In January 2020, I hosted an in-person class. It was a Lean Six Sigma Basics class for a group of young professionals on a rotational program within a company, and I had a great time.
Most of the attendees were new college graduates and they were excited to travel to a course with their first professional job. The class was high energy and everyone was highly engaged.
I’ll never forget staying in the classroom by myself for lunch, eating a protein bar, and scrolling through articles trying to learn more about COVID-19 wondering if it might have a real impact in the US.
I was teaching a college course on Saturday mornings in-person at a Georgia university. I scheduled to do a two-week Lean Six Sigma Green Belt course in June and July. I remember feeling blessed and grateful that I was getting so many opportunities to teach, lead classes, and facilitate workshops. It was a career dream. I’d like to be like Oprah in a classroom. Big hair, 1990’s Oprah.
Well, then came March 2020… I left a client’s site early that day to enjoy some time at a spa. When I left the spa and looked at my text messages, I saw that my daughter’s school system had sent a note saying – don’t come back to school.
The rest of the world followed suit. It was September before I got the things I’d left on my desk at my client’s site.
I transitioned to teaching my Saturday class from my home office. And I gave my scheduled two-week class in Nashville from my basement. I took my dog to daycare every morning to minimize noise.
I reworked my class examples and tweaked class activities since we wouldn’t be in the same room. I split the class with a training partner so that the new format wouldn’t be too draining on one person.
The switch to remote/virtual training required me to build new muscles. I had to be very thoughtful about how to engage and how to be engaging. I became a student on the topic and loved attending other’s meetings and trainings to pick up tips.
The experience made me more effective at connecting and listening while teaching and training. I’m paying attention to who I don’t hear from and who I don’t see. I’m working through non-threatening questions to ask to encourage engagement. I’m coming up with fun games to play within the chat window and exercises to promote competition and build a sense of team within a far-flung group, some of whom never show their faces.
I did a couple more classes in 2021 and like a phoenix, I rose from the ashes and was back teaching Lean Six Sigma Basics in person in May 2022. Getting prepared to teach in-person again made me feel anxious and nervous. What would I wear? Would I return to my traditional uniform of a blazer, sleeveless blouse, slacks, and flats? How much time do I need to give myself and my assistant to acclimate to all the technology in the room?
Did I still have my in-person chops? I had developed an effective format for remote/virtual. For virtual, my only genuine worry was my internet going down.
Once I got back in-person, I loved it! I love seeing people’s faces – especially when I notice a quizzical expression. I’m not competing with whatever else might be on someone’s phone or computer screen. Instead, I’m listening, sharing, and helping the group bond in their efforts.
I’m not saying I dislike virtual. On the contrary, I appreciate it and all that I learned. Spending two years doing things in a new way naturally caused me to show up at my in-person class in a new way. I think I’m more conversational. I think I’m better at engaging the students and making their stories a part of the content. I hope that I’m reaching my students better.
If I ever get another text that says, “Go back home and stay there,” I’ll know how to transition to virtual courses. But, in the meantime, I go back to feeling blessed and grateful to be my version of Oprah in a classroom (with a long bob).