I have felt very helpless while working on a project from April till September.
I was asked to take over a course from teacher W..
I mistakenly recognized the subject as something I had taught 5 years ago, but I had to admit to myself that I knew close to nothing about it when I did a sit-in. It was a different subject with a similar name.
Perhaps I should have declined then, but having a lot of time at my disposal, I thought that all would go well. Besides, I could ask plenty of questions to teacher W.
The sit-in in W.’s class was a disaster. I had been severely ill the first two weeks of April. The sit-in was a couple of days later. While I had regained about 80% of my strength, my mental capacities were not strong enough to sit and swallow new knowledge for 8 hours in a row. And while the morning session was still bearable the afternoon I was hardly awake. I realized I wouldn’t make it the next day and the day after that, so I apologized and copied the necessary software to my laptop.
The biggest problem I had was teacher W., the person I would have to follow up. Our personalities and teaching style were apparently very different, and the communication never worked well. In fact, it didn’t work at all.
I probably didn’t make a good first impression. You can sense it when somebody doesn’t see you as fully qualified. And indeed I was not. But his unhidden disappointment led to a chronic communication problem.
Since I had only assisted day one of the sit-in, I had never actually seen the software perform what it had to do, so I had no idea what was to be expected when doing a full install by myself. Even worse: the software works under windows server. I am a Linux teacher/sysadmin, and my knowledge of windows server was at least 5 years behind.
When one month later, and fully cured, I arrived for the next sit-in, teacher W. pretended he had never seen me before. There was also the problem that no computer had been foreseen for me. Perhaps I hadn’t communicated well enough about this 2nd sit-in? Who will say.
So I started preparing a test lab at home, all by myself.
Cannot ask questions! There is no information on the internet – all closed source. Besides this, having to first get accustomed with the newer versions of windows server. Setting up a virtual test environment needing 16GB of RAM while I only had 8GB.
How can you test closed source if you don’t have a license or a key, was another question. So I started to dig myself in, in this wonderful world of windows servers and 90 days licenses. But other work soon took over, and then the kids were home for holidays.
A meeting mid summer was hardly assuring. Teacher W. had set up a new environment in the classroom. Very performing but even more things to learn. Showing my problems with licenses resulted in a quick fix and haughty responses. The meeting was very short and most of my questions remained unanswered. But at least, now I had licenses.
Was it only inside me, only me feeling this arrogance? I know that in such cases it is difficult to separate facts from stories inside my head.
My helplessness came to peak when 10 days before D-day, I had still not seen the software work. I had done a lot of work already, but it simply didn’t click.
I thought of quitting, and read my contract. I noticed that 10 days before D-day was the last day of cancelling without financial repercussions. This was the last day!
I texted a colleague (a windows server certified guy) while he was teaching, to contact me a.s.a.p.. He phoned me 10 minutes later, and we discussed my problems. He had seen the software work, and to my surprise had made his own exercise material on it, which he promptly emailed to me. One day later I saw the software work for the first time in my life.
Helplessness and frustration.
The frustration only comes when there is someone to blame. When we had a flood a couple of years ago, I just started pumping the water. Perhaps while pumping, the helplessness is already gone. The helplessness is felt that moment when you see the overpowering mess.
Teacher W. would now do a sit-in in my first class. I couldn’t teach the subject my way.
Two students recognized him from former courses and the questions were not asked to me anymore, but crossed the table to expert W.
The first 3 days of teaching the new subject I uttered the mantra ‘this too will pass’ a hundred times.
You cannot circumvent the course material that W. had painstakingly brought together in previous years, when W. is in the room. You can only show that you know your subject for only 55%.
Fear? No, a feeling of surrender to the situation
Hope? Yes, “this too will pass” was my mantra of hope.