Turning My World Upside Down

Posted by Debby on 6th April and posted in EDC 634

To: Brent Gill
RE: Turning my world upside down
I just wanted to take a minute and ask you if you had any idea what you did to me my senior year? Remember that computer class, those Apple IIe’s? The room full of geeky high school kids who couldn’t wait to come to class and didn’t want to leave?

For some reason, I can’t even remember why now, I signed up for the class. I may have been the only female in the class… if there were others, I don’t remember them. What made this such a magical class was that we knew we were playing with something that had boundless potential, something that was going to change the way we all did things. We were fascinated by creating random pixel arrays and motivated by debugging the ominous “syntax error”.
You set up the learning environment in such a way that we all felt safe to explore… and to fail. Failure wasn’t something bad, it was just one thing that didn’t work. I had the feeling that you were only about one step ahead of us the whole year and that you truly relished the opportunity to learn along side of us. You thought it was totally cool when we figured something out that you didn’t know.
My experience in that class set the stage for the learning and teaching that I do now. I learned so much more than how to use a boot disk or program a loop. I learned to troubleshoot, problem solve, and find creative solutions. I learned that the answers are not always in the book, and that sometimes you have to write your own book. I learned to not be afraid to push all the buttons just to see what would happen. When I reflect on why I teach in a certain way, I can trace it back to being your student. Give my students the tools to learn, and the space to create, and incredible things can happen. I want to thank you for opening up the world of computers to me, but more importantly, for having faith and confidence in all of us that we had the power to direct our own learning. To this day, that class is only one of a few “formal” computer classes I ever took, but it put into place the groundwork for everything I do today. Thank you!

  • Betty Demus

    Sounds like he is a wonderful person. I am sure this letter will make his day since it is not often we have someone say “what a good job you’ve done”.
    P.S. Is he still teaching?

  • I agree and it’s heartening to see how much he appreciated your comments. I received a warm thanks for my letter and it really makes you both feel good about it.
    That’s great Debby and he obviously thinks highly of you as a person and a teacher.

  • Peita Ramos

    You could also post this as a mentor letter maybe, or someone that influenced you in your life like we had to do for Sue’s class. One thing that I have gotten from this program is a sense of appreciation for where I came from, what I have now and where I am going.
    I’m glad that he influenced you because now we get to see you today in this program as the fantastic teacher you are 🙂

  • Kevin Harris

    I am sure one day a person will thank you for being who you are, teaching what you know, and being honest about the things you don’t. One day you will be rewarded, I am sure of it!! You have allowed me to push my talents and/or hobbies to the max and live on the edge of learning and experimentation and I thank you for that!

  • Brent Gill

    I hope some day you get such a letter. Thank you most sincerely. I called Sharon in and read it to her, and her comment was, “What a nice letter to get!”
    You are absolutely correct in that I was barely ahead of you, working in an area that I really knew little about, but enough to keep you guys pointed in the general direction. It really was a major kick in the pants, to have one of you figure out how to do something, and we’d all gather around and watch and look. But, that is truly learning, isn’t it?
    Education is such a nebulous thing, and so tentative. When we learn, there is an excitement, and the best teachers will enhance, and cherish that excitement. Learning in an exciting atmosphere, is REALLY learning, no matter the subject.
    I have heard some really good things about your teaching, and it is an honor to learn that I may have played an important part in your education, and ultimately your teaching.
    I know that I was a good teacher, and my wife has tried on many occassions to get me to go back to it. I think I got out exactly when I should have, for I was really rapidly approaching a major burn-out stage. Teaching had become rather mundane, and even thinking about going back to teaching in a classroom full-time, teaching the same subject every year ….. nahhhhhh, not on your life.
    I taught out in the BEAM program for a couple of years, and was teaching a math of the most basic level. It is fun to teach something that someone WANTS to learn, but such a drag to try to teach those that really don’t give a flip! I could tell that my time as a teacher had been good …. but that I was done. Not any more.
    In fact, it angers Sharon that I do not want to go back, for she thinks it is a waste of good talent. It possibly is, but I simply couldn’t really enjoy it, not the way I did for a while.
    If it EVER gets to be mundane, do the students a favor, and go plant flowers or something, but don’t hang in there just for a paycheck. Hopefully, the excitement you feel now, will just go on and on and on. I sure hope so, for your sake, and for the sake of the students.
    Again, thanks, Debbie. What a nice compliment.

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