Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Teacher's Challenge

Teachers often present challenges to their students.  Sometimes the teacher encounters challenges and becomes the student!  This was my experience recently, when I took a three-hour course in the art of creating a web-site.

First came the promise: The instructor enthusiastically convinced us that with just a few simple pointers we would soon have all the tools needed to create our very own web sites – something that would improve communication with our students’ families and reduce trips to the photocopier to print out numerous notices and newsletters.

Next came the lessons: I needed to listen and watch carefully as the instructor demonstrated several technological maneuvers that I had never before witnessed, let alone attempted.  Admittedly, on more than one occasion I was so caught up in the newness of it all, and the wonder of what I was learning, that I actually missed parts of the lesson.  Like the child with Attention Deficit, my focus was engaged, but not always on the exact thing that I would later find was missing from my newly acquired set of tools and skills!

Then came the guided practice: With the instructor moving from station to station, we had the opportunity to replicate and personalize standard web site pages that are common to most teacher web sites.  Encouraging comments built up confidence.  Little reminders eased us over minor obstacles.  The occasional review and clarification helped to build greater understanding.  When the instructor was busy with another student, my elbow partner gladly filled in as a peer mentor, helping me to remember the bits that escaped me at first and cheered me on when things started to fall into place.  Thankfully, I was able to return the favour a couple of times for little things that she was having trouble remembering and I had managed to pick up!

Finally, we were released from the class and deemed to be capable of working independently – after just a few hours in a workshop setting!  Our instructor smiled at us and sent us off, reminding us that the notes he was e-mailing us would be a handy reminder if we ran into difficulty, and he was setting up a conference site so that we could exchange questions and ideas for even more learning.  I was certain he had misjudged me as a student and was putting too much faith in his teaching skills.  How would I ever manage on my own???

So, I went home, turned on my computer and started “messing around”.  I doubted my ability to do this thing on my own, but knew that if I didn’t try it immediately while things were fresh on my mind, I’d be “sunk” for sure!  Surprisingly, once I was in the comfort of my own home, practicing on my own computer, and moving at my own pace, things started to come together for me.  Occasionally I “muffed up”, but then I’d take note of my error and be sure to avoid that mistake the next time!

In the end: VICTORY!  It may not be the most beautiful website ever created.  It’s definitely a work in progress.... but hard work and perseverance won out and the student learned something she wasn’t convinced she was capable of, even after three hours of instruction and encouragement.  Was it worth the struggle?   Absolutely!!!