No matter how digital our current age, teachers cannot escape the age-old string of issues surrounding, not since the dawn of creating dittos, the staff’s copy machine. Regardless of how many copy machines are found at a school site, the drama is a steady diet of over-usage by some, endless repairs, and the profession’s most menial task. 

According to a blog post, titled: How Much Paper Do Schools Use? (link here), it stated, “…the paper discarded during the school year in one NYC school added up to 28 pounds for each student, teacher, and staff member.” This was just the paper measured from the school’s wastebaskets; imagine how much greater the number would be if all the work sent home with students was also added into the equation! A solid rule of thumb at the elementary level: the younger ages—Kindergarten through third—require more worksheets than the older grades; even knowing such—as a lifelong teacher of fourth, fifth, or sixth graders—I enter the copy room in need of some class sets and exit with a small forest balanced in my arms as if I’m a forklift.

Quite a few teachers out there—and I’ve seen them with my own two eyes—were lumberjacks in a previous life, clearing vast areas of trees as if it’s their sole mission in education; everybody else of the staff knows who these individuals are, too. Unfortunately, there’s no stopping them. They spot reams of paper and ink within grasp and turn them into abundant amount of handouts with the press of a few buttons. 

The principals that try and offer teachers free rein of the copy paper and machines are, toward the end of every year, explaining at a staff meeting how much of the budget is being allocated for paper. Such announcements are the reason many schools limit their teachers to a particular number of copies. When teachers are handcuffed by rations, it’s frustrating because there’s always an instance requiring more copies than usual—a field trip, your teaching partner was forced to call a sub at the last minute, or the district mandates parents to sign certain forms during parent-teacher conferences (yet we are only provided with a master via email). Sooner or later, you are panhandling co-workers for their secret code after behaving so recklessly with your own stockpile. What a jam!

When the Education Department at California State University of Sacramento issued me my teacher credential, nobody informed me of the importance in also acquiring my license as a copy machine repairman. After about a decade into my career, I became comfortable with cracking open the copier for a surgical operation, of sorts. The moment you’re stranded on a deserted Sunday afternoon while prepping for the upcoming week, an inner-MacGyver begins guiding you in the direction of the correctly colored wire—success. 

There are rarely times I ever consider teaching a job, but standing next to the copier is definitely one of them. I could possibly ask one of the classroom parents for their help in this department, but, in my experience, the secretary isn’t very fond of non-faculty members manning the copy machines because they, in almost every instance, wind up being called for assistance. The heavy burden rests on my shoulders alone, and they slump toward the floor at the thought of producing a class set.

I only need to say once—on a singular sheet—how much disdain I hold for the copy machine.