First Week Blues

The first week of school is usually an exciting time for all parties involved; teachers are eagerly anticipating starting the year strong with their wonderful students, and students are anxious to see how much everyone has changed over the summer. The first week for me was definitely exciting (started a new position at a new school), but it’s been tempered a bit by my first duties.

I took it upon myself to help all 850 students in my elementary school figure out their brand new usernames and create new passwords (they previously all had a generic classroom login). While it was an important task that they all figure out their passwords and manage to not lose them, by the 3rd day of explaining how I run the computer lab, have the students login, then have them change their passwords I was a bit deflated. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discouraged, and I am glad that they all have their own logins (it will give them something to be responsible for in my classroom rather than just showing up to the computer lab unprepared). They definitely are excited that they have their own usernames as well, since they previously has to save all of their work on the same drive as every other student, meaning files had little protection. Now they have their own personal home drives for all of their work.

These are all wonderfully good things, but I can’t help wondering what they think of me (a new teacher in a new position that was just created over the summer). Here is the new specials class, technology, and all they get to do the first day is change a password and login (and yes, for the record it takes all 45 minutes to introduce yourself, the class rules, and then have 25 4th graders figure out the Novell login followed by a password change). I wonder what else I could have done. Thankfully I’m not too down, and am actually looking forward to doing some fairly creative work with them in the coming weeks. Hopefully that will show them what a great time this class will be, and the bumps of the first week will only encourage me to work harder on creating more engaging lessons (or so I hope). This week’s blues will be next week’s greens and yellows, or whatever color would best respresent happiness and creativity.


  1. Only someone who has never worked with elementary kids in a lab situation would be surprised that it takes 45 minutes to create a password and log in! You were brave to tackle this! I have kept the generic login in our lab for several years just to avoid this. I just finished the first week of lab classes. The computers are locked down, and all we do is a game or video or something fun to present the rules (with prizes!). Second week we make nametags. I burn lots of calories running around, especially with younger kids, because no matter how simple you make it, you can’t assume they can find a delete key, or a return key, or know how to double click on something. I break things down into small steps for younger kids and use templates to start them off. They do learn over time and can do more and more. Good luck!

  2. Don’t get me wrong, Karen. I was in no way surprised at how long it took for the students to change their passwords. I just wanted to let class room teachers that may have never done something like this know that it does take quite a bit of time. The nice thing is I only have 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders so no worries trying to get younger students to work out logging in. I even made little templates for their username and password on piece of paper that they could write first, so that helped.

    Thanks for the encouraging words though. With luck my goal is all of the students will be able to come in and login without having to be reminded of their usernames and passwords by the end of this month, which gives them 2 or 3 more chances. Since I’ve only previously done this with 5th graders I’m anxious to see how well the 3rd graders will catch on.

  3. When I taught in a computer lab situation, I found it very helpful to talk about what happens when students log in. I would take each class back to the room with the server. They got to see the rack with all of the routers, switches, cables, and blinking lights. They could see all of the cables go up into the ceiling. It’s amazing there is a cable going to each and every computer that ends up in the server room. We talk about the advantages of saving to a server and how it’s such a powerful computer, the whole class can be using it at once. So then we return to the lab and the students are excited to log into the server and save or retrieve their first file because the server is not so mysterious anymore.

  4. Now that’s an excellent idea Tony. It’s made even better because the server room is across the hall from my lab so it’s a short trip. I have always used the metaphor of a filing cabinet and liken the server to a huge cabinet that everyone can dip into at the same time, with hundreds of draws to grab and save files in. Actually putting something physical in front of them might be pretty interesting to them, especially elementary students that love to see how everything works. I’ll have to work that into my lessons before the month is up.

  5. Ben…we miss you, but I’m excited about your new job.
    You’re a good teacher…and a good friend. 🙂

  6. I run into that all the time but with teachers. Different but the same.

    I’m really struggling with ways to make mundane stuff we simply have to cover less boring. As you’ve seen I’m going to desperate lengths.

    I think you’re being overly hard on yourself. 45 minutes for rules, an introduction and a password change is pretty good in my mind.

    I think tech things tend to be pretty mundane initiallly. If you are looking for a way to spice up passwords though you could wrap it with a discussion of hacking, social engineering etc. There are lots of cool stories that would teach them something and get them thinking about their passwords a little more seriously. There’s still that time factor though.

    Like I’ve said about a hundred times already this year- “Next year I’ll . . .”

    First year’s free after all, right?


  7. Tom, the Technology Ninja was in no way desparate lengths. in fact, I think it was brilliant. So much in education that tries to be hip is usually some pale knock-off of a copy of a cheap version of popular culture, but you really have a humorous parody of Ask a Ninja, right down to the opening theme song and click editing. I’m seriously jealous of your mad Techno-Ninja skills 🙂

    For those that aren’t sure what I’m talking about, go check out this post on his site and watch the movies; they’re hilarious.

    Oh, and TJ, it was a difficult decision to switch jobs and face a 45 minute commute to my new place, but being in a position to really work with classroom teachers and integration pieces again was to tempting for me. Sorry to have left, but I know wonderful things will still be going on with you there.

  8. Tony, I really found your suggestions helpful. I feel it is important to have the kids understand WHY they are creating a password, login name etc. and what happens when they do. It allows them to grasp the complexity of the computer in a non-complex way. Now, I am not a technology teacher, however I know that explaining something to younger children in a visual way really helps them grasp the concept. Way to be inventive! Also, Tom, I liked your idea about integrating some stories into the mundane explanation of the point of login names. It always helps to give them concrete examples.

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