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pjf (2464)

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I run Perl Training Australia [].

I help with Melbourne Perl Mongers.

I spend an awful lot of time talking about Perl, and have had my picture in the Australian newspapers with a camel. That's rather scary.

Journal of pjf (2464)

Friday October 29, 2004
09:55 PM

A week in Sydney

[ #21598 ]

Yay, Sydney. It's just like Melbourne but none of the train stations have any bins.

Finally found the hotel. Goodness, it's *big*, the room view is spectaculatar. Jacinta has really done a spectacular job. The complimentary tea and coffee include hot chocolate and earl grey. It comes with a broadband port, but with the charges of $15/Mb, I'm unlikely to use it.

However, the Hotel does have free in-house movies, with Harry Potter on channel 15. So I'm pretty happy, although the computer graphics are pretty awful. I never got past the first book, not quite sure what's going on, but after watching a few minutes I feel that the youngsters really should have their wands taken off them.

Having the murderer being a houserat is a twist that I've never seen before.

Woke up, went to the training centre. Not very far away at all, about a three minute walk, or six if you're carrying a huge bag of books, chocolates, stationary, and other assorted training gear. Arrived, introduced myself to the friendly staff, and was given my lab and a box of books from our supplier.

Unpacked the books (most of which were camels and cookbooks). Hmm, one seems to be missing. Called Jacinta, got her out of bed, and asked her to check on the book situation. Continued with my setup.

Discovered that all books did arrive, I just happened to hide the first one I unpacked under some assorted papers. Felt rather foolish, called Jacinta to let her know the good news, and got some coffee. The training lab actually has decent coffee, which is a very refreshing surprise.

The day went smoothly, although we suffered a few equipment problems, primarily with keyboards (easily replaced). Our Introductory class is small, with only four people, althought they're all learning very well, and are asking some wonderful questions. It's great to see such intense interest. I'd love to have them all back on more advanced courses.

Spoke to Jacinta at lunchtime to see what had been happening in the office. It looks like she's scheduled me to visit a new client next week, which may turn into something bigger, and has accepted two very late bookings for our Intermediate courses. As usual, as soon as I leave the state we see a big increase in activity.

In the evening grabbed some food and headed back to the hotel. Discovered that my whopping 150ml complimentary milk has been replaced, along with all the earl grey tea hot chocolate. Looks like I can have a nice breakfast (muesli) and tea all week.

Played System Shock 2 (the joys of bringing an overpowered wide-screen laptop, good quality headphones, and optical mouse), showered, and will be going to bed soon. I'll probably have nightmares from playing SS2 in the dark.

Another day of teaching. Everyone learns in different ways, and one of the challenges of being a trainer is making sure that everyone is able to learn to the best of their ability. When working with a hands-on course, this can be quite challenging. Some students have an easier time learning the material than others, so there's always an interesting balancing act to keep the advanced students interested while making sure that nobody gets left behind.

Everyone reacts to extended training in different ways. Some students will start off being cautious and shy, and will then will become much more open and questioning as time progresses. However sometimes the reverse will happen, as for whatever reason a student who has started well will begin to close-up, and stop being receptive to training.

There are many reasons why a student can close-up. Criticism will often put people on the defensive, so trainers need to be careful to always be encouraging and helpful but without ever saying that a student's work is bad or wrong. However in our warm, friendly course environment the more common reason is that students are learning a lot of information in a relatively short period of time, and that can be quite a lot to take in.

Today I encountered a very confusing situation. We reached the chapter on regular expressions, and got a few groans from class members who had been confused or burnt by them before. After a gentle introduction and some exercises, most students decided that regexps were actually quite cool, and they did make sense once all those funny characters had been explained.

Part-way through regexps one of our students decided that regexps just weren't for him, and that would be it for learning. No more exercises, no more participating in class discussions. I'm hoping this was just tiredness from two long days of learning, and not something more significant.

Tomorrow we have a much bigger class, with eight or nine students (one is still a maybe), so I may be summoning Jacinta from Melbourne to assist with teaching. One of the nice things about Sydney is that it's only a couple of hours travel away. Sure, there's a airplane in there, but the overall time isn't too different to a trip across town.

Thursday and Friday we covered the intermediate course. These were much bigger (nine students), however they all did an excellent job of keeping up with the course material, and keeping me on my toes with many excellent questions.

The student who had stopped learning on Wednesday continued to refuse to participate on Thursday, and didn't attend the course at all on Friday. I could only gather that he was having personal problems which he certainly did not want to discuss, and this clearly didn't put him in the mood for learning. Whatever the matter, I hope that things clear up for him soon.

The remainder of the class responded very well to teaching. They laughed at my jokes on rot13, kept me from coffee during break times with questions, and some even stuck around after the class had finished (5pm on a Friday, when most people have lives) in order to hear me prattle on about named parameter passing.

Feedback on the courses were fantastic, with many words of praise, and a strong interest in future courses. It sure is nice to be appreciated.

During the day I discovered that things for Jacinta weren't proceeding quite as smoothly. A problem with our book suppliers meant that books that were supposed to have arrived in Sydney earlier in the week didn't. Our suppliers have a bad habit when it comes to books that are out of stock. They promise to give us a call when the books arrive, but then fail to do so. As such we end up with our books arriving at the distributors, getting packed into boxes with our names on them, and then sit gathering dust until we call to ask why they're taking so long. Despite this having happened a number of times, we always get told it won't happen again. Short of calling every day to ask if our books have arrived, we don't have a good solution for this at our end.

In 20 minutes my flight leaves back for Melbourne, and I'm looking forward to a long (4 day) weekend. After a week of being in a different city and spending 8 hrs/day teaching on my feet, it'll be great to get some R&R.

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