I volunteered recently to help teach seniors how to use computers. Basic. First steps. As in, this is a hard drive, this is a monitor, mouse, keyboard, etc., and here’s the button to turn it on. Don’t be afraid of it – it can’t do anything without you. Relax.
The gentleman currently teaching the class brusquely confronted me, first thing, and asked, “What’s your background?” Dumbfounded, I said, I was self-taught, had been using computers for almost 30 years, and was good at working with people who were new to, and afraid of, computers.
He put me with a nice man who just needed to set up an email. He’d never used a computer and was anxious. I taught him the basics and then helped him set up his email. We were both excited when we were finished!
But, I’m not going back to the class, and here’s why. Part of the class, in which my “newbie” (Jim) and I were required to take part, turned me off completely. The instructor had a military and police background, spending his last ten years in cyber fraud. I don’t know if it was his high level of training, an over-inflated ego, or if he was just obtuse, but …
He said he had a PowerPoint presentation; I calmed Jim (since he was even afraid of the word “PowerPoint”), saying it was just like watching a slide show and would just show some basic information. Wow, was I wrong. The PowerPoint was a screenshot of his desktop which he explained in full geek jargon while he ran his curser all around the screen, magnifying different parts and talking a mile a minute – mostly at the level of how many megabytes are in a terabyte, as if any of the students knew what he was talking about, or cared.
I was dismayed. There were four people in the class. None of them had any experience with computers. They had the deer-in-the-headlights look and my guess is that most of them won’t be back, instead joining the ranks of “terrified” whenever anyone says anything about a computer. Who does this kind of thing to a beginner? I kept nudging Jim and telling him he could listen but that he would never need to know any of what was being shown.
A week later, I went back to the class because I had promised Jim I would be there for him. I helped him for the half hour before the next presentation started and then spoke to the instructor. I told him I didn’t feel it was a good fit for me and wouldn’t be staying that day or returning for another class. (I gave Jim my number and said he could call anytime for help or with questions.)
He asked me why and I had to keep saying that it wasn’t a good fit for me because I didn’t want to say his “teaching” was not at all helpful and that, in fact, I thought it had the opposite effect he intended.
He asked me if I thought I could teach the class and I said no – I told him he had a good thing going and didn’t need my help. He did a military about-face and walked away.
I struggled the rest of the day about that question. I knew I could teach the class. I knew I could give students a calmer environment and teach them what they wanted to know. Should I have done it so no one else had to deal with him? Yes, but, I decided I couldn’t take it on. I have too much on my plate as it is.
My husband always tries to remind me that I can’t make everything right in the world. I can only do what I can do.
But, a week later I still feel really awful.