Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Hey, Anonymous: From Your Mouse Clicking, I Have Intuited That You Like Me; You Really Like Me"


Last fall, in a boffo bit of log-rolling, I nominated a colleague for an online teaching award, and she nominated me. Mostly, we were thinking, “Excuse me? Did someone say free trip to either Oregon or Florida?” What neither of us realized at the time was that a condition of accepting the nomination was making a presentation to our peers on some aspect of our online teaching that makes us award worthy.

Bahahahahahahahaha. My first reaction was: the only thing award worthy about my online teaching is my ability to do it in my pajamas with a glass of wine in one hand. My second reaction was: the thing about a making a presentation in front of my peers is that I don’t. Do that. Because it makes me feel all barfy inside.

Interestingly, there’s something different about standing in front of a classroom of students; perhaps it’s the illusion that I’m the authority or that I’m in control of the material. Wait, here I go again. Bahahahahahahaha. The rub is that the students are willing to act like they don’t know I’m faking because they want an “A.” But with one’s peers? As Joaquin Phoenix demonstrated when he launched his rap career by falling off the stage in Las Vegas, it’s hard to fake out your fellow fakers. Personally, I know that when I’m watching another teacher give a presentation, I’m not only listening for content (if at all), I’m also looking at body language, listening to pitch of voice, wondering why they never come out from behind the desk, etc. So if I’m such a critical butthead as an audience member, I can only assume my colleagues would be similarly buttheadish when watching me.

Thus, consequently, as a result, in sum, me no wanna do it.

All this anxious thinking was already in play before I even knew that this presentation in front of my peers would also be videotaped and put on the Web, so that people unable to attend the presentations in person could still view the presentations online and vote.

Shudddddddder.

As I pictured my colleagues watching me online, I could only see that this would the stuff of a new drinking game, wherein People Annoyed By Jocelyn could gather together in front of their single old, rickety computer—my enemies are always poor--and chug their Miller Genuine Drafts (or whatever other lame drink people who don’t like me imbibe) every time I stuttered, “Um, I, cough cough, er, ahem, sometimes reply to, hack-snorf, my students’ emails, which, er, is an awardish behavior.” Clearly, my enemies are also dumb and sober, as the odds of me uttering this exact sentence more than once would be slim, so they’d get maybe one chug out of the deal. But still. The whole scenario tapped into my every fear.

Except my fear of chipmunks in the kitchen. And my children dying. Oh, and Joaquin Phoenix being serious about his rapping gig.

Whoops, and leggings worn by women over 100 pounds.

Unless, of course, I wore leggings during my presentation. Then that last thing would morph from "personal fear" into "public nuisance."

Feeling so very nervous and anxiety-ridden, I considered pulling out of the competition. That would be easy. And I’m not really a fighter by nature. I bow to Easy; I light candles for Easy; I am Easy (or so Lionel Ritchie whispered in to my ear one Sunday morning as he reached over my prone body to the nightstand and began scratching onto a cocktail napkin something that looked suspiciously like song lyrics).

Strangely, though, my deepest reaction was one of “Well, hell, girl, welcome to age 41 and your 18th year of teaching. Welcome, too, to the idea that it’s okay to do something that feels threatening and full of Landmines of Shame. What better way to slam the gates of hell on the demons of junior high for once and all?”

So I made a plan. I didn’t actually think it proved my teaching is award worthy. I mean, I’m no Mickey Rourke in THE WRESTLER. I didn’t grow out my hair or get tattoos and jump off the sides of the ring in my presentation. But I stood up there and said some stuff, completely unnerved by the presence of the camera on one side of the room and the small crop of live listeners on the other side of the room. Where should I be looking? At the camera? At the actual people? Would the camera pick up my voice since I didn’t have a mic? How would the sites I was projecting within the classroom show up when viewed online? Why was it so dark? Was that Freddy Krueger in the second row, thumb wrestling with Darth Vader? Where was I? Are you my mommy?

Despite the chaos in my brain, I talked for about twelve minutes (a minute longer than I can hold my breath) and clicked around to some Web pages before spreading my crinolines, curtseying, and diving for the door.

Most importantly, I didn't cry or pick my nose or become caught up in a reverie with the dry patch of skin on the palm of my hand. I comported myself something like not a total adolescent.

And nobody booooed me or fell asleep or threw rotten mangos at me--and if they had, what the hell? Anybody heard of buying locally these days? Way to gut the earth, Craven Consumers of Tropical Fruits in the North Woods.

I had expected, once it was over, to be flooded with a sense of relief and adrenaline and empowerment and maybe a little bit of pride that I'd done something that scared me as much as the idea of a bat crawling into my mouth in the middle of the night to poop and then give birth.

Mostly, though, I just felt flat and done and kind of empty. It was over, and that was about it. Just over.


Then.

Over the course of the subsequent weeks, some folks viewed and voted. And maybe I don't have so many enemies after all.

Or maybe it was the fact that there were two awards and only five finalists, and one of the finalists spent 17 minutes projecting his vacation photos to Italy and noting that they show his history students what Italy looks like when their teacher is standing in it.

Eventually, I was declared winnerish.

Indeed, as I sat at home watching Ellen one afternoon (whoops! I mean "developing curriculum"), I got a call from the VP of Technology, and he let me choose which conference I'd want to attend, and since the conference in Florida would require that I make a presentation while the conference in Oregon would require that I walk around with a folder and register at one of the vendors' booths to win a free Iphone,

I'm going to Portland this weekend.

Groom has never been to Oregon, so we're stuffing him onto the plane, as well, even though we're going to have to pay extra for his Wounded Man Bits exceeding the airline's 40 lbs and 45 inches limit.

As I step onto the plane to head to the conference, I'll take a quiet moment to overcome the flatness of the actual presentation day and remember that

sometimes being a career whore

has unexpected benefits

like getting you closer to free cable and a good cup of coffee.

22 comments:

lime said...

well congrats. whether you dazzled 'em with brilliance or baffled 'em with bull enjoy your trip to portland.

have you considered asking the airlines if groomeo's wounded/inflated man bits might qualify as personal flotation devices and thus a reduction in airfare? just a thought. i'm only here to help.

have fun!

Maddy said...

I appreciate the self deprecating 'winnerish' but a winner is a winner dearie. Well done you. 41 is a great age to just suck it up!
Cheers

Becky Cazares said...

LOL. No, seriously. Laugh. Out. Loud. And more than once! And beyond the usual chuckle out loud. Enjoy the fog.

citizen of the world said...

Yay for you!!! Enjoy basking in your winnerishness while you are on your trip.

jess said...

You make ma laugh so hard that I have decided to be you when I grow up. If.

But without the living-in-a-really-cold-place-where-there's-lots-of-ice even though you and Groomeo take really schweet pictures of it.

Also, did I tell you I'm thinking of moving to Portland?!?! Clearly this is fate. Tell me how it is and then wait until I get there to win the next contest so you can visit me, 'kay?

Plus, I was totally teasing you about the reply-non-ish. It probably got lost in the ether of lost emails. I can't wait to get the card, whee!

P.S. The cranberry soda spill? Naptime #3; concluding with mom walking in the door just as I was cleaning up the last of it. So I couldn't really complain about the timing.

kmkat said...

Hurrah for you! Is there a place on the innernets where we, your Loyal Fans, can view your presentation? Because we are all about the support, ya know. And the critiquing ;-)

Have a great trip, and congrats!

Jeni said...

Well, since everyone who commented here before me said the same thing as I was going to say, not point then in being redunant is there. (How the hell do you spell that anyway? I hate it when I use a word that I'm sure I know how to spell correctly comes up as wrong with spell checker. I tried it with an "e" and that didn't work either. RATS!)
Hope you have a good time in Oregon -other than fog and rain, it's supposed to be beautiful there -or so I've heard anyway. You could maybe start jotting down all the new words you come up with from time to time -i.e. "winnerish" -and eventually put out a book of all of them -"Words to use in a mighty crisis" or some such title like that. Go now, enjoy! Come back and make fun of it.

flutter said...

well now, had I known you were so chic I would have knit you some legwarmers!

Star said...

Outstanding. Congrats. Enjoy the trip.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Congratulations, Jocelyn!!! Anybody could have told you that you are a winner.

Now that you've put the public speaking before peers demons to rest, why don't you go into politics? I might even move back to MN to vote for you. Summers, anyway. I'm just saying.

You totally rock!! Have a great time in Oregon.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Congrats! I would have voted for you if they would have let me.

monica said...

Good on you!! I would have voted too! You make me laugh so hard my eyes water ! :o))

mandingo said...

Wow! What a great blog!

I'll put in a good word for you with the 'big guy upstairs' next time I talk to him!

(no, I'm not religious; there really is a very big guy living upstairs...)

Keep up the great work!

Bethany said...

Hey girl, congratulations! Well done, well done.

And if Mr. Phoenix isn't faking, I'll eat my hat.

Have fun, you and Groomie both!

Jazz said...

Yay you!

Wish we could see the presentation too! Watch you be all adult and stuff. And then laugh hysterically because we know you put one over on them!

Pam said...

Congratulations!HaHa!! Well done! Hope there are no chipmunks or pregnant bats in Portland. Remember to sleep with your mouth closed!!!

Kylie w Warszawie said...

Congrats!

I'm with you on the public speaking. I've always been terrified. Even in church. Even though I know no one is actually paying attention.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

CONGRATULATIONS! I can imagine the stress of said presentation--but good for you!
(Joaquin Phoenix--you kill me)

Balou said...

Congratulations! Facing fears head on and being rewarded to boot. Have fun in Portland!

Now I have to go gargle after your comment about a bat crawling into the oral cavity.

chelle said...

How awesome! Congratulations I hope the trip was awesome!

Jill said...

You're braver than me. I couldn't have done it without some sort of sedative. Have fun in Oregon!

Anette said...

Congratulations! And thanks for the trip through your way to glory and success, and a free of charge adventure to Portland!