Picture this… You are a new Granny and you have, with great eagerness, booked a session with some children in location ‘xyz’. (You are not quite sure what their profile is because the information on the booking page was minimal). From what you have read you are assuming that they won’t have much English fluency and THAT is the only language YOU speak. Even getting to this stage was quite a challenge because finding a session that wasn’t at a time that was the middle of the night for you, or too early in the morning, or not conflicting with your family dinner time or so on and so forth… proved rather hard. And you had expected this to be the easy part.
You have done your homework. You have read and heard enough to know that you should establish the connection with the lab/centre before session time. You had forgotten to do that the first time you ever booked a session and had wondered why no one connected. Well, this time you are prepared. You know that you have been added to the centre’s contact list. You were even tagged on a post on the FB group page by the coordinator saying ‘thank you’ for booking a session.
There you are – all set. Surely today’s session will be a breeze. You even have all kinds of potential activities, songs, stories, even ‘little’ questions at hand. Ready to face any contingency…
So what else can go wrong?
Actually, quite a lot. Here are some possible scenarios.
- Session time comes and goes without the connection ever happening. The centre shows ‘offline’ throughout and there is no other contact or post on FB to indicate why.
- Come session time and the Centre shows online. There’s even a welcome message (IM). You wait a bit expecting them to call. They don’t, so you call. No response. You aren’t a quitter so you keep trying, wondering why they keep alternating between showing ‘online’ and ‘offline’. Still no connection but an IM pops up saying they are having problems with Skype which has asked them to ‘update’.
- Session time. The coordinator calls on the dot. So far, so good. But then you find yourself staring at empty seats as she/he sheepishly explains that no one has turned up due to bad weather / an unexpected school exam / a special festival etc. etc…
- None of the above. Session time. The call goes through and you are delighted to find staring at you with wide open eyes a group of boys and girls gesticulating animatedly. But it feels like a mime show because there is NO SOUND.
- Another possibility. The connection goes through. Sound and video both! What joy! And eager children. You start a conversation and the call drops. You reconnect. A couple of words back and forth and the call drops again. This goes on for more than 20 minutes and all of you decide to call it a day.
- Yet another scenario. The connection – fine. But you were expecting much older (or younger) kids or a far more homogenous age group. You are taken by surprise because the children in front of you – at the other end of your Skype connection don’t resemble the description on the booking page and you are not sure if you are “a good match”.
- And I can’t resist sharing this possibility. J Everything is fine. There are even a couple of kids in the group that you have met before and they all seem to have a modicum of English and manage to have an animated conversation with you on a range of topics – sports, animals, music, the weather, – whatever. You actually pose a small question and ‘send them off to search’ with entreaties to return with some answers. But… They disappear! And return only to say ‘Goodbye’ at the end of the session. You have been looking at a blank space for a rather long time and there didn’t seem to be a coordinator / facilitator with the children to help ‘bring them back’.
- You connect to an ‘old’ location that you are familiar with. There are even children that you know quite well. You hope to try something just slightly new and are not anticipating any major difficulty because there is also a ‘brilliant’ co-ordinator at the children’s end who is able to take your suggestions forward quite easily. But you find yourself connecting and saying ‘hello’ to the children and a brand new, shy coordinator with minimal English fluency.
- And then there are scenarios of frustration that have nothing to do with your direct connection with the children. You have problems logging in to the website, your reports don’t seem to be uploading properly. When you ask a question in the Granny group community you either have information overload because of the deluge of responses, or your confusion grows because of conflicting suggestions, or the suggestions you make never seem to get incorporated etcetera…
I could fill page after page, after page – just outlining all kinds of scenarios. But that would be missing the point.
What I am trying to say is that if something can go wrong – it probably will. Murphy’s law! Things that you have imagined as well as those that you have not. Things that you were ‘prepared for’ and those for which you were not. Situations for which there are ‘solutions’ and those for which you just have to “grin and bear it” – (or let some steam off – sometimes privately, sometimes publicly).
The best of us have our moments of despair. When we feel that no matter how much we try and however many alternative solutions or strategies we come up with; the challenges just keep coming at us.
But working through these challenges and not letting our ‘down moments’ overwhelm our overall interactions is a necessity. It means having a High Frustration Tolerance. Very high!
It means not being impulsive – it means thinking about the possible reason behind events. It means considering (even developing) alternative strategies to minimise the fall out of scenarios gone bad. It means recouping and creating while simultaneously drawing upon the group’s resources (emotional as well as cognitive) to find ways of coping. It means developing an awareness of how we, as individuals, can (and do) impact the community and the initiative as a whole, while using our strengths to take it forward.
I have often said to new Grannies (and reminded experienced ones) – “It’s not for the faint hearted.”
So do you have what it takes?!
Are you game…?