Thursday, October 11, 2018

Expect and Except the Challenge - No Excuses



“You don’t understand, I haven’t used a computer before.”
“I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the last 10 years.”
“My job didn’t require the use of a computer.”
“I didn’t grow up around computers.”

I teach a class, Intro to PC Applications, at a local community college. This class covers the Microsoft applications – Word, Excel, Access and PowerPoint – applications that are in great demand in today’s workforce. This is a required class for several of the degree paths and many of the certificates. There are no prerequisites for this course, so I get some incredibly full classes. My students ages range from 16 – 65+, I have high school students to adults in career transitions.

Every semester, I get at least a couple students who are brand new to using a computer. Some can barely use a mouse, others have only used a computer for email or just web browsing. Maybe they have used MS Word at its most basic level.

We start the semester learning MS Word. But not only are the students learning Word, but they must also learn to navigate the Learning Management System (LMS) and the separate online platform for many of their assignments. Additionally, they need to have some basic navigation skills on the computer.

The students new to computers? They struggle.

These students have to put forth a little more time and effort. I do my best to provide additional instruction before, after and during class. I provide video instructions and website resources. But being a part-time instructor, my time is limited.

It’s not long before I start hearing the excuses. I hear so many variations.

“This class is hard.”

“I don’t have time for the extra stuff.”

I get it. For most of these students with little or no past computer experience, this is also their first college course, or one of the first. There are a lot of new things going on at once. And in 15 weeks, for a total of 3 hours a week (class time), they are going at an unfamiliar pace.

I struggle with how to best meet the needs of these few students, when I have 20 others in the same class. The school does provide free tutoring and I encourage them to take advantage of the service.
I’m writing this post to let those students know that, while it can be a great struggle, there is hope.

Let me tell you about Jimbo. Jimbo was a 65-year-old and had just spent 15 years in prison. Prior to that, he was in and out of jail. He got his GED while in prison and decided to change the direction of his life. Being in a classroom/college setting was a completely new experience for him.

He had not ever used a computer or even a smartphone prior to this class. Turning the computer on and using a mouse were a challenge. During class, I helped him as much as possible. Luckily, he had a great classmate sitting next to him that also provided some guidance during class.

Jimbo never complained. Throughout the semester he told me bits and pieces of his story, but he never complained. And he was never late with an assignment. Jimbo took advantage of the school’s free tutoring and he just kept plugging away. Anytime I would get to the campus early, I saw Jimbo. He never saw me though because his head was down, busy working. He also had other classes, so not all that work was just for my class.
Jimbo didn’t ace my class, but he did pass. And to see the transformation was incredible. I’m not taking credit, because I didn’t do much. Jimbo knew what he had to do. Maybe he had extra motivation because of his age and the years he felt he wasted.

He passed all his classes that semester and then started preparing for his CAC-1 certification (Substance Abuse Counseling). Which I learned later, he successfully completed those requirements.

Then I have the story of Mary, who at the age of 45, had also never used a computer. She was a warehouse worker, who wanted to move up to a supervisory position. The position required MS Word and Excel knowledge. She purchased a laptop just for this class. On the first day, she showed up early because she didn’t even know how to turn the laptop on. In a quick 30 minutes before class, we covered some BASICS.

She never complained either.

She came in one hour early before every class for extra help. She used the school’s free tutoring service. Mary did get behind on her assignments and when we reached the MS Access portion of the class, we worked out a plan. She would take the hit for not doing the Access assignments and instead concentrate on finishing the Word and Excel assignments. She would then pick up on PowerPoint with the rest of the class. She got a passing grade in the class and to see her advancement was remarkable.

These are the stories I tell my students when they start in with how they are so behind because of their lack of computer experience. I acknowledge that yes, it is going to be tougher, but it can be done.

I tell my students that the only way to fail my class is to do absolutely nothing. Put your head down, take small steps and be willing to push yourself outside your comfort zone. Realize the power of your thoughts. These negative thoughts and excuses can place restrictions on what you can accomplish.

Believe in yourself. Expect and except the challenge.

And JUST DO THE WORK!