What I’ve learned from leading virtual programs this summer

With the recent spike in COVID cases around the country, many people and organizations are again reassessing the immediate need to get back to business, school, and more.  We’ve had a (relatively) busy summer filled with virtual programs for summer camps and libraries.
I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way when it comes to facilitating virtual programs on Zoom and similar platforms. Could any of these help you with your next remote meeting?

Be patient – be very, very patient

I’ve had the pleasure of facilitating mostly groups of kids during our online summer programs.  Now, working with kids takes lots of patience anyway, but add online technology into the mix and you’ve reached a new level of patience.

For the most part, I’m amazed at how well-behaved the kiddos are during the online sessions.  I’m assuming they’ve already sat for hours in front of a screen before they come to my program. But what takes patience isn’t their behavior (leaps and bounds ahead of the behavior for our in-person programs), but rather the technology.

Screens freeze.  Someone used the “old” Zoom invite link.  Adorable babies, dogs, and cats cry, jingle, and leap in the background. Your screen share suddenly doesn’t work and you have to apologize profusely while randomly pressing keys to make it look like you’re doing something to fix it.

It’s a lesson in patience for sure.  Take a deep breath, laugh about it, and move on.

Adapt – go with the flow

Speaking of moving on, those technology foibles make it necessary for us to adapt quickly to change and think on our feet (even when we’re sitting on our keasters).

A little background – my laptop is 5 years old, which in computer years is about a zillion.  It doesn’t know how to run Zoom and share audio or video at the same time.  So I started using my husband’s old laptop (curiously older than mine) to do Zoom calls where I need to do more than just speak.

It’s a comfort to know others are in the same boat, and we can be patient with one another when things go awry.  Computer not working?  Dial in on your phone.  Missed the live call because your dog threw up all over the floor of your ‘home office?’ Catch the recording.  Adapt!

Be real

Last, recognizing the enormity of the situation but still being able to take it lightly are paramount.  Do you feel more yourself in some ways on a Zoom call?  That’s because we don’t have to deal with the usual social hierarchy that tends to be present at in-person meetings and events – your boss might be taking the call in the laundry room because the kids are trying to home-school at the dining room table.

Seeing everyone at home in their domestic element (at the mercy of WiFi, kids’ and pets’ needs, lawn people right outside their window) paints everyone in the same light.  It breeds authenticity in a way that just can’t be achieved in a board room.

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An open letter concerning the death of George Floyd

Dear friends of Just Add Rhythm,

Considering the horrific and senseless acts of violence, rioting, and looting surrounding the death of George Floyd, I, like many others, feel compelled to speak.

We can no longer avoid uncomfortable conversations around racial injustice.

While I prefer our communications with you to be inspiring, educational, and filled with joy, I understand that everyone is getting weary.  This year has piled one thing on top of another for our country and our planet.

As an individual, I acknowledge that I have benefited from white privilege in my lifetime.  Although in the past I have traveled to African countries and learned what it’s like to be in the minority, I can never fully understand what it’s like to be Black in America.  While I have experienced bullying, teasing, and minor incidences of gender discrimination, that doesn’t come close to what people of color have had to endure in our country over so many generations.

As a mother, I am called to do better and be better, to set an example for my son, and ensure that he grows up a compassionate, empathetic, and open-minded individual.

As a small business owner, I acknowledge that I have had an easier path than some in starting my business, and receiving help and support from friends, family, and community members – surely easier than many entrepreneurs of color who may have had to do more with less.

Here is my promise to you, my dear friends and colleagues:

  • I will listen and learn. Starting with Student Maid founder Kristen Hadeed’s book suggestions on systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd’s death, I’m going to embrace the uncomfortable and learn how I can become a better ally to people of color. I’m also learning about the work of the Center for the Study of Social Policy.  What additional resources do you recommend? How else can I learn? Please let me know.
  • Just Add Rhythm’s mission is to work with all ages and backgrounds of people to introduce the joys and benefits of rhythm to them. We’ve created a mini series of recorded interactive sessions for children ages K-5th called Best Beats, which focuses on mindfulness, empathy/compassion, teamwork, and community. It is our intention and responsibility to provide opportunities for the next generation to access these important skills and qualities and reinforce love over hate one child at a time.  In fact, all our programs, both in-person and virtual, emphasize these qualities for every population and age group we serve.  They always have, and they always will.
  • I will use my voice when the situation calls for it. When I’m confronted with hate speech or close-mindedness, I will call it out.  When there is an opportunity to share credible information, I will do it.  If all you need is a smile, a word of encouragement, or a sympathetic ear, I’ve got those too.

I am here for you.  Just Add Rhythm is here for you.  We will continue to share the joy of rhythm that unites all human beings, the rhythm that beats in everyone’s chests, the rhythm that flows in every part of nature throughout our planet.

Will you join us?  Please reach out and let us know how we can support you, your loved ones, your company, or your community through rhythm.

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4 Tips for Graduation Photos in Quarantine

What a crazy year this is. And for our seniors, any sense of normalcy would be a welcome relief. Your school years are filled with so many milestones. As a parent, you want to capture every single one of your child’s achievements, from kindergarten right through to college. Graduation is that fantastic time of freedom from high school and the start of a new stage in your child’s life.

We asked Christy Whitehead, the owner of Christy Whitehead Photography for her tips on photographing teens in this stage of their life while being in quarantine. She is a sought after family and headshot photographer in Jacksonville.

Below are a few tips to help you capture the best possible graduation photos, photos that you can look back on with appreciation years from now.

Embrace the prelude

Typically, the moments leading up to the graduation ceremony are the best time to capture a few shots of your graduate. Grab some photos of them in their gown and hat and in their graduation outfit too. You can also take some close ups of the outfit, gown, and hat on their own. Since the actual graduation ceremony will be quite busy, take this time to shoot a few family pictures too.

Obviously, while we’re in quarantine the typical fanfare of graduation is a no go, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fawn over all the details just the same. If the graduation gown is rented, photograph your child at home wearing the gown, maybe have some fun and don a face mask to capture this moment in your life.

Perhaps make a party date for after quarantine to celebrate all the milestones and moments that were missed with your whole family.

Don’t forget their friends

When quarantine ends and you get everyone together for photos, don’t forget about your child’s friends. While the graduation ceremony is all about your child’s achievements, their friends have played an incredibly important part in their life up until this point. Being able to look back on and remember their friends, school and favorite hangout spots is something that your child will really appreciate later on in life so take a few group shots around the school—if possible–to commemorate this milestone.

Practice with angles and your camera

Aim to take a variety of different photos on the day by experimenting with your camera’s zoom and various angles ahead of time.

While typical graduation ceremonies may be cancelled, for your children graduating at a later date, if you want to get a good shot of your child walking across the stage on the day, set your camera up for continuous shooting so that you have a better chance of getting the perfect photo.

It’s also always great to get a shot of the entire graduating class so take the time to learn how to take shots with a wide angle before graduation day.

Have fun with it

While in quarantine, you can have some fun and roll a piece of paper into a mock diploma and have a parent or grandparent do the diploma handoff and handshake for photos.

School and college is such an integral part of everyone’s life, which is why it’s so important to make the extra effort to capture these moments and milestones, whether it’s for yourself or your own child.

Hopefully, these tips helped spark your creativity while in quarantine while also capturing this moment in your child’s life.

After quarantine, if you’d like to have a professional photo shoot, don’t hesitate to give me a call. I’d love to meet your family and capture this moment in your lives with either an in studio or on location session.

Christy Whitehead is a pregnancy, newborn, family, cake smash and headshot photographer in Jacksonville, Florida. She has been voted best photographer multiple times and has been featured on Buzzfeed twice for her fun and geeky photos.




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