…STRETCHING OUTSIDE OUR COMFORT ZONES, ONLINE AND OFF
___ “As connected as we are with technology, it’s also removed us from having to have human connection, and made it more convenient to not be intimate.”
~Sandra Bullock___ ___
Technology, thankfully, has kept many of us personally and professionally connected through these times of “social distancing.”
Yet, like with social media and picture-perfect Christmas cards, what appears on the outside is not always representative of what is truly going on inside many people’s lives.
Take teachers, for example. While they are not on the front lines in the same ways as our healthcare workers are, they have their unique set of stressors due to the pandemic.
One former CEO, who is now a college professor, told me that the sudden move to online teaching is “intense.” Relearning in real time to deliver content via new technology is quite stressful, he noted.
OLD SCHOOL vs. NEW SCHOOL
Despite his entrepreneurial successes, he called himself “a dinosaur” lagging behind in technical skills–a common challenge for many mid-lifers who did not grow up with computers like our tech-savvy millennial children. Creating a Zoom video meeting has been a major new achievement for him.
Another very smart friend, who teaches high school English, is also mastering Zoom team meetings with her department head and colleagues. Initially, learning how best to present and share online, in combination with tracking students’ work and correspondences in new ways, was overwhelming. She experienced frequent headaches from the daily frustration and was exhausted, which is a common reaction according to this article, “The reason Zoom calls drain your energy,” from the BBC (British Broadcasting Company).
She continues to work extra long days and weekends to maneuver the many different technical platforms with which she must now work, and to resolve the system glitches in communication.
One pupil even confessed that students are taking advantage of teachers now, claiming their work got lost in the system or that they never received an assignment, when in actually they just did not do the work.
The biggest challenge for teachers—like parents who are now home schooling and employees working remotely for the first time—is learning to do things in new ways without any advance preparation. “We have been creating in three weeks, what has taken several years to develop before, when we also had lots more input from several different people,” another teacher shared.
Many are excelling through the learning curve, becoming more creative and technically proficient daily.
“As the days pass, I am feeling better equipped to do my job remotely, and through a successful transition to Zoom meetings with my students recently, I am re-energized with their optimism and humor,” my high school teacher friend said. Remote learning is also entering a new phase at her school, where all “bumps” are being reviewed so adjustments can be made, she explained in her update.
Yet, this “new temporary norm,” does not replace the longing many of us are increasingly feeling—the need for personal, face-to-face connection, where we sense how someone is really feeling or managing. Many also crave giving or receiving a hug that is not virtual.
Be caring and brave—risk asking a key question
Technology both connects and expands our possibilities, but it also can isolate us by creating a false belief that we are safely united behind a screen. Computers and social media will never replace true human connection.
CHANGE IT UP and REACH OUT: Go offline and check in with someone you care about today. Know that we all have different experiences of dealing with the pandemic, depending on our life circumstances. Some are alone, weary and scared, while others are overwhelmed crowded into tight spaces combining several lifestyles (work, parenting, eldercare, etc.) under one roof. Then there are those who are enjoying respite at home, regrouping within, while frontline healthcare workers and others dealing with the public risk their lives on the line everyday.
And, if you really want to deepen the connection with those whom you may choose to call to check in, be brave and ask this question: “What is it like being you right now?” Just listen to the answer, without interrupting or giving any advice.
That kind of response is what true giving is about—providing your presence, which helps another feel seen, heard and valued. Being validated in that manner nurtures another’s sense of worthiness.
Many of us could use that extra dose of care right now.
In gentle respect,
BUILD UP YOUR OWN SENSE OF WORTHINESS AND ELEVATE YOUR LIFE: If you would like to experience the deep, transformative power of being listened to with attentive presence, by someone with 20 years of expertise, email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about her coaching programs.
The above image of “Old School/New School” was created by Nancy Poydar, a talented children’s book author and illustrator, who also taught sixth grade for 14 years in Concord, Mass. To view more of her work, check out nancypoydar.com.