The biggest lesson for Daphne Bradford's students came, oddly enough, after they had taken and passed her computer class.
Now, they get to see what it's like to teach students of their own.
The digital media instructor at Crenshaw High School recruited nine of her students to venture once a week to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Cal State Dominguez Hills and teach all that they have learned about Mac computers to a class of half a dozen or so retirees wanting to learn the same.
"I'm actually teaching people — that's crazy!" said Domonic Wilks, a 10th-grader. He has been paired with Marjorie Doyen, a retired Los Angeles Unified teacher — no pressure — who said she wants to learn how to edit and organize the "thousands, I mean thousands, of pictures" she snapped on her vacations around the world.
"You never think a high school kid would get to do something like that," Domonic said.
But he's clicking and dragging with Doyen, 62, of Carson, who has nothing but plaudits for her young mentor. In fact, Bradford pointed out that this pairing probably has the best chemistry in the class. They even smile alike, she said. (Both of their faces crease into big, toothy grins.)
The class came about as a way for the institute to put to good use its lab of Apple desktops that still glimmer with that new computer sheen. It also fulfills a goal of Bradford's to start a program that would bridge the older generation with a younger one — an ambition that stemmed from an encounter with civil rights activist Rosa Parks before she died. Bradford said Parks, a heroine of hers, encouraged such generation-crossing experiences and, apparently, also used email.
Bradford strolled through the classroom, peering over the shoulders of her students-turned-teachers, who seemed to be getting the hang of it.
"It's enlightening," Jim Jetton, 75, of Palos Verdes Peninsula, told Bradford. "I didn't know you could do that much with the pictures."
Jetton admitted that he had plenty to learn about the computer, but many in the class challenged the stereotype of older people fumbling with technology.
Rose Yamazaki, 64, crosses the street from her home for class on Tuesdays to learn how to better use her own Mac. But she's not a novice: The retired neuropharmacologist who did brain research has been using computers for years.
"How many decades? Let's see, 35 years," Yamazaki said, her eyes focused on the screen as she fiddled with her photo album. "But it's very different, you know. So, I keep up — or try to."
Bradford said her students come away learning something too.
It seems she's right. Mia Henry, a shy 11th-grader, said she's becoming more confident about speaking in public. Kevin Rivera, a 10th-grader, said he overcame his nerves and was proud to show off his knowledge. Trestan Fairweather, an 11th-grader, never thought he could be a teacher. But much to his surprise, he said, "I did great today."
But Bradford said she has also caught them brushing up on notes from her class, reading computer guidebooks and stressing about whether their students understood the lesson.
Maybe their teacher's job isn't that easy after all.