What would you do in this situation?
I can recall vividly when it happened. What started as a bright winter’s day back in 2019, turned into a nightmare …
The morning was like any other although I noted, as I stepped out of my front door in the dark that, unlike the previous three mornings, there was no drizzle. The dull wet mornings had been replaced by a heavy frost and a clear sky. As my shoes crunched over the frost-strewn driveway, I considered that that might be an omen for a good day. I was sadly mistaken.
My train of thought was rather rudely interrupted. I was merrily whistling the theme to ‘Autumn Days’ while walking up the school path when the morning’s silence was shattered. There was an audibly hysterical scream coming from inside the building. Now in my personal life, it would have been at this point that I would have turned on my heels and hot-footed it the other way PDQ, but as the headteacher, I did not have that luxury and so with trembling fingers, I hurriedly punched in the door code to discover what rodent/spider/toilet disaster had caused the commotion.
It was worse than I feared. The high-pitched hysterical wail emanating from Mr Hopkins turned out to be entirely justified. It took every fibre of my being not to succumb to the hysteria and wail with him. Alas. The photocopier was dead.
We both stared at it silently; paying our respects after five years of loyal service. What were we going to do? I pictured in my mind a repeat of The Great Power Cut of winter ’07, when we were without power for a whole two hours. Staff were forced to draw actual diagrams on the board. New teachers were weeping in corridors as the YouTube clips they’d planned to invoke lesson engagement, needed to be abandoned in favour of pencil and paper methods.
The office manager
Maggie, my office manager arrived. She surveyed the scene. I could see in her eyes the unspoken words of, ‘I told you it was on its way out, we should have got a second one’. Being a tiny school with a tiny budget, this cost cutting all-in-one plan of having a single printer and photocopier in the same machine, seemed like a good idea at the time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing from which, we can all learn.
I was considering at this point, feigning some sort of gas leak in order to close the school. However realistically, that would prompt too many questions. Staff were beginning to arrive. There was no hiding from the truth.
Panic sets in
One by one the fire left their eyes as they learnt what had happened. No handouts or worksheets today. They skulked dejectedly to their classrooms to attempt to salvage the day’s lessons. Re-planning them hurriedly in the 20 minutes they had before the morning bell. Only Miss Simpson was unaffected. She had thought ahead; spending the last week of the summer holiday planning and photocopying everything required for the entire first half term. Trying her best not to look smug but failing, she wisely said nothing, as the anguish on the faces of her colleagues, was palpable.
There was nothing for it but to make the best of it. The school bell waits for no teacher and today was no exception. There was a frenzied air of panic with staff raiding the stock cupboard for alternatives. I made a mental note to put a lock on it. With a heavy heart, I sought out the key to the school show props cupboard, retrieved a battered polystyrene Halloween gravestone, etched with a blood-stained ‘RIP’ and propped it against the old machine. I then suggested to Maggie that she could perhaps start searching on eBay, for a nearly new machine with only one previous careful owner. Maggie started to reply, but before her potentially damning words could land, I was gone.
Retreating to my office, I pulled down the blind and phoned through for a strong coffee to be delivered. It seemed a good time to batten down the hatches and wait until it all blew over. A dark day indeed. Feeling listless and unable to concentrate, I settled on a menial and mindless task to take my mind off the blame that was subconsciously being sent my way by all the staff in the building. The chosen task was photocopying the music for the afternoon’s orchestra practise.
I dusted off the old fax machine under my desk, loaded it with paper and set it to copy.
The repetitive grinding noise from the old machine, was rather comforting.