“Why do we have to know this?”

I’VE BEEN A TEACHER my whole life. I’ve taught in multiple venues: large auditoriums, college and elementary classrooms, and waist deep in pool and lake water. At one point I was fully immersed in an Alpine stream in Germany—in February. No, I’m not going to provide more personal, albeit kind of strange, stories from my past in this post.

This is all just to point out my bona fides when it comes to the craft of teaching. My style tends toward laid back with well organized and focused presentations. I like to think I’m non-threatening although I’ve been tempted on several occasions.

When I teach Mac classes to beginners I rely in large part on my own experiences. I bought my first Mac in 2007. Prior to that I had used PCs for almost 20 years so there was a tremendous learning curve involved. 

One of the skills that I bring to the table when teaching is that I remember the frustration of learning something brand new — something for which my past life had not prepared me.

For five years I attended Mac classes but I spent even more time trying to educate myself. I kept reading how intuitive the Mac was but my experience suggested I was sent the one Mac not on my intuitive wavelength. 

Ultimately, my first laptop died one night and I figured it was probably my fault. My Catholic upbringing made that the go-to reason. To this day I have not figured out exactly what happened.

A tech guy I was lucky enough to find retrieved my files and set me up on another computer. It was at that point that I realized I was on my own when it came to computers. I hated relying on someone else to save me and vowed to figure all of this out for myself. That was the genesis of Gentle Mac Coaching. 

Last October I taught a class on the essentials of Mac computers. I created multiple Keynote (Apple’s version of Power Point) presentations and I was on a roll.

I spent a great deal of time during the initial classes trying to explain how the whole byte—kilobyte—megabyte, etc. system worked. I provided beautiful graphics and thought my students were catching on.

Then I was asked one of the most pointed (and valid) questions I had ever been asked: “Why do we have to know this?”

And it made me realize that I needed to spend more time explaining why this information was important. Just providing the information itself was not sufficient. 

​I’d actually never run into this situation. My graduate students never questioned why because they wanted to pass the course and get a degree. My swimming students just wanted to learn that skill. But these adult students need more.

So with another class scheduled for the first part of next year I am reevaluating my approach. I personally found that understanding the nuts and bolts of my computer eliminated the mystery. For me, everything started making sense when I became familiar with my Mac’s insides. No mystery means no fear. And knowledge brings a feeling of empowerment. 

I’m hopeful in my next set of classes I can provide a better explanation for why this information provides a good foundation for mastering and enjoying the Mac.