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Buddha moment

One of my guys — 'Joe' — has been having a hard time with 'here' lately. The seemingly endless construction-driven shuffling of classrooms, teachers, and students at Hartford High has brought him out of the network rooms and deep into the trenches of education in Hartford. Today he had what I call a Buddha moment. Like the young Buddha who ventured out into the world and saw three horrors on the road, 'Joe' was in a PC lab at HPHS where a teacher was fighting against her technology — against us — to teach her students.

Because we don't have personnel to manage 24,000 accounts we don't give students individual accounts. That means no home drives and no email. We1 lock the PCs down with DeepFreeze so that their operating systems don't get trashed. But we locked them down so completely that there's no "thawed" area on the hard drives for the students to store their work. The teacher's work-around is to have all of her students create Yahoo! mail accounts and email their work to her. She managed to get some corporate funding, so some of her kids have pen-drives. The others email their work to themselves so that they can keep a copy. Oh, and because the PCs are locked so hard with DeepFreeze, the Windows updates that they pull down from our SUS server every day at three get undone when the PC reboots. Some of them don't even get that far — they crash while Windows Update is running and have to be power-cycled to get them back.

'Joe' came back utterly frustrated; genuinely appalled at the situation. He's generally not an overtly emotional person, so his animation as he was relating this to me was telling. It's heartbreaking to be out in a school and see a problem that should be so easy to solve but just isn't. Especially when it's something that you really can't control, but feel like you should. I had to tell 'Joe' that the reason the students don't have things like home drives or school email accounts is because of a lack of resources on our end. The one constructive thing I could offer him was direction to go talk to the manager in charge of desktop PCs. "If he doesn't know there's a problem [the DeepFreeze config], there's no way it's ever going to get fixed!"

Anything I could have said that sounded like "I feel your pain" just sounded so hollow in my mind. But, it's true. I've had my Buddha moments out in the schools. I have had to force myself to adhere to the logic that says I could spend forty hours at one school fixing everything, and at the end of those forty hours, there'd be another forty hours of work waiting to be done — and I wouldn't have gotten anything done that benefited the school system as a whole. It sucks when you are essentially triaging peoples' needs every day, but that's where we're at. I hope that I can help 'Joe' see his way through this. I'd hate to have him renounce the material world and spend the rest of his days wandering around in saffron robes with a begging bowl.



1 That would be "we" as in the department as a whole. My division doesn't have a hand in desktops — we're just packet-pushers.

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