When Murphy Calls

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” — Murphy’s Law

Last Fall, Murphy called, unannounced, as usual.

I was in the second week of being a new high school Algebra and Geometry teacher. Ten minutes into a ninety minute block period in the middle of a lecture using a computer and projector, the power went out in the classroom.

Most power interruptions are brief. “Class – let’s wait a few seconds for the power to come back on.” After checking a few of the other outlets and sixty seconds later I went to the next door classroom to see if they have power. They do. When I return, the classroom was in the beginning stages of out-of-control buzz.

Grabbing the textbook I said “From what we’ve just covered, you should be able to do the first 5 homework problems. Take out a sheet of paper and begin.” That should last about ten minutes I said to myself. The vision of going the entire day without power was starting to form.

I placed a call to the administration office and requested (probably demanded) the maintenance staff come over to help. When they arrived, I asked they run a long extension cord out the window from the neighboring classroom into my classroom window and up to the front desk. All I need is the computer and projector to run.

The maintenance staff went off to get started and I stood in front of the class. Most of them had finished the first five problems. “Alright, let’s see if I can remember my lecture!” The projector screen was rolled up and the marker started to fly across the whiteboard. The students settled back down.

I don’t remember if I made any sense. In those early days of teaching I had my ‘script’ down to the sentence and practiced the night before. I am sure I skipped a few key points. The maintenance staff returned and proceeded to run the extension cord between the two classrooms out through the window. I assigned the remaining homework problems so I could assist with the power cord.

With a little climbing, acrobatics and disappearing beneath dusty desks, I had power to the computer and projector. I thanked the maintenance staff and resumed class. We went through the powerpoint lecture and sure enough, I had indeed skipped several key points and needed to review a few problem solving examples.

The power cord out the window remained in place for most of the day.

I learned later the classroom on the other side was undergoing electrical system maintenance. An electrician had pulled the circuit breaker for that classroom and unknowingly cut power to my classroom.

One of my colleagues I spoke to about Murphy’s unannounced visit remarked that students respond well when the teacher is ‘in control’. I can imagine teachers everywhere encountering situations far more exciting than losing power.

The learning here is when Murphy calls, be flexible and ready to improvise, while demonstrating problem solving to your students.

When has Murphy called on you? Tell us your story of how you answered his call!

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