December 2020 Reflections

I remember reading something years ago when I worked on elder issues, although I honestly no longer remember who wrote this:

“People really don’t change with age. They just become more of who they always were.”

Today, as I get ready for my last day of Saturday classes after an incredibly challenging semester, that statement seems to ring so true.

Following is the photo of the place where I’ve spent most of my time during the last month – sitting in front of my computer. Sometimes I was grading papers online in the “Review” mode of Microsoft WORD, and sometimes I was meeting on Zoom.

*

*

Learning how to teach on Zoom has been a difficult journey. It reminded me of the fist time I saw myself on video. The experience was truly memorable and continues to exert its influence each time I see myself on camera before I begin accepting students who are in the Zoom “waiting room.”

Here’s an excerpt from something I wrote a while ago that has helped me remember both the humor and humility needed to face this daunting but necessary challenge.

***

October 26, 2020 – Reflections about Zoom:
Trying to maintain social connections in an era of physical distancing

I wonder how many people have seen themselves on video. I didn’t see myself on video until I was in my early 30s. It was a shock! All I could see were my imperfections. Mostly, the size of my nose! I remember the aftereffect vividly. As I climbed the stairs from the basement video lab in the social work building after watching my first taped interview, I wondered why my nose wasn’t bouncing off the walls three-feet away as I turned the corners of the winding stairway.

I laughed at the thought later, but it only made it harder for me to face another video-taped interview, or even worse, a public speaking event. And as luck would have it, I had to do a lot of public speaking in the first job I had after completing my master’s degree. Luckily, experiences before and after my first video taught me the power of humility and humor. They also taught me to face my fears head on.

Rather than continue suffering for days before each speech, unable to eat, I enrolled in a public speaking training course. Participants were required to present information on a variety of topics to other enrollees as the camera rolled. Then, we analyzed our own and other’s videos to identify both strengths and suggestions for improvement. I didn’t notice my nose. What I did notice were a few surprising strengths I had never noticed before.

*

Screenshot of 1989 TV interview about American Indian Logo Issues with John Pepitone, Newscene 15 (a Madison, WI ABC affiliate)

*

No one would be able to tell that I was scared and nauseous. There were no “tell” signs of anxiety – no stuttering or deadly space fillers of ums or ahs, no red neck or flushed cheeks, and no hands uncontrollably shaking. My presentations were animated by movements, facial expressions, and hand movements, and my voice was pleasant to hear, modulating appropriately with changing topics.

The experience also taught me some techniques to deal with fear.

    • Research your topic well. Know who your audience is. And choose the best ways to present information.
    • Take time to breathe and center.
    • Remember the purpose of your presentation. This is not about you or your ego. It’s about communicating authentically and effectively in order to convey crucial information on some topic that is important to the audience.
    • Don’t sit or stand behind a podium. Move! Use the extra energy from fear and anxiety to create a sense of presence.
    • Make eye contact with everyone in the audience.
    • Don’t take yourself too seriously and be ready to adapt to unforeseen glitches and opportunities with spontaneity and grace.

Fast-forward to four decades later. It’s not the size of my nose that bothers me most these days when I see my image reflected back to me on the Zoom screen. But honestly, I try not to notice the way the camera highlights the two front teeth that were the victims of bad dentists, or how the headphones I need for audio make my scraggly, thinning, graying hair look even more disheveled. Let’s not mentioned the wrinkles or the lenses on my glasses that either reflect light from the window or computer screen or distort the size of my eyes. These are a small price to pay for a long life spent on gaining knowledge and compassion that I hope to pass on to others.

The most difficult part of Zoom, though, is not being able to sense or change the energy in a room. All I have are words that don’t flow as easily when I have to remain stationary and speak to small images of student faces, or blank screens with their names when students turn off their video cameras. I can’t even tell if the Zoom camera ever shows that I am looking at them directly when they’re speaking.

Yet I try to communicate as effectively as possible anyway, because in these times connections matter even more. Although human connections with students are over a distancing medium, it’s the best we can do right now. I try to focus on the things that matter despite the vulnerabilities that are exposed in the process. A sense of humor and humility help…

***

The most difficult challenge now, though, is the fact that I have so little time to write or keep up with the photos, poetry, stories, and reflections that you all post on lovely blogs. As I face the beginning of a new semester all too soon, I wonder when I will ever find time to blog again. I have a new online platform to learn and courses to significantly modify in order to incorporate what I have learned about online teaching through trial and error.

One of lessons from the past semester is the importance of closing each class with a meaningful message. The PowerPoint slide I often share at the end of my research classes is posted below. (The photo on the slide is the “Beaver Moon,” taken on November 28, 2020.) 

Remember to take time to observe

what’s happening within and around you.

Remember what you focus on

and the lens you look through

affect what you see.

“Life isn’t just about just choosing between

this or that,

it’s about perceiving and embracing

all the possibilities between.” 

https://www.huffpost.com/horoscopes/pisces

*

Just in case I am unable to post again this year, I want to wish you all wonder-filled holidays and a peaceful, hopeful transition to a new year.

27 thoughts on “December 2020 Reflections

Add yours

  1. Carol, it’s always great to hear from you whenever you have the chance. I admire your spirit in continuing to teach using the Zoom platform. I have not had the need to use the platform and don’t plan to do so. Enjoy your holiday break 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s always good to hear from you as well, dear friend. I am glad you are still able to keep working on your next book despite the setback with publishing. And congratulations with the wonderful reviews you keep collecting for your first book, Under the Tamarind Tree: A Novel. I so wish I had time to read it, and look forward to a future when I can. Wishing you safe and and lovely holidays. 💜

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for sharing, Carol. A positive message is so important! I’m very grateful for Zoom for meetings and presentations. I had a chance to have a Book Event with local library kids in July for our Summer Reading program and read and taught a haiku lesson. It was a tremendous amount of preop with Power Point and learning to use Zoom myself, but I really enjoyed it and think the kids did too. 🎄 Take good care of you and enjoy your Christmas holiday!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love the account you shared about your Zoom experiences, Bette. What an exciting opportunity to help children learn how to write and appreciate poetry. I wonder if age matters?

      Yesterday, during our class discussion, a number of my students (seniors in college) mentioned how difficult it was for them to only meet via Zoom. School for them up until March of 2020 was always, at least in part, face-to-face. They said they miss the social interaction and sense of connection they used to have. The transition made it hard for them to feel motivated and learn. Some of them did engage with me in an alternative assignment experience, though, that gave me some ideas for new ways to use Zoom at this level next semester. I will let you know how it goes!

      In the meantime, I am wishing wonderful holidays for you and your family. 💜

      Like

  3. Oh Carol I miss you so much. I can’t tell you how often I think of you and the many things I’ve learned during my time with you.
    In reading your post I have to comment on your excerpt below:
    “The most difficult part of Zoom, though, is not being able to sense or change the energy in a room. I can’t even tell if the Zoom camera ever shows that I am looking at them directly when they’re speaking.”
    Although it may be difficult for you to sense your students energy at times I guarantee those who are invested ARE feeling yours. They see you looking at them and fully receive your message.
    I hope this reply finds you well. I’m not sure you’ll ever know how many lives you have touched but please know mine is just one that has been blessed by you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Jessie, thank you so much for such kind and lovely comments. I miss you, too, and remain deeply grateful that I had a chance to work with you. My life was also blessed by your presence, as were all of the other students in class. Your kindness, creativity, scholarship, and tenacity are inspiring. I have no doubt that the clients and colleagues you work with are inspired to be kinder and work harder to improve things because of your example. Sending my best wishes to you. I hope you will stay in touch and let me know how you are doing. 💜

      Like

  4. Carol, it’s wonderful to hear from you and about your experience with zoom. my first impression of you was what a lovely and kind impression you make on the video pic, so welcoming and relaxed! Having see many online interviews these months there are many that could use your advice here. How great that you tackled your fear of presentations head on with courses and your young self looks so confident and above all intense!

    I hope you have a relaxing holiday break … and some well-earned time away from the computer! 😀❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Annika, it is always a gift to hear from you. Your comments are always so kind, affirming, and astute. Funny, I never thought of myself as intense, but your comment made me realize that I was, and still am, only not as obviously so these days. I am deeply grateful for your thoughtfulness and send my best wishes to you. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing!… hope all is well in your part of the universe, you and yours are having a wonderful holiday and hope you have a very Merry Christmas with the day, and all your presents, filled with love and happiness!!.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This makes so much sense. I have always been insecure about the size of my nose! Ever since being teased about it in school I was very self conscious about letting people take my pictures or videos. I was also a shy kid and the insecurity perhaps only seeped in deeper as I grew up and actually started caring about how others thought of me. Especially teenage can be a crucial ppint in life when physical features kinda matter a lot even if in retrospection I find it funny now. It took me years to accept myself as who I am. To love my own quirks because they made me ME. I finally became confident enough to joke about my insecurities myself. Laughing about it seemed a good defence mechanism. If I laughed at it, it took away most of the bite from other people starting the joke. Now I don’t really care, I have reached that point where I don’t fervently wish I looked a bit different than how I did. But I’m still anxious when I have to go on video. Some things just take a lot of unlearning to get over. :’)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such delightful reflections, Shruba. It does help to laugh about superficial things that seemed so important in our youth, but actually turn out to be gifts that help us discover what really matters to us in life. To be honest, I am also still anxious before I have to sign on for each class. Nervousness and anxiety can be powerful gifts, though. They can keep us alert and present, Despite the best intentions and conscientious preparation, we can never predict what we may encounter or how things will turn out. Being able to laugh at our noses, ourselves, and our mistakes, is a source of strength when we are confronted with uncertainty. Remembering why we are there in any given setting, our purpose, helps too.

      The depth and eloquence of the poems and stories you post on your blog clearly demonstrate that you have so many valuable thoughts, insights, and experiences to share with others. There are many ways to share your voice. It’s okay to choose the methods that feel most comfortable and are the most effective for you. (I am still experimenting with new ways to share despite my technological challenges.)

      Thank you so much for sharing such thoughtful insights. Sending my best wishes to you. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for this beautiful and in-depth reply. I’m sorry it took me this long to get back to your response, but I’m really glad that you seem to enjoy my blog and the posts I make on it. An insightful reader like you, is very hard to come by and I’m lucky I got you. Thanks for always being so enciuraging and supportive to me. 💜💕

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Carol, I so enjoyed reading this and as always, seeing you in this space. This times have brought so many new challenges, and yet upon reflection, we see how we were ready all along. Yes, the technology is new and challenging…and the best part is…we have ourselves. And isn’t that what we are offering? 😉 Enjoy the holidays, rest and reflect…as you do so well. Sending you lots of love and an infusion of faith and hope that our new year will be the beginning of some new ways of being, as well as good health for as many as possible. Be well, my friend. 💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Trace, Thank you so much for your kind words. Wishing you a delightful interview experience. You have so much wisdom and kindness to share with others. My advice? Just be yourself and remember that you have so many valuable things to share and the ability to express what you have experienced and learned in clear and compelling ways that others can understand.

      Sending love and best wishes to you and Herb! 💜

      Liked by 2 people

  8. This was such a helpful post Carol. I am also considering taking on public speaking courses based on your feedback- its so important to project the right delivery! I couldnt agree more re the complications with Zoom presentations, I find it such a lonely experience to basically talk to the laptop and wonder blindly how the audience is responding… just counting the days when we can return to what we once were…have a lovely Christmas and New Year

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful, lovely comments, Higher Self. These times of isolation are challenging. Zoom meetings are a poor substitute for meaningful face-to-face interactions. Your description made me chuckle.

      Sending my best wishes to you. I do hope your hopes for the future come soon. 💜

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: