Friday, September 4, 2009

What Makes a Good Teacher: Does Losing my Cool Make Me Cooler?

I hope this can be a brief post, but I'm not so sure.

I've written before about my mixed feelings when working with both Illinois workNet Resume Builder tool, and when using Google Doc's inconsistent formatting. Well, the other day, when working with a "super-motivated-early-arriving-totally-prepared guy" BOTH tools momentarily failed on us.

(Let's just call him Mr. Doe) arrived thirty minutes early so we could decide the best way to get his paper resume into an online format. Since we don't have Microsoft Word, our two best options were, if you have been reading this blog at all, Illinois workNet Resume builder, and Google docs. Since Mr. Doe already had a job lined up in contracting, all he needed to do was email his resume to the potential employer. He had a paper resume, but there were items he needed to correct. I showed him the Illinois workNet resume builder and he was really excited.

We got to work straight away. Mr. Doe clicked on drop-downs like a madman, and got in the groove of it quickly. That was, until the resume builder received a pageful of error messages of doom. After logging on and off a few times, it didn't seem like the problem was going away anytime soon. I didn't know what to do, so we both quickly tried to make the most of his remaining 45 minutes with me.

We changed tactics brilliantly and created a Google account for him. But as poor Mr. Doe began to type, Google Docs fought him at every turn! As soon as we changed the font size, the spacing changed, and as soon as we changed from bold-faced type, we had met our match. For some reason, G-docs began to skip around, and change spacing and font size at random, and I nor Mr. Doe could counteract his possessed document.

At this point, I began to lose my cool. The thing is, I see myself as sort of a shield--I want to be the one to assist people in their first experience with new technology. I want the experience to be a calm, meaningful one, and I want the resources I choose to be easy to use and dependable. So when things don't always go as planned, I feel like I have not quite done my job, or perhaps I have chosen resources that are not as easy to use as I wish they were.

The conclusion of this story is actually much happier than I thought it would be. After a short period of frustration, Mr. Doe and I decided to try to log into Illinois workNet again. Ah-ha! This time it worked, and speedy Mr. Doe again clicked through the resume builder to wind up with a product that he was satisfied with.

We all know that even the most well-intentioned teacher can struggle with technology. However, I know that in a retail situation, I get slightly embarrassed for employees who are struggling with a cash register, or another tool they work with. So was it OK to show my frustration? Probably not. And that's something that I can work on a bit--because we all know that error messages are part of my world.

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