February 20, 2009
I had this dream where I wasn't prepared ...
I'm going to teach a class this weekend that's an intro to Microsoft Word styles and templates. I am a, shall we say, avid proponent of using styles (see also), so I look forward to an opportunity to spread the, um, good Word.
The class is specifically an intro class (I got to write the course description, in which this was emphasized). Even so, I get ... nervous. My anxiety derives primarily from a fear that I won't know enough. This manifests itself in a certain compulsiveness. In the time leading up to the class, I start obsessing about ever-more-arcane details, like "How do you remove a multilevel list template from the gallery?" and similar esoterica that a) no one will ask and b) even if they did, I could legitimately say "Dunno, I'll get back to you on that."
Realistically, and in my experience, people for the most part sign up for the class precisely because they are a bit confuddled by this styles business and just want an intro. As described in the catalog. (A few people in the class are usually even still a bit unsure even about general formatting issues, coz let's face it, unless you use Word all the time, this stuff ain't obvious.) You'll always get a question or two from left field, but you don't have to know everything, do you?
But it's hard to let go. And I'll tell you a story. Many years ago (24, to be exact), I started at a new company, which had hired me due in part to my (alleged) expertise with their product. I had barely been there a week when they told me that I would be flying from Seattle to the east coast to do three days' worth of training for a big corporate customer. Big customer. I'd done training before, so this wasn't unreasonable. But I was nervous and because it was mid-winter and I was stressed, I started to get a cold.
But off I went. Training started at some awful time like 8:00 in the morning, meaning of course I had to find my way to the facility early after way too little sleep. We got all set up to start the training, and I launched into the agenda for the standard course.
Their main dude stopped me at that point and said, "Oh, we already know all that." What they wanted, as it turned out, was a class that explored the deep innards of the product, which of course I had only superficial knowledge of.
So. 20 minutes into the first day of a three-day course, and I was out of material.
Somehow we bashed on. They were very good about the situation, and we worked out something, I forget what, where we did more of a seminar that I believe also involved me phoning home for advice at various times. (This would be been before email was prevalent, even.) I was stressed, though, man was I stressed. I slept badly and my cold had flowered impressively, and it was cold as hell and the air was dry, and at one point I sprang a nosebleed right in the middle of the class. Hey, there's a way to make a good impression, right?
This memory has lingered, as you can see. Since then I've never entered a classroom without thinking about this, because I have actually lived the nightmare that everyone has about getting up in front of an audience or a class and having no clue.
Hopefully I won't need to report to you next week that I've lived it again. Indeed, hopefully I will have made more converts to the wonderful world of styles and templates. Either way, I'll let you know.