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Anne Wallingford, WordSmith


Back to School!
Sept. 2005

After thinking about this carefully, I decided to take a class in Adobe Photoshop Elements through the local high school. I knew how to crop and resize photos, but that is all I knew how to do. I'm not a graphics person but from time to time I need to use Adobe PS Elements for work projects. In the past I could e-mail my pictures to my niece, who is a whiz with graphics, and she would clean up the pictures for me. But she had left for college. So I decided it was time to learn what all those mysterious PS icons meant.

This was a big decision for me, not because I was going back to school to learn something, but because I had to do this on my own. I'd called the school district and learned that the classes were being held in the basement at Randhurst Shopping Center, and that it was wheelchair-accessible. I only hoped their definition of wheelchair-accessible matched my definition.

It so happened that my first class was on the same day that the local schools opened for the '05 school term. So at 8 a.m. I was sitting outside by the curb, waiting for my 'school bus' (the PACE medvan) to pick me up. It was fun watching the kids heading to their first day of school and I couldn't help but remember all those years I taught. Finally, I was going back to school!

Fortunately, the outer doors at Randhurst have an electric door opener and I could push the handicap plate without a problem. I had never been to Randhurst before, and wasn't quite sure where to go, but I recalled being told to look for the first down elevator. I only had to ride in it for three classes and I was determined to make this work. My power chair just barely fit into the small elevator; by reaching behind me and holding onto my orange bike flag there was enough clearance for the elevator doors to close. I had brought a stick along to push the elevator button because I'd learned that it is impossible to reach the elevator buttons from my chair when I can't turn around in the elevator.

After exiting the elevator, I followed the sign saying “Adobe Classes.” There were three other people already sitting at computer workstations but one kindly switched his seat so I could roll up to the end computer. We sat and chatted while waiting for the instructor to arrive.

At a few minutes before 9 a.m., a woman stepped into the room and announced that our class was being held in another room down the narrow hallway. I followed everyone else, hoping that I would be able to do the right angle turn into the room. I made it, just barely. I was in a classroom again! I pulled up to the computer that was directly in front of me and decided I would worry about trying to get back out at the end of class.

Our instructor was obviously very knowledgeable about the Adobe Photoshop Elements program. After all, she started the class by informing us that she had taken this job at the request of a friend, and that she normally only taught at corporations for much more than she was being paid by the school district.

The first class went pretty well and I really felt like I was learning something!

After everyone else left the class, I backed out through the doorway. It took me about fifteen minutes to get out of the room, but I finally made it. It's a good thing I used to have to parallel park an automobile in the city because I knew how to maneuver back and forth!

From there it was just a matter of backtracking—up the elevator and out the mall doors to wait for my medvan. I even had enough time to take a quick tour of the mall so I knew what to visit after next week's class.

Unfortunately, Week Two didn't go as well for me. I started the day with low energy and was working against that, but it certainly didn't help that the instructor frustrated the h*ll out of us. Someone would ask her to repeat something and she would get irritated and say, “I told you what to do.” She'd then rapid fire the instructions again. There were only eight of us in the class, and we were all seniors. We were there because we wanted to learn; we weren't deliberately being obtuse, it was just new to us. After all, if it hadn't been too difficult for us to master on our own, we wouldn't be taking the class.

About an hour into class, I could feel myself going into “meltdown.” My brain was tuning out her rat-a-tat directions and I could feel myself near to tears, a sure sign that I'd reached my physical limit. This is not a pleasant sensation. Nonetheless, I wanted to do the class activities, and I did try. Finally I just gave up. While the rest of the class kept working on the day's project, I went back to last week's project and tried to finish it. Even that got to be too frustrating. I finally folded my hands in my lap and watched the others working. The instructor did walk over to ask if I was having a problem with the program and I just said “I can't do any more today.” She thought I meant my hand wouldn't work the mouse. I let her think that. At least I'd taken a lot of notes before I shut down.

At the end of class, I didn't even go around the mall like I had originally planned. I waited outside for the medvan. When I got home I went to bed and slept for three hours.

When it came time for the third class, I hoped I would do better. But I had also decided I wouldn't let myself get so run down again. The first part of the last class went fine, but the one thing the instructor did repeat, over and over, was her story about the photo we were to use for this last class. It was a photo of a two-year-old boy who is now grown up and a friend of hers. She delighted in telling us, repeatedly, that he wants to be paid royalties for letting us use his photo in our class. (We weren't sure whether she was joking or not.) She also told us how she and her son went on a trip and he wanted to go along but "it wouldn't have been right because they aren't married." Like any of us cared!

I Hate Noise!For this activity we were to copy the photo of the boy onto a blank Word document, then add text to make this into a greeting card. So I copied the boy's photo into the Word document. From where I was sitting at the back of the class, I could see that the other students were writing "cutsie" phrases around the photo. I couldn't bring myself to do that, so I typed in three words, “I hate this.” Needless to say, the instructor wasn't pleased when she looked at my screen. Since we were to make a greeting card with this photo, I told her I wasn't finished. I then scrolled through the other images on the computer and found two more pictures that would work. I placed a picture of a musical instrument in the center of the page, used a sheet of music as a background, and added three more words, “Noise! Noise! Noise!” To be fair, I had to have learned something from these three classes because I couldn't have done this before taking the class.

With my card complete, I went on to my final project. The instructions were to take a photo of a young girl with a red hair bow and red dress and change the colors. For me, this was a pointless activity, as I deliberately do nothing with color in any photos. (The m.s. has affected my color vision, and I have learned that what I see is not what others see.) So instead of changing the colors of the girl's hair bow and dress, I found a picture of a zebra and painted his stripes all different colors. No one would expect a rainbow-colored zebra to look normal, after all. When the instructor saw my picture, she was a little surprised, but kindly said, “Oh, you've made an Andy Warhol zebra.” With that, I called it quits and left. And this time I did tour the mall before going home.

The most valuable thing I learned from going back to school is that this is not something I will do again. The physical exertion drains my energy and my cognitive functions go rapidly downhill. I just don't make a good student any more. I'll just have to learn things on my own without taking part in formal classes.

Oh, and in case you are wondering…I left only an outline of the boy's photo in the above picture—I sure don't want to pay for rights to use his photograph!

Copyright © 2006 Anne Wallingford All Rights Reserved

011206 Sunday, January 15, 2006

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