My Final Class
By: Lolo Anderson
Only my friend JESUS would know me well enough to give me such a special and personal gift. HE knows of my love for both teaching and photography. Not only that but my passion for pointing teenage girls to GOD.
First thing after my first retirement after 40 years was get my teachers’ credentials and started substitute teaching in local high schools. It was almost a full year before I ran out of money and had to go back to work as a contractor.
There were 4 local high schools that kept requesting my services every school day. I did not have a college degree but I had qualified based on my professional computer programming experience and my professional photography business I had owned and operated locally.
Never got to teach one computer programming or photography class. Everything from college prep English to English as a second language to adult Spanish speaking students. Even was assigned the county alternative school several days over and over.
Just so happened I had 3 of my own children in high school during this time. None of my kids like their daddy being their substitute teacher at school. Got to be great friends with the varsity football head coach. Video taped all football games. We would spend hours each week right after each game editing and producing the game video for team practice the next day.
I really enjoyed that year of teaching high school kids so much. I never really got to teach anything I wanted to, not even programming much less photography. I had given several photography classes as requested by my college professor friend as his guest and I loved it.
Eleven years later I retired one final time as a contract application programmer. I knew my teaching certificate had already expired and so were my abilities. I knew I would never get a chance to teach my passion for photography again.
I had to resign from a very high paying position because I knew my emotional and mental health was beginning to go south. My experience with the stages of my mother’s dementia I knew what was starting to happen to me. Plus, my father’s emotional genes would make any teaching out of the question.
It was only because I love my sister so much that I agreed to her request. This is my wife’s most crazy sister of all her crazy sisters. Unlike all of her beautiful Roman Catholic sisters, she is a beautiful Mormon. None of that matters to me at all. I have met my GOD in so many crazy places. I know all my sisters love the same GOD as I do.
Still this sister and I have the most open relationship with GOD together. I trusted her that the sweet ladies at her church would help me. We prayed and asked GOD together with her and I agreed to teach the church girls youth group. They needed a project to earn money to go to camp. Someone suggested selling portraits of church members.
This sister of mine must have piped up and suggested she had a brother that might be able to help make that possible. Next thing I know I was getting these wonderful text messages from the girls leaders and mothers. With their loving encouragement I was able to pull together a couple of one hour classroom lessons.
Packed up all my studio equipment and all 3 digital cameras and met them at the side door of the church basketball court. My condition had not fallen to a point where now my doctor is prescribing me a number of medicines that I did not have then. Understand I was nervous and no meds to help keep me from falling apart.
From the very first lady I encountered I felt the love of HIS HOLY SPIRIT. I have no idea what anyone said to me. What I do know every word was said with kindness and love to a total stranger. Then the crazy wild and noisy teenage girls started to come into the gymnasium.
If you have read some of my other stories you would know I was no strangers to teenage girls. This was way different than from any class for the past 30 years. The last time I was leading the church group in Napa was the last time all my students were Christian Teenage girls.
Not like the catty and competitive girls in all 4 of the local high schools. Their talk was loud and funny like the kids at school. The complete absence of bad words and hurting remarks to each other.
Now I had given many presentations to professionals and classes to hard working construction workers. I thought I could transform my language to fit most any audience. My GOD, what if I slip in a cuss word when I get carried away telling something. The only thing that got me through was my preparation. Just because GOD directs you to do something. Don’t expect your best effort, unless you have given your best effort.
The HOLY SPIRIT had given me a solid lesson plan and I had practiced each lesson over and over before the first class. No one could tell I was holding back a wall of tears all through each class. It had nothing to do with me. It was all the sweet little girls that were making each moment so magical for me. Teaching them how to use a camera and how to set up backgrounds and lights. More than that I was teaching them how to make the subject comfortable.
Started to take practice portraits of each other and the real fun began. The girls were so awesome. Soaking up everything so fast, learning faster that I had ever seen anyone. Having so much good clean fun with each other and with me.
Then we had a practice test for the girls. There were other meeting going on in the big church at that same time. They invited a few church members in for sit for a test portrait. The test portraits the girls took all by themselves were so impressive to me. They all made me cry at not just the focus and exposure of each frame. They had also captured the feelings and emotion as well. I seen a picture of a 70 something lady it was so clear she still had the beauty of a 20 year old. The beautiful mommy and her 2 children. The kids so happy and safe in mommy’s arms with her laughing smile.
The pride it gave me to see I was able to pass that skill on to someone before it would be too late. Then one after the other these precious girl’s mothers kept watching me with their girls. Never experienced to many sweet and gentle ladies as I found in that church. That included my sister that started this whole thing.
The big day arrived and church members had made their scheduled appointments with our appointed schedule team. The set-up team helped me unload the van and set up the lights and backgrounds. The girls assigned to check in clients and escort them in and out of the gym.
Then there was the girls designated to operate the cameras and their assistants to adjust lights and props. We had set-up groups to spell each other throughout the 6-hour window for church members to sign up for.
The kind Christian ladies had brought in a big soft arm chair for me to just sit ant watch the girls do their jobs. Mid-way through the day the primary studio strobe light powerpack failed. No problem, I drove home and brought back a back up lighting system. Only cause a minor delay for the next schedules clients. Given all the emotion and stress that should have caused a permanent breakdown. It was only GOD that stood steadfast against that happening and it was almost seemed a common event.
The day was over and it was quite a success and my pride in all the girls was so big I was about to breakdown. Just like at that first class the same sweet little girl was there to the very last to help me pack the van. I had always recommended to have all the photofinishing done, sent out commercially. After the off the chart learning curve the girls had shown to me, I suggest maybe I could teach them Photoshop and save tons of money for their camping trip.
The mother of the 3 sweetest girls agreed to have me come to her house and teach her girls Photoshop. I had thought my greatest and last experience teaching was that last class back at the church. This I know now would be my final class to remember and then re-remember every time I read this story.
Again, I prepared and planned each lesson and even provided detail, click by click instructions with each hand out. The lesson plan and detail hand-outs made my last classes with my most favorite students of my entire teaching life so wonderful. All crowed around the kitchen table with a corner bench seat. Three laughing beautiful teenage girls jammed next to me in the middle. Heads all together trying to watch the laptop. No wonder their eagle-eyed mother sat directly across from me.
You could not believe how nervous I was at first. Then just like at church the Christian love began to explode in all our faces. We prayed and I told them the story about David and Goliath in the Bible. The giant was the task the church as given you to accomplish. You 3 girls are going to be David in this story.
It has taken me 40 years of learning to teach you in 2 lessons what I have learned about Photoshop and professional computer filing systems required for this task. What ever you can gleam in the next 2 lessons will be the rock GOD is giving you to kill the giant.
David had great faith in GOD and so will need faith that HE will give you success if we ask HIM. It had been made clear to me that nothing but good had come from this project so far. The instant agape love over-flowing that kitchen table I was able to enjoy the moment and my inner self felt secure.
All the Photoshop tricks to select poses for proofing and how to distribute them back to the clients. They all seemed very interested in the retouching tools and how to remove skin blemishes. Once we got that far all they wanted to do was fix the test images of themselves.
Seems they all were finishing my sentences reading from the detail instructions. All they had to do was follow the step-by-step instructions. Remember I had 20 years creating applications and on-line instructions.
Each one at a time got the laptop and we all followed along as one operated the laptop and the other read the instructions. Then trade roles and do it again. All I had to do to is talk and laugh with their mother at how much fun they were having learning photoshop.
The girls may never know how much they have meant to me. I knew all along they would be my last public students. They have fulfilled my dream of how that last group of students might be. I had thought them to be the most beautiful and magnetic of all the girls at their church until I met their youngest sister her their house. All 4 sisters displayed such pure Christian values with such zeal and love of life.
The girls have expressed their love for me in many ways. They came over to my home to give me a giant poster that they all had signed. They also gave me a framed photograph of the whole girl’s youth group. I was the deer in the headlights stunned and did not know how to talk. I had just taken some strong medication for my depression and I was so embarrassed. Never even had the presence of mind to ask them to sit in my house.
My ability to control my emotions had fallen even more but again my sister asked me to please come over for dinner. The girl’s youth group would be there. You can read my story about the one that got away for details about that last meeting with these very special young ladies and their lovely mother went.
Now I have had to make a spreadsheet to list all my contacts so I can remember who is who and how are they connected to others. I need to read as many past text in a thread to remember what I had said to that person the last time and why I said it to everyone, even my inner family.
So, I have written down what I still can remember about my last class. What I have not described is the pure agape love I felt from all 3 of the girls and everyone at my sister’s church. The love given from the HOLY SPIRIT is truly the best gift anyone can receive.