I taught my first Computer Literacy class yesterday, through the Women’s Resource Center. The goal of the program is to teach basic computer skills to dining staff and other BC workers who might not otherwise have the chance to learn. I was matched with Julio, a Dominican man presumably in his mid to late 40s. He had an email and instinctively typed with two chopstick fingers. That was about it. Our lesson was conducted mainly in Spanish, with the occasional venture into Spanglish.
I figured this sort of volunteer work wouldn’t be too difficult. I’d dealt with underprivileged children, “intellectually disabled” adults and teens, the homeless, all the cliches of a well-rounded, worldly Sacred Heart graduate. Teaching a normal, working class person how to use a computer would be effortless.
So it was a bit unexpected when I found myself flushed, somewhere between pointing to the “on” button on my laptop and showing him how to right-click. I was embarrassed at the inadvertent hint of agitation in my tone when Julio struggled to highlight something on the screen. I felt stupid. A twenty year-old teaching a grown adult. It bordered dangerously on patronizing.
This was a person whom I might take one look at and think, he’d probably jeer at me on the street. And yet, I allowed myself to step back, to relate, to lower the pretense, to slur my words in Spanish and make jokes. I taught him to google pictures of that Panamanian player in the Yankees, and I even allowed him to save a picture of the Giant’s “chirliders” on my desktop. By the end of the class, I was unaware of the newly-formed group of blondes in the room, presumably for another meeting. When our chatter died down, they were silent. I noticed them staring at us with blank expressions, the frustratingly polite kind, not sure what to make of the rich, rapid-fire conversation occurring between a most mismatched pair, hunched over a computer screen.
I thanked them graciously and left. As we agreed on our next meeting, Julio very matter-of-factly stated, “me gusto mucho la forma de enseñar tuya.”