I would agree with gnashings (I almost always do) Buy an old, but decent SLR like a Pentax K1000 or an old rangefinder, in both cases with a good 50mm lens, get the manual off the web, buy it some film, point it at stuff and press the button (a lot) and see what happens. Read books and magazines by all means for technical advise and to see what other people do. Maybe join a camera club and you should find yourself in a position to get more out of you class when you do get to do it.

David.