Friday, January 21, 2022

At a Distance, Again

Well, besides the Jeopardescapade, this has been quite a crappy month for everyone. In Massachusetts, a huge surge in COVID infections after the holidays forced a lot of us to make changes again in how we are working with students. Schools have stayed pretty much as "new normal" here, with the exception of more testing and quicker on the draw to cancel school days for weather. Working in a private practice, we have made a shift to move as many sessions as possible into a temporary telepractice format for individuals and groups, while keeping in-person services for those that struggle to engage online (or are just over it). Of course we are taking extensive precautions: vaccine requirements, temp checks, health screens, powerful air filtration, double masking, distancing...

On that last one, I find technology to be a big help. We have an Apple TV (old ones work fine) with HDMI-ported TVs (just your basic TVs these days) in each clinic room. I have a Mac which can screen mirror to these, but if I didn't, an HDMI cable would do. The Mac just gives me more mobility. The use of a screen (like you would a board/projector in a classroom) can keep engagement up visually and can prompt session structure and communication from students in a variety of ways, while maintaining distance within the room. It can help also to reduce or eliminate shared "touched" materials, and though these really aren't the problem with an aerosol-spread virus, it's a step that can't hurt and can be reassuring to families. Here are a few examples:

-Use Jamboard activities that are game/play-like and prompt discussion and collaboration. I have mentioned Julia Dweck's collection and this week used the Traffic Jam game.

-Activities students can participate in actively via their smartphones. You can make a worksheet/thinksheet into a google form and email to them, or shorten the link with Kahoot is almost always a draw, whether you choose from topics of interest or social/language based games. Jackbox Games are worth an investment, and often on sale- these are joined by phone.

-Have a discussion and document the language in a simple Google slide like a flipchart. I guarantee they'll want to correct your typing, which means they are paying attention. Insert images! SlidesCarnival has good templates for free if you want to jazz it up visually.

-Anything visual that prompts discussion- consider infographics on topics of interest or something related to holidays or current events. With Chinese New Year coming up there are a variety of websites and graphics that describe the personality traits of the various animals/years. Great to connect to and have students self-reflect on how they might be same or different.

-Books that are visual with limited text. This week I used Jon Klassen's darkly humorous I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat on YouTube. You read 'em, sound muted, pause at will- there is plenty to discuss with some facial expression interpretation.

Saturday, January 15, 2022


Sorry I have been quiet here a few weeks, but I've been just largely managing myself in the excitement and other emotions around my Jeopardy! episode airing on January 7. I appreciate the shoutouts from people who watched and the discussions in some Facebook groups.

I'll say also from an SLP perspective, it has made a good personal narrative model to share with my clients!

I thought I would share a few photos here, and later--this blog won't become a blog about Jeopardy but one more post--an entry about how tech helped me to prepare, if I was prepared, haha. 

If you didn't see the episode and would like to, you can email me and I might be able to slide you a link...

Some notes I shared on Facebook I thought would be appropriate to share here too:

LONNNG POST. 21st Century Nonfiction, let’s call it. So I first want to thank you again all for the excitement and engagement around My Nerdy Life Event. Your positive and congratulatory messages and comments have kept me ebullient through what has been a thrilling time. 

Having been on Jeopardy is truly a gift, and I am so grateful for that too. I wish I could share my joy at first sitting down in front of that beautiful, gleaming stage, with the “stars” twinkling above it and the board. Especially after our long briefing at the dismantled, underwhelming-looking “Wheel of Fortune” stage. It was just gorgeous and I knew I would be on it soon.

I’ll confess I left that stage not feeling so great about the game, a feeling that persisted over these last long two months, having taped at the beginning of November, and which has improved greatly now that I’ve seen it and given your incredible response. It was tough, being encouraged when Matt Amodio lost and arriving and discovering Amy, someone maybe even stronger, was on a streak. Nope, we don’t get told that in advance or get the opportunity to opt out, lol. Waiting all day to play wasn’t exactly an advantage either- they say watching a winner like her win is kind of demoralizing and indeed it was. The contestant coordinator drew Patsy and me for the 5th game and I think could see it on our faces, ‘cause she took us aside and said multiple times “NO ONE IS UNBEATABLE” lol.

But I’d rather have lost to Amy Schneider than I think anyone else. She’s historic in so many ways and I’m really happy to be part of LGBTQIA and especially trans history. She’s a marvel- and I’ll add, a cool person from all our interactions across the day. Having seen the game now, I’m at peace with all of it.

My feelings at the end of the game led me to initially give a “maybe” when Terry (Thursday’s game) tried to gather us all for drinks afterward. I had a sense of the game being worse than it actually was. But I went to my rental car, called Chris, gained some perspective, and went to hang for a bit. One of the best decisions I ever made, because this formed a vital support group that has helped us all as we waited the seemingly interminable time before our games…Amy’s first appearance coming a while into that! Love to my Jeopardy! FB messenger thread, one of the great prizes given me by this experience. Glad we have been there for each other in sharing this definitely unique experience. 

And to Chris and friends and family who big time helped me through what was a bit like a K├╝bler-Ross process. I had to wait over two months between taping and airing. Acceptance- I got on, I know that’s a big thing, and I pushed through some anxiety and did my best. And hearing from so many of you that building up to it and watching it meant something to you has been hugely gratifying.

So, a couple comments on this game:

I really didn’t remember much. I appreciate so many of the comments from you all that I looked calm and collected but I really was very very nervous. Hence the moving around quite a bit. I was on a small elevated step to even out our heights and I was surprised watching it that I didn’t fall off!

Amy obviously is a machine. Patsy is a blast, and she played with great composure. I am proud to have been up there with Patsy. She has become a friend as well- she had to take off after the game and get herself back to school, but knowing my way around a school website I tracked her down afterward via email and she became part of our FB group. Yesterday when watching the game I FaceTimed her in and everyone gave her a well-deserved cheer. 

Particularly in the first Jeopardy round where I felt more comfortable with the categories, I could see watching it that I was REALLY trying to buzz in on many clues, and this was so reassuring. As many have acknowledged it’s all about the buzzer timing and Amy had 27 games to get very good at that. It seemed I got better at it by Double as I had enough firsts to get in the Daily Doubles and a few other correct responses. There were a number of clues I responded to correctly that I didn't remember at all. The "Fog of Jeopardy" is real.

The DDs I’m told were where I made the funniest faces. I actually rolled my eyes when I found the first one. I believe I was scared of the math. Went as hard as I could on the first one. Common is on my radar- mostly I remember him introducing Hamilton on the Tony’s. The clue, tho it should have cued me into him regardless with the “sense” reference, just didn’t click with me. It felt like forever before I timed out- that “beep beep beep” is added in post-production, by the way. I found the other DD shortly after and with the first one not going well, and the way the DD explodes onto the stage kind of startlingly, I actually blurted out a completely involuntary and limbic “OH S&%T.” They did a good job editing that after I alerted Jimmy Clue Crew, now a floor producer, that I said a swear word. That weird bet was entirely about avoiding going to 0 or being in the red and missing Final Jeopardy. I think I thought Final was more imminent than it actually was, haha. In any case you could see Lady Bird came in my mind quickly- thanks to a number of trips to Austin!

Sorry, my fellow gays, about Cher. I love Cher as much as the next person but I really didn’t know that song. Yes, “turn back time” should have cued me but it’s hard to process everything. I was MUCH happier watching this game and seeing that I answered more than I recalled, anyway. Picking categories was something I should have practiced more. I actually sort of stumbled over a word in the category name on one pick but I was glad my timing was brisk- I always get annoyed when contestants don’t pick quickly but I can certainly see why that happens. 

I’m glad the way the story came out in the interview. I’ll share some stuff about prep another time but I had the opportunity to pick the topic and that was an interesting enough one in which I had the chance to honor Chris (though I forgot to say his name), and be Out naturalistically and I wanted to represent, not knowing in advance that I'd be up there with another LGBTQIA

Final. People have asked me in not so many words what the hell I was thinking and the answer is: not much. Lol. I felt confident with 20th Century Nonfiction. Books and Lit are really in my wheelhouse. I just kinda thought I wanted my score to be as high as possible so I went for that, not really caring about 2nd vs 3rd place, to be honest. The money difference after taxes (1000 vs 2000) is not really a huge deal. I had never heard of Thor Heyerdahl in my life. Hemingway (many have reached out to say they guessed the same, thanks) was really the only author I associated w Europe tho pretty much off in period and genre. Hence the additional faces, which I’m glad people enjoyed. 

Obviously historic yet again with Amy passing $1M in this game. Ken screwed up something in her final response and wager reveal so we had to tape this whole sequence again! Don’t ever say I can’t act a little, I guess! Haha. 

The chat over the credit sequence is something filmed in each game. We had actually had somewhat of a long break in our game where we all chatted with the contestant coordinators (I’m not sure why) and Amy, Patsy and I talked about traveling in Scotland and Ireland. I was a little shell shocked in the final conversation haha but again, it didn’t come out too badly. Jeopardy sometimes releases these so you can hear the convo and did here:

Thanks again for all the interest and support.