By Caitlin Kelly
A week or so ago I made an offer on Twitter — I would Zoom into high school or college journalism classes, pro bono, to talk to them about my writing career and answer their questions.
Work is really slow right now, so rather than just being bored and restless, I thought of Zoom as an easy way to connect easily and quickly, if anyone was up for it — and I could be useful to students and teachers just as frustrated by this weird new way to learn.
Ironically, the only college professor who replied is a local woman who insulted me in 2006 (yes, I nurse grudges!) at a New York City media party. So I never even answered her.
I’ve so enjoyed this new adventure!
My first one was with a class in California, the second in Michigan, the third a low-income school in Texas. I still have three more to go, in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.
— How do you cope with a male-dominated profession? Do you find it intimidating? (Nope!)
— What story of yours had the most impact on readers? (One about Mirapex, a drug prescribed for Parkinson’s Disease that was also causing bizarre side effects like addictions to gambling, shopping and sex. One grateful reader said the story, which prompted her to go back to her doctor — who’d been denying these side effects — had saved her life.)
— How do you handle writer’s block? (I never get it. If I do, it means I haven’t done enough reporting to gain the depth and clarity I need to get started.)
I also spoke with students at Brigham Young University this week, seniors studying sociology, about my story on Canadian healthcare for the American Prospect, published in January 2020 — and what a fantastic group they were! Such thoughtful questions.
One of the hardest parts of working alone at home since 2006 is the lack of intellectual exchange it imposes.
It’s also rare — and enjoyable! — to discuss any of my stories with anyone after publication:
Why did I do this one?
What was the hardest part?
What was the most fun?
What did I hope it would accomplish?
It’s depressing to work for weeks or months to produce a story I’m really proud of — and have it sink into the ether with almost response.
In the past, because students were busy and getting access to teachers or their classes a bureaucratic mess, this wouldn’t have been possible. Now, with most students learning from home, and learning by Zoom, it is. There are often cats in the background, some students yawning, some without their video on, so a faceless voice.
I love teaching and sharing ideas and discussing challenging subjects with smart people. I really miss that!
So, while this is technically a giveaway of my skills and experience, it’s a great gift to me as well.
So if you’re a teacher and this interests you — my email is on my About and Welcome pages.