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Back to School, Sorta (Zoom There It is!)

Let's get this out of the way right off the top.
I am incredibly grateful to have a job...especially at a time when unemployment in the US is at an all-time high.
Now, having said that, as a School-Based Speech-Language Pathologist,  I have been absolutely terrified, since our last school year ended, at the possibility that I'd have to go back to school in the middle of this pandemic.
The mere possibility of being inside a school building, surrounded by hundreds of adorable and lovable but rampantly infectious super-spreaders sent a chill down my spine.
Pervasive thoughts of catching Covid and bringing it home to my family kept me up for many a night.
Frankly, I don't know what I would have done if the choice was risking the virus or losing my job. Yes I do, but I'd rather not leave a paper trail, so you'll have to guess. . :)
Fortunately common sense has prevailed - at least for now - we will all be working remotely with our kids to start the new school year!
(Did you just feel a breeze? That was my sigh of relief!)
Which brings me to the new normal for a lot of us Speech-Language Pathologists: Tele-Therapy.
A big thank you to whatever god of technology invented Zoom.
It's the reason many of us can remain not only employed but also connected with our students.
But there is the flip side. Zoom is not the ideal scenario (at least in my opinion) for working with kids who need speech services. 
And as I think back to last year, as I learned how to do TT baby step by baby step, I'm reminded that this SLP in particular has real issues with Zoom Fatigue.
Being on Zoom everyday wasn't easy; it was draining. 
I recall many sessions when my screen or my student's screen decided - without warning -  to just freeze...the weird echo, a dozen heads staring at you, maddeningly frustrating and not definintely ideal for therapy. 
It's also harder to keep some of my kids - the ones with attention issues - focused on me and what I'm saying to them. There are too many distractions in their homes. It's exhausting to get them to stay in the moment.
There are the work huddles, the one-on-one meetings with frustrated parents, long IEP meetings.  
Oh, and just when you thought you were done for the day, your student, who was scheduled to work with you four hours earlier, is now suddenly in your Zoom waiting room asking for admittance.
And who can say "no" to a kid who wants to see you, even if it's eating into your cool down and relax time? Not me. I'll have to work on that!
Just thinking about returning to work in a week, sitting in my uncomfortable chair, hunched over my computer screen for eight hours makes me want to grab a nap.
I know you can relate.
But what is it about making us feel this way; why is Tele-Therapy so freaking exhausting?
I guess the most obvious reason is that Zoom calls require more focus from our students, and more effort from us,  than a face-to-face chat.  
We work harder so that our students can process the non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice and body language. Paying attention to these consumes a lot of energy.  
Our minds might be together (sort of)  but our bodies are not.  We don't occupy the same physical space. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting.  
You cannot relax in these kinds of conversations.
Silence is another challenge. In a natural in-person conversation, silence creates a natural rhythm.  However, when silence occurs in a video call, you become anxious about the technology and freak out momentarily.
Computer silence also makes people uncomfortable.  
Another key factor contributing to Zoom fatigue is that we are physically on camera all day long.  
When you're on a video conference you know everybody's looking at you; you are on stage, so there comes the social pressure and feeling like you need to perform.  Being performative is nerve-wracking and even more stressful. Yes, I guess I suffer from performance anxiety!
But even though tele-therapy sessions come with extra stressors, we can't blame everything on Zoom.
Our current live- circumstances, whether its lockdown, quarantine, working from home or not working at all, are also feeding in.
So how can we make it a little less stressful this school year?
My plan moving forward is to limit turning on my video to the Zoom calls where it is necessary; i.e. my sessions with my kids.
I'm gonna turn off the camera for meetings with colleagues and parents. I'll save "the show" for the kids.
Also, I am going to take time during meetings to catch up with the person on the other side of the call... before diving into business.  
I'll take the time time to actually check into people's well being.  It's a way to reconnect us with the world and to maintain trust and social norms.
I'll try to build transition periods into my schedule between Zooms; time where i can recharge by stretching or grabbing a healthy snack.
I'm also going to do the things that bring me peace. I'll find a serene, natural place outside where I can chill, even if it's just for 10 minutes.
I'll look at the sky and take a deep breath, or maybe stick my hands in the soil. Or water the plants.
Then I'll look towards the heavens and thank the big guy for the fact that I have a job at all!
#quarantine #backtoschool #remotelearning #zoomtherapy