Why is photocopying always a pain in the arse?!

Reading time: 3


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

This post answers the 8th question from my TeacherToolkit Thinking page of Thunks. You can see my other top-Thunks here.

Thunk 8: Why is photocopying always a pain in the arse?!? by Deputy Headteacher @Simon_Warburton

Answer below:

I have many mixed emotions about my PGCE and NQT year.  Excessive planning, children jumping out of my windows (did happen!) and meeting my future wife!  In all honesty, the thing that drove me to being in school before anyone else in the morning during my PGCE year was not a desire to be seen as a hard worker, nor an altruist dedicated to the cause – I wanted to be first to the photocopier…

“Join the queue – we’ve only been here 10 minutes…”

One thing that scared me more than most was the fear of holding up “proper” teachers whilst I phaffed around trying to get my photocopies in the correct format.  This was already quite a challenge, zoom, reduce, staple and collate (still do not know what that one does) but it certainly gets harder when you have a hairy-backed, middle-aged Farah-wearing tormentor leaning on the door-frame, tutting and looking to the heavens.  Actually, it was all I could ask for to have someone waltz in, see me struggling, breathe out an El Niño proportioned sigh and bugger off.  In reality I would get them waiting…. standing there sighing…. making the golden, “oh join the queue, we’ve only been here 10 minutes” to whoever had the misfortune to try and make one copy of something.  I would like to say that I stared them out, held my ground,  but I am afraid I mumbled countless apologies and ran out – only to hear, “I bet he only has one bloody lesson today anyway!”

Machines are like a Rubik’s Cube now.

Blockages!  You run in with 30 seconds to copy whilst balancing a coffee, break duty on the field and bottom set year 9, next lesson.  You slap your copying on the glass and see…..Paper Jam.  Oh God… The thing is with these jams is that there are so many possible areas to jam!  Four doors at the front, two side panels that should really open with a Star Trek “swoosh” they are so large.  When, despite all this effort, it is still jammed, you have to resort to the multi-coloured wheels that move drums in counter movements like a large scale 90’s Downfall game.  You roll your sleeves up, shove your hand in, burn it on the heater and pull out a tiny scrap of concertinaed paper.  The joy on your face as you hold this fragment aloft, only to silently curse the one who jammed the copier with a word search!

Thanks Sir… no, …really. I don’t want it!

Students don’t even like worksheets!  If, like me, you are carrying out work scrutiny at the moment, I guarantee you do the following.  Pick book up by spine; shake; any sheets not labelled, marked or completed are binned.  This is ok, it’s natural selection of the classroom; and these are the sheets that actually make it to the book.  How many times have you dismissed a class to look around and see sheets strewn over desks(?) and for you to forlornly yell after fleeing bodies, “I even drew a border around that you ungrateful sods!”

Lulled into a false sense of security.

You can get too cocky with photocopiers. You reach the point when you consider yourself a copy-ninja and start to experiment by reducing copies to fit on one page, or collating copies with STAPLES.  How many of you have done the following?

“Page on glass, ok…. Where is the zoom button (zoom to reduce – this is logic of the highest order) right, 74% reduction, no, I don’t want staples thanks… Ok; I need about 20 for this group, so will do 22 just to be safe… right copy.  What? …only half the page?! Argh! It’s A4 not A4R.

NO! Where?… Where?… Where is the bloody cancel button!?” Just to make it worse….. that Neanderthal from my PGCE year is still here, leaning on the door tutting with a pitying look on his face.

They are just not that useful….

The vast majority of photocopying is just not warranted. @TheLazyTeacher has a great sheet to stick-up by the copier in your staff room.  It prompts users to consider:

  1. How is this sheet going to be marked?
  2. How is the learning going to be assessed?
  3. Why do I want paper copies?

Photocopiers are just too easy to use now – it takes no time to run off a sheet for a class to fill in. Perhaps our teaching, and learning, would be better if we didn’t have the backup of this behemoth in the corner of the room.  Every time I see a worksheet not filled in, not marked or commented on I wonder what the point was.

Anyway, that’s enough of that.  I need an early start in the morning.  I have some PGCE students to terrorise in the reprographics room!…

Written by @Simon_Warburton, and posted by @TeacherToolkit.

You can find out more about Simon by following his blog, ‘Simon says’.

Deputy Headteacher, @Simon_Warburton


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.