October 05, 2005
The art of teaching
A derelict house I pass on my commute to work

I was very much looking forward to my course on photography. I'd been taking shots for years, but mostly pointing and clicking. The f/stop, shutter speed and the rest of the lingo were and still are Greek to me.

So far, the course has been a bit of a disappointment to me. I knew I'd be somewhat advanced, given that I'd been playing around with Photoshop and doing online tutorials for a few years. However, to take the Advanced course, you must take the the Intro first.

Last week, though, as we spent the first hour just learning how to take the batteries out of our cameras and opening a file on the computer, I knew I wasn't in the right place.

The teacher is an older man, who has had many years of photography experience. I have no doubt of his talent or knowledge of the subject. But as a teacher, the gentleman needs some retraining. I did some teaching at my last job, and found - surprisingly - I really enjoyed it. There is something very rewarding about helping another person learn a new skill. But there are some techniques for teaching adult students, and I've now become a bit biased when I notice someone who doesn't teach effectively.

Looking at this house, I wonder about the family who lived here.

In this class, the teacher has repeatedly 'dumbed down' his responses. He frequently sighs loudly at questions, and if we ask something that is a little more involved than the basic skills, his reply is undoubtedly 'I don't think you need to know that.', or some variation.

I've found, especially when coaching a person on computer skills, it's helpful to try and take the fear and mystery out of a computer program. Many people - especially the older generation - have a strong distrust of the technology and it's important not to add on to that. The computer isn't going to explode, self-destruct or burst into flames if you push the wrong button. At worst, you'll freeze the machine and need to reboot. At best, you'll have learned something new.

Who last painted that green stripe around the windows? Did they know the house would be abandoned?

Last night, in class, I was asked to demonstrate the steps in cropping, colouring and setting up a picture to print.

When it came time to display the photo, the finished size was 4" x 4".

A fellow student asked 'What if I want it to be 4" x 6"?'

The teacher's reply was 'Well, you can't do that.'

I corrected him, and said, while you can, the result wouldn't be too pleasing. The teacher interjected and said 'I don't want these people knowing that'.

A bit disappointed in his answer, I set up the photo to a 4" x 6" to show the class why it's not a good idea to change the scale of the photo. Instead of confused looks, the rest of the students seemed to understand that it was more a matter of 'shouldn't' rather than 'can't'.

I should mention, though, the teacher and I do get along rather well. He has asked me to help a few of the students and I know that if I am patient, I will learn from him. And I hope I'm not coming across in this post as a know-it-all prat. Certainly not that, but just that I can see room for improvement.

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer, who looks forward to a better Canada. I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.

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Turning thirty and a half
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