Friday, March 02, 2007

Revisiting the Joy of Learning, (in spite of low vision).

I have very mixed feelings about returning to college, even though there are subjects there I'd love to try and pass, this time through! Until I left college (and the dream of ever returning) and turned my attention to the Internet and the world of the computer, I'd given up on ever returning to school for anything. Too many painful, in-your-face confrontations with vision that always seemed to fail me in places and ways I couldn't find a work around. And then there were a few extremely bitter and painful confrontations with professors and their prejudices.

Sure, I went through the "Disabled Services Department" for help. Hey, the guy had tenior - so they rolled over on their backs like a scared puppy. Great. I changed majors from Psychology to ENGINEERING!

Now, that's a grand choice for the nearly blind! If I'd had the brain power, I believe the department would have stuck by me, but after three semesters of Calculus, my classmates brains made a leap I couldn't follow and I washed out.

Not really bad, as ninety percent of ALL prospective engineering majors don't make it. But, as usual, I was hanging out there, way out there. Lot of guts, but perhaps lacking in a realistic acceptance of my disability. Naah, its nice here in de nile!

So, I have been building my life on what I can really accomplish. With some serious help from Phillip, my church's website is up and running. Our church is cranking out the grant paperwork to purchase our current building and convert it into an after school tutoring center. We will then move to a historic church elsewhere in the city.

When pastor called for teachers, he said they must have certification. I knew I didn't have it and wasn't willing to venture back to SF State for much of anything. I have seen the meat grinder of a blind person bucking the educational system in an area like teaching. I got guts, but I don't have THAT much courage.

So, in spite of a strong temptation to "beg" for a position, I kept my mouth shut and attended to my in place duties. I kept the website up and more-or-less current and put out a printed bulletin every week. Then I got sick and everything got way behind. It was early February and our website was dealing with December activities. Woopsie!

When I finally got back to church, pastor said he wanted to talk to me. (I bet he does. Do we have a webmaster around here?) I waited for a gentle request to get off my duff and update the website. What pastor actually shared shocked me completely.

"You were the first person I thought of. I want to hire you to tutor computers in the after school program. I believe in you. I just know you can do it. I watch you. You get discouraged, but you don't give up." Here is where wisdom stays quiet, so I jumped right in, informing this dear man that I had no degree, teaching credential, or certification!

"Sister, I don't care. You have taught me about the computer. I believe in you." Friends, it felt so good. I wanted to go out and do something worthy of his opinion of me. I knew I'd need to study about the Microsoft side of things, fast, as most of the donated equipment would be PCs.

Once again, Phillip came through, recommending a wonderful tutorial site: Virtual Training Company. For $30 / Mo. I can study anything I want, as much as I want. So, I did a demo lesson bracing myself for the ever popular tooth-pulling pain of all my vision prevents me from doing. These lessons are short videos. Videos I can PAUSE, REWIND and REPLAY. That pause feature is like a miracle to me.

The instructor clicks something on the screen. I hit pause and have the time to inspect the screen, until I locate what has been done and where. This is the thing which used to make school intolerable. By the time I figured out step one, the class was on step ten! I always felt like I was trying to play solitaire with 48 cards. I never could really comprehend the full scope of the material presented. So, I learned to read books, always playing catch-up.

This lovely website has made it possible for me to concentrate on LEARNING without that horrid frustration of being behind and NEVER being able to really catch up. It feels wonderful. Because the lectures are divided into very small segments, three to seven minutes, you have time to actually digest what is happening. For the first time ever, I'm not all freaked out about having to deal with a PC. I now understand the screen layout, how it is different from my Macintosh and how it is the same. I will learn how to adjust the PC so I can read it more easily. I have a sense that this tutoring adventure is truly doable.

We hope to start working with kids in May, so I have time to get up to speed on a variety of subjects. Since I can now get electronic textbooks and can leave the physical book behind, I can get my basic algebra skills back, along with a bit of accounting. As far as tutoring on the computer goes, I've got a lot of experience on the Macintosh side of things. Translating over to the PC is not an entirely new venture. Both systems do pretty much the same thing, but they accomplish tasks differently. I am truly grateful for the technology which has opened up the world of learning for me, in a way it has never been available before.


Mike said...

why is the blog commentary dialog in French?

CyberGal said...

I am checking this comment procedure for teh 2nd time and all instructions via my browser (firefox) are in english. I have no idea what is happening over where you are - Isreal. You might want to write and let them know what you are experiencing.

What is the language you have set as the default for your browser? Again, its english for me, so, good luck. Thanks for checking out my blog.