“Thanks. I got it”

We had a terrific class last night. About a dozen students attended the Mississauga location of Henry’s School of Imaging for a three-hour workshop all about travel. As is my habit, I talked to the students who arrived early to ask them about where they were (or have been) going on their trips and what were they hoping to learn from our class.

I was really drawn to the story of one student. Despite trying to learn photography she confessed she was still confused about aperture and shutter priority modes and when to use them. In fact, the whole digital camera was still a mystery. She had a Canon DSLR (which is a great camera) and I bet she was worried that she’d never figure it out. She was really feeling despondent so I promised her that at tonight’s class we’d review these issues. I also got her to agree that if I said anything that she didn’t understand, it was her job to put up her hand. I do this when I have a student who is really trying to figure out the camera and photography in general but for whatever reason it just isn’t happening. You see I know that if one student isn’t getting something, other students will be in the same boat but just not willing to admit it.

And so we started our travel class. When we got to the review of the technical things you should know about using a new digital camera we took some extra time to review the basics. I kept asking the class questions to confirm they were understanding the concepts. We had a couple of folks with expensive DSLRs and they jumped right in. I kept making the questions a little more challenging. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the student who expressed concern mouthing the answers as others shouted out their responses so I asked another question and pointed to her. Her eyes grew wide and she had that deer in the headlights look so I asked the question again and started waving my arms in a way to say “come on, come on. You can do it.”

And while her answer wasn’t right on, it was close enough and I made big fuss about it. Then I asked her another follow-up question and she got it! I’ve never seen such a big smile. For the rest of the night our student kept answering questions and working with her camera just like everybody else.

At the end of the class the reviews were terrific and most of the students came up and thanked me for the class and I thanked them for attending. A few had some advanced questions and as the last folks were leaving our student came up and said “Thanks. I got it.” The look of relief and joy in her face made my day.

There is no greater reward in teaching better than helping someone overcome the fear that they aren’t “getting it”.

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