Ed Faruolo is the founder of VitaLincs LLC, a strategic brand and business consulting firm serving clients and conducting workshops throughout the United States. He serves on the board of directors for both Milford Education Foundation and Elevate New England.
So… like many people over this past year I have fallen into the bizarre world of Zoom. Business meetings and workshops where you can see people from the shoulders up, maybe, if you’re lucky. I’ve found myself straining to see what books are on people’s shelf or gazing at that glimpse of a water stain on their wall. We can be very nosey creatures as we pretend, we are not being nosey. But who knows what’s really going on in that world outside of the camera’s view? The smart folks are the ones who just show their name, or a picture icon, and keep their mic muted. But you just know they’re trying to look at your bookshelf too!
As I think about it, it’s a lot of the same dynamics that exist when you are in person at the office. You pretend you are not looking at the person’s family pictures at their workstation while thinking to yourself, “Wow, she could have done a lot better than that!”
So, what does this have to do with my granddaughter Katie’s kindergarten class? I’m not really sure, but for some reason I felt compelled to start with that. Anyway, this work at home thing is not really new for me. I have been operating out of my home office for over 10 years. Which means I have brought all that business angst into my home without any decompression chamber.
So, as school opened up, I volunteered to help with our granddaughter Katie’s virtual kindergarten class. Keep in mind for kids like Katie, her first exposure to real school is in a surreal format. I kept wondering, how will she adapt? How will she keep her attention? How can the teacher keep some semblance of control? And, probably the real question going on in my head was how can I get my work done while I have to also be an onsite substitute teacher?
After we got Katie all signed in I figured I would just go about my work. Then I heard all these little kids greeting each other on line. They’re too small to have any real differences with each other that last more than 5 minutes. I listened to Mrs. Brennan greet each one by name and proceed to literally “herd the cats” and get them engaged with learning that is far more advanced than the kindergarten I knew. What was most impressive was her ability to take command without appearing to take command, and really connect with each child whether they were in the classroom or on line. And then you realize, these kids don’t know that this is a surreal format. It’s natural to them, so there is nothing really new to adapt to.
When you hear a chorus of kids chanting, “Hi Nora! Hi Zach! Hi Henry! Hi Katie!” — well, you realize there is something far more important happening than whatever Zoom terror of your own that you’re participating in. I became more intrigued by the almost therapeutic nature of watching this kindergarten class from afar. They haven’t learned yet to take sides. They just really like each other’s company. And they live to please the teacher — for the most part anyway. That alone gives you a yearning for some kind of Twilight Zone moment that would transport you to this place that they are in right now so you could set up permanent residence. But back to planet Earth.
I realized what a blessing in disguise this is. When our own children were that age, I was usually out the door before 7 AM and most likely not back in the door until 7 PM (with more work to do before I headed back out at 6:45 AM). Katie’s kindergarten class has allowed me to circle back to a time long ago that can still exist in the present, if you let it.
Katie’s kindergarten class with Mrs. Brennan gave me the speed bump I needed to pay attention to what is urgently important but comes by way of a quick flash in time. Knowing I missed so many of those “flashes” before, I don’t want to miss any more. So… I consider myself in remedial kindergarten. See… it’s never too late to learn.