Training beginners requires emotional stamina

Training beginning computer users should be easy money, but if you don't have the patience, you might wind up pulling your hair out.

The first time you teach a basic computer skills class, it’s fun. You get to watch the light bulbs go off in your students’ heads as they start figuring out how things work. But what happens the second, third, and fourth time you explain the difference between single- and double-clicking? Unless you have the patience of a saint, you might want to avoid teaching beginner classes too frequently.

Same old story, same old song and dance
In the fall of 1999, I conducted several computer skills workshops. I charged $69 per person for a four-hour class. In my promotional material, I promised to teach advanced PC skills and tips for increasing typing speed.

You know what happened? Most of the people who showed up couldn’t even type! I wanted to be “Mr. Power Tips” but I had to be a hand-holder instead. I was disappointed. But I knew the show must go on, and I gave them their money’s worth of “Computers 101.”

And those experiences taught me something about myself. I discovered I have a low tolerance for teaching beginning users. I was frustrated when students were slow to master a basic concept like pressing [Alt]-anything. “Hold down [Alt], touch the other key, and release,” I’d say. And they’d press and hold, press and hold.

You don’t always have the luxury of choosing the class you teach, so I’ll probably have to tackle a room full of beginners again at some point. Meanwhile, I’ll stick to teaching advanced classes and save my beginning lessons for the one-on-one setting, where newbies are a little easier for me to deal with.
If you’d like to share your feelings about teaching beginning computer users, please post a comment below or send me a note .

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