Thursday, October 20, 2011

"Hosting" classes in Valencia Garden computer lab

Valencia Gardens computer lab is used to being slow due to the lack of computer classes and drop-in computer users. It all changed this week. This week, Valencia Gardens computer lab plays host to 3 different organizations offering free computer training to the community.

First, Danielle, from USF, teaches the "Introduction Computer Class" two days a week, from 5 to 6 p.m. She started last week, and will be here for 3 more weeks. Second, Shai (spelling?), an intern from One Economy, teaches the "Computer Workshop", every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Third, Min and Hua, two trainees from Treasure Island Job Corps, teach the "Chinese Basic Computer Workshop" every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They will be here for 6 weeks. Dan and I did not get advance notice that the classes would be happening. Fortunately for the "Introduction Computer Class" and "Computer Workshop", the teachers arrived early and few students showed up. Unfortunately, the "Chinese Basic Computer Workshop" because a different story.


Students started arriving at 9:30 a.m. for a class they thought was going to start at 10 a.m. A new posted schedule at the door said the class was starting at 10:30 a.m. Students continued to arrive and the teachers were nowhere to be seen. At 10:29 a.m., the two "teachers" arrived with their supervisor from Treasure Island Job Corps arrived. They received what I perceived to be an "orientation" from their supervisor, as well as Martin who arrived a few minutes later. Except for two students who demanded seats or computers to use because they registered for it, the other students were very patient and understanding. The two teachers, who were obviously not trained or prepared, were put in a difficult situation. They briefly introduced themselves. As questions poured in, they went on to help students one-on-one. However, one-on-one wasn't going to work for a class of 18 students.

Nothing really happened until like 11:00 a.m. As the only Chinese speaker who knew what was going on, I felt I had to do something. After checking with the other "teachers", I got the students to gather around one computer, told them who the different parties were, the services offered by the Valencia Gardens, what (I thought) the computer class was, what (they think) computers are used for, the different types of computer, Valencia Garden's computers, how to turn them on, how to log in, how to open Internet Explorer, and how to open www.baidu.com. The rest of the time were spent helping individual students. I also wrote some URLs on the white board for students to check out.

After the class was over, I debriefed with the two "teachers". I suggested that they check with their supervisor to find out if they can arrive earlier, or start the class later. I also suggested that they come prepared, and think about what they are going to teach for the next 6 weeks (or remaining 17 two-hour classes) so that the students don't get bored and stop coming.

Update for Thursday: The Chinese Basic Computer Workshop was more orderly. Martin of Valencia Gardens gave some handouts for the teachers to use. Since a few students asked about finding low-income housing in San Francisco, I made a handout about the topic and combined it with teaching about Google Search and Google Translate. I am not sure if the teachers plan to use the handout, but it looks like this.

Live update on Friday: The Chinese Basic Computer Workshop is going on right now. The two volunteer teachers are doing very well: Managing the class, having a good lesson plan and teaching materials, delivering the instruction clearly and responding to their students' needs and developing a good relationship with them. I am trying to limit my role to just supporting them. They were given a challenge, and have demonstrated that they are capable of performing the task and learning in the process. More importantly, they have started doing their service and making an impact immediately. I am envious of them.

Correction on 10/25/2011: The name of the intern from One Economy is spelled Cyrill, not Shai.

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