Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Look Who's Teaching Whom?

Dearest Sacha,

Here’s another story of you as a child.

We acquired our first computer, an Apple clone, in 1984, a year after you were born.  I think we bought a PC, with floppy disks, a year later.  This story will surely age me, but I am proud to say that then, and even now, I am not ashamed to admit what I didn’t or don’t know. I’d ask anyone – whether a more knowledgeable officemate, an experienced tutor, a willing friend, or my even more knowledgeable children.  When it comes to computers, you and Ching Ching were my best, and most expert, teachers.

Your sister, Ching Ching, was eight years old then, and took to the new machines like duck to water. Since I didn’t even know how to play computer games (papa was crazy about them), much less programming, I could not teach her.  Relying on a book, “Computer Programming for Kids,” she was self-taught. (I will write about how, as a grade-schooler, she became our resident computer expert, but that’s another story). Kathy was not really interested (she was more fascinated with horses and other animals) but you, even at a year old, were definitely curious about computers. By the time you were two, you could write your name by typing on the keyboard, and knew how to turn the computer on and off, and open drop down menus, by pointing the mouse at something and clicking it.

You grew up with computers and like Ching Ching, were very at home with the new technology.

While still in early grade school, you taught yourself how to play computer chess games– and would excitedly show us that you won against the computer. When we became awed by this feat, your papa bought a wooden chess set, and proudly challenged you to a game. You lost, you were upset, you cried and you didn’t want to play using the wooden set anymore. Then, you showed us your secret winning strategy, and why you preferred to play against the computer. Whenever you would find your hand losing, you would switch places – meaning switch from playing black to playing white or vice versa. We would have screamed “That’s cheating!” but that you even understood how the game was played was good enough for us. We did encourage you to learn the game, bought you chess books and let you join Milo’s summer programs that taught many sports, including chess.  You learned enough chess techniques to join and win a few Milo-sponsored chess competitions.

When you were 11 years old and a high school freshman, we switched from Lotus 1,2,3 to Excel. While everyone, including you and Ching Ching, said that Excel (and its accompanying programs, Word and PowerPoint) was user-friendlier, oldies like our accountant and myself, found it difficult to make the switch. You took on the task of teaching me. I could see even then that you would make a good teacher, as you patiently showed me, step by step, how to do computations on the new spreadsheet. I’d get lost in anything more than five steps, so you encouraged me by clapping and cheering me on as I succeeded in following a set of instructions, one step at a time.

I was proud of you because even at age 11, you could teach me.  At the same time, I was proud of myself, because I could admit even to my youngest daughter that I didn’t know how to do something.  I figured that the best way, maybe even the only way to learn, is to first be willing to confess that there was something, one or many things, that we did not know.

Fast forward to year 2015. Since you are in Canada, and I am here, I miss having you as my teacher. Don’t worry that I would stop learning. I promise you that I won’t. Sometimes, I’d still call you for help, and I appreciate your step-by-step online instructions. You’d be glad to know that now I see someone who might take your place as my child-teacher. At 69, I am now taking lessons on how to turn on gadgets and devices, and pretty soon, computer programs from my 2-1/2 year old granddaughter, Gaby, your niece. My teachers seem to be getting younger, but I will never forget the time when you were 11, when I learned Excel because you taught me.  You were my most enthusiastic and encouraging teacher. Thank you for your patience in teaching me.

Much love,


1 comment:

Ann wagner said...

Finally I took an early morning moment to read your lovely blog. I am in awe of your discipline but more so of the gift you are giving your family. I am inspired! How can I do this?? From you errant friend who hopes to see you again soon. Like many on the planet, your kindness and generosity to our family will never be forgotten. What an appropriate title from one who is always teaching by example!