Point of View: :Pay it Forward — It’s time to ‘lean in’ through volunteer efforts

‘Lean in’ experience from Zoom talk can be expanded as community support during pandemic.

Bpnnie Jason. (Photo courtesy of Homer Foundation)

Bpnnie Jason. (Photo courtesy of Homer Foundation)

Recently, health educators from the R.E.C. Room joined my remote 7th grade health class to teach sexual health and substance misuse prevention. Suddenly, I found myself on the other side of Zoom, no longer the teacher trying to perform miracles through the camera. Instead, I was sitting at my desk like a student, staring blurry-eyed into the screen.

Honestly, I was rather skeptical about the whole thing. My recent experiences teaching on Zoom had required me to reexamine every practice developed over my 20-year teaching career. I certainly didn’t hold out much hope that the REC Room educators, who are at best half my age, could successfully negotiate the complexities of remote teaching and effectively engage 7th graders in frank discussions about puberty and addiction across Zoom.

I shouldn’t have worried, and what I witnessed was transformative. Rather than seeing Zoom as an obstacle wedged between themselves and the students, Liz, Tyler and Sierra saw an opportunity. They designed new lessons and innovated new techniques. These vivacious and engaging health educators instantly captivated and excited my students.

One of the first things I noticed was that the teachers got right up close to their cameras. They leaned in to Zoom. Literally. Their faces filled my screen, their eyes dancing, and their smiles wide. When they leaned in, it seemed as though they were sitting right across from me. They used facial expressions and laughter to connect with the kids. They took time to connect with each individual, and the kids responded.

I rearranged my desktop as soon as the first class was over. No more hiding in the shadows, I pulled my computer closer to my chair, and I balanced a camera 6 inches closer to my face. Recognizing the importance of facial expressions, when that’s really all the kids can see of me, I began to smile wider and laugh more often. Now, when I’m on Zoom, I lean in, and my students respond.

All of this has me thinking about the folks in our community who have leaned in throughout this pandemic. Folks like the volunteers at the Homer and Anchor Point Food Pantries who immediately found creative ways to meet the increasing needs of local families, the trustees at the Homer Foundation who raised funds to help charitable organizations maintain operations, and the real-life angels at Share the Spirit who are determined now more than ever to bring holiday joy to our friends and neighbors.

I am inspired by people who adapt, people who seek solutions and find ways to help others. Homer has always had more than its fair share of these folks, and they’re usually volunteers. Years ago, it was volunteers who brought a new library to Homer when we’d outgrown the old one, and when the need arose, it was volunteers who built our new playground and erected an indoor recreation facility.

I hope that throughout the holiday season and the long winter months ahead Homer’s volunteer army will recognize that it’s time to lean in again. It’s time to set aside our personal and political opinions, our past practices, and old routines. It’s time to adapt, to seek solutions, to support one another.

What might it look like to “lean in” during a global pandemic? I’m honestly not sure, but I do know that hidden inside of every problem is an opportunity. We have an opportunity this winter to build a stronger, more resilient community and our kids are counting on us to do so. It’s time for each one of us to lean in.

Bonnie Jason is looking forward to the day when 7th graders return to her classroom at Homer Middle School. She is a former trustee of the Homer Foundation.

The monthly Pay it Forward column is sponsored by the Homer Foundation, a community foundation promoting local philanthropy since 1991. To learn more please visit www.homerfoundation.org and like them on Facebook.

December Nonprofit Needs

Homer Community Food Pantry still needs canned foods. Suggested items include peanut butter, canned fruit, canned meats like chicken, tuna, salmon, or chili, canned vegetables, protein bars, and toiletries including socks and underwear. Bring food to the Homer Food Pantry, 770 East End Road in Homer. Call 235-1968 with questions.

Haven House is looking for a large ham for the holiday meal, general crafting art supplies, individually wrapped snacks and individual juice packs. Contact maggie@havenhousealaska.org.

Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies is looking for kindling to make fires easily for outdoor activities and a bunk bed big enough to fit adults. Contact beth@akcoastalstudies.org.

More in Opinion

Michael O'Meara's cartoon for Jan. 14, 2021.
Letters to the Editor

The big lie The sick feelings I had on 9/11 returned as… Continue reading

Peter Zuyus
Point of View: Alaska seniors and disabled suffer under Department of Administration change

Closure of Homer, other DMV offices will hurt seniors and disabled.

Point of view
Point of View: Sharing the community spirit

Share the Spirit continued programs even in pandemic year.

Michael O'Meara's cartoon for Jan. 7, 2021.
Letters to the Editor

Never forget: Ending a dark period and into a new year I… Continue reading

Michael O'Meara's cartoon for Dec. 31, 2020.
Letters to the Editor

Not surprising I find it disingenuous, but not surprising, that the Alaska… Continue reading

Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. (logo provided)
Point of View: Start New Year with ‘Dry January’ sobriety challenge

In American culture, we view the start of the New Year as… Continue reading

Michael O'Meara's cartoon for Dec. 24, 2020.
Letters to the Editor

Thoughts from readers like you

Catherine Cassidy. (Photo courtesy Catherine Cassidy)
Point of View: Dunleavy takes a wrecking ball to peninsula fishing economy

The Kenai Peninsula was delivered a low blow by Gov. Mike Dunleavy… Continue reading

A Remington Deluxe Model 5 manual typewriter. (Homer News file photo)
Editorial: In the darkest moments, there is light ahead

In Christianity, the season of Advent heralds the coming of Christ at… Continue reading

Most Read