rows, learning their first lesson about this week’s letter—the letter V. One of the assistants taught this lesson, enabling Mrs. Shapiro to report to the school office the electrical problem I had found in the classroom.
The assistant, or “guest instructor,” which was what she was called, taught the students about the sounds of the letter V, and then asked each student if they thought they had a V sound in their name. None of the students had a V sound in their first name, but a few did in their last names, like Jessica, whose last name was Velazquez (no relation to David in the preschool). However, I do not know many of the last names of the students upon the request of Mrs. Shapiro (except for the ones I know from the JCC, where I made sure of it to address ALL parents that way). After every student’s name was analyzed, she read them a story about the letter “V”—“My “V” Sound Box.”
After the story was over, Mrs. Shapiro had returned and had taken each student’s handwriting packets, and put them on each table. Then she taught the students how to write the capital V, and assigned them to their tables where they were to write a line of “V’s” in their handwriting packets.
While the students were writing their V’s, the custodian came to test the outlet. Mrs. Shapiro informed him of the problem and was sure to thank me for finding it. He confirmed and the electricity was restored 30 minutes later.
Brittany McCurdy asked me to help her. I did, and made sure that she had written at least 5 “V” letters properly. One problem she had was that she wrote them as lower-case V’s, and I had to show her how to write them in capital letters. Brittany has been having a lot of trouble during handwriting. She asks me how to write things, and how to spell words, and asks me how to spell her name. This is oppositional defiance—I know this for a fact since she was able to write her name properly when I asked her to at the Daycare center.
After the students were done with their handwriting, it was Computer Lab time. Mrs. Shapiro and I went to the lab to take the students there. Unlike Art and Music, Mrs. Shapiro is always there to help the students on the computers during the lab, so I stay in as well.
Today, in the lab, Mrs. Cameron, the Computer Lab teacher, assigned the students to do a pattern assignment. They were to go on KidPix and draw patterns—AB patterns, ABA patterns, and an ABC pattern if they were able to. They would use the stamp function in KidPix to “stamp” a picture of something, and then stamp another picture in the form of a pattern.
While the students worked on their pattern projects on their computers, I walked around the lab to see if any students needed any help. Three students had a hard time making patterns—Erika, Patrick, and Rosie. I showed them how to make patterns and erased the patterns they had made which were inaccurate. Rosie had spent the entire time trying to make a pattern and had not understood it. She finally did but time was up, so she was only able to make one pattern on the computer while the other students made three. Erika and Patrick were able to complete their pattern projects on time after I helped them.
When Computer Lab was over, the students went straight to Gym class. While the students were at Gym, I typed a sheet of instructions that I wrote that would explain to Erika’s parents how to load my animation onto the computer. Then I got my computer ready to show the animation when the kids returned from Gym.
Mrs. Shapiro seated the students in their rows, and then they sang “Happy Birthday” to Erika. I took out my recorder and played the song while the students and Mrs. Shapiro sang.
Then I showed the class my animation project. Most of the students liked it, but Brittany was bored by it. She openly asked, “Is that all?” after I showed the students both “flashing light” shows. Mrs. Shapiro told her not to ask that, since she liked it, but I told her honestly that that’s all there was.
Erika shared her birthday treat with the students—sundae cups. I ate one along with everyone else, and I got her CD-ROM ready to take home. By the time I was done, Kindergarten was over, and the students were dismissed.