Friday, April 18, 2008

Nobody Gave Me an Apple

In the first semester in my all-too-brief sojourn through the University of California, Berkeley, I took a speech class. This was a terrible decision, the first of what seems to have been an unending stream of bad decisions while a student on that campus.

Since I entered mid-year, I had no direction whatsoever. I was the first person in my family to attend college, so there was nobody to clue me in as to what to expect. I didn't know a single person on campus, since none of my friends had gone to Berkeley. I didn't know the lingo, I didn't know how to enroll in classes, I didn't know the funtion of an advisor (I never met mine until semester 3, when I staggered in, drunk, to tell her I was quitting). There were no mid-year orientation sessions.

[I really blame Char for my spectacular failure, since she was one of the grad residents in the dorm where I lived and I really feel she should have somehow sensed that we were going to become life-long best friends and taken better care of me...even if she wasn't the grad resident for my section of that dorm!]

So when my roommate (whom I came to loathe through our too-many months together) told me I should take a certain speech class because she had taken it and knew it was "an easy A," it sounded like a good idea. It never occurred to me that while she was a "speaker" (in fact, shutting her up was the most difficult thing), I was a "writer" and would have done much better in a regular English class. But the thought of an easy A was tantalizing and so I took the speech class.

Not surprisingly, I did terrible in it. I was terrified to stand in front of a group and speak, a fear I have not lost in the 50 years since that horrible semester.

Ironically, I got involved with La Leche League several years later, a task which required me to lead a group of anywhere from 3 to 20 women once a month. I had stage fright every time, even though I knew the material intimately.

Strangely enough, the very BEST public speaking I did was at a huge La Leche League convention where I was to talk about toddlers and breastfeeding to a session of 100-200 women and decided to wing it without preparation, script or even notes. What in the world was I thinking? But strangely, I hit my stride and it went off well.

Still, public speaking of any kind is not something I want to do, and teaching is something I hate. So why did I agree to teach a blogging class? Well, because I am one of the newest members on the Davis Community Network (DCN) board, because I'm still not sure what my role is there, because I still can't keep up with the lingo, and because I felt I should do something to earn my keep. Also, because if there is one thing I know a little bit about it's blogging!

So I agreed to do it. No problem....it was a long time from when I made the agreement. I adopted the Scarlett O'Hara mantra. I would think about that tomorrow.

Well, when we got home from Santa Barbara and I turned the page of my desk calendar to the upcoming week, my blood turned cold. My class was in three days. How much preparation had I done to that point? Zero.

Naturally, I did the only logical thing: I put off worrying about it until the day of the class. Oh, I did think to ask someone to show me how the room worked (good thing, as it's not just a "stand and talk" thing). And then yesterday morning I woke up at 4 a.m. realizing that I was going to tell the class how to set up a blog on Blogger and in order to log into Blogger, you have to have a gmail account. In a panic, I contacted DCN to ask for the e-mail addresses of people taking the class and sent them all g-mail invites. I was relieved when the day of the class dawned with notifications from G-mail that they had all set up their own g-mail accounts.

I planned to spend Thursday preparing for the class, but I had lots of other really important things to do, like try to beat Joan at Scrabble, keep a running dialog going on Twitter, do a few on-line jigsaw puzzles, and catch up on things recorded on the DVR. I was operating on the same principle I use with writing a review: Do a little bit of it, then sleep and when you wake up, you'll know what you want to write (don't laugh--it works!)

Finally, at 4 p.m., I put together a hand-out sheet to give to the class, showing them sites other than Blogger and giving a couple of links for each site so they can check out the diversity in look and content. I had arranged to meet someone to let me into the building at 6 for the 6:30 class. I wanted to at least look like I was prepared.

I put on my "Blog ur self" shirt, packed up my handouts, and headed off to class.

Ann, from DCN, met me to show me how to get into the building. When we got in, we discovered that the main computer, the one that you hook up to the projector so whatever you do is on the big screen, wasn't working and wasn't hooked up. We couldn't figure out what to do, so I had to call the guy who is in charge of the facility, even though he was taking the night off because he had a dinner invitation. He was good natured about it, though. Came over and got the computer set up.

There were 4 students + another woman from DCN who also wanted to hear about blogging. She was a godsend because she was able to help me give hands on attention to everybody.

I planned to start with asking what brought them to the class and what they hoped to get out of it.

"Maybe if you tell me what a blog is, I'll have an idea," said one woman.

Oh-kay. Maybe this was going to go all right after all. Maybe I wasn't going to have to get to RSS feed, aggregators, or any of the stuff that I didn't understand too much myself!

I showed them Funny the World and then showed them Airy Persiflage (the blog version of FTW) to explain the difference between a "journal" and a "blog" (though I'm not sure that the line is as distinct was it was in 2000, when I began Funny the World).

And then they were all supposed to log into Blogger. The combination of their questions, my answers about blogging vs. journaling, and the computer problems we had easily took up half the class.

But by 7:30, everybody had actually set up a Blogger account, had created a blog and was writing something into their blogs. Someone asked about how you add like a list of books in the side column, which was entirely too complicated to get into in the first class, so I showed them how it was done, but told them we'd go over it more thoroughly next time--and told the DCN woman that I would teach a follow-up class. I also showed them how to upload a photo to their site by adding a picture of Bri (of course), which I had downloaded from Flickr, to my test blog

I came out of there so jazzed. It was such fun. The women were just great and they seemed eager to learn. I came home to check their blogs. One of them apparently didn't publish her post, so her blog is empty, but the other two blogs are there. I bookmarked them to see if they will do anything more on them after the class.

So all my angst was for naught. My first experience as a teacher just went great, I loved doing it, and I look forward to the follow-up.

2 comments:

Harriet V said...

I've often said that I do one-on-one teaching just fine, but you will never get me in front of a classroom. (Another blogger friend of mine just had an experience similar to yours; you worked around her problems very nicely!)

(You know me as l'empress, but I like using this blog on my google reader, so I won't get distracted and forget...)

Geo said...

Way to go, Bev!

Never doubted you for a nanosecond.