Sometimes I feel like a game show host. Leading my Zoom writing classes, I have to constantly be on the alert. Occasionally, students forget to mute their microphones before they answer a personal phone call (resulting in the class listening to an entire telephone conversation). Technical glitches often arise when students have bad audio feedback or their volume is so low that we are practically forced to lip-read. While I am frazzled by these technology issues, I have to maintain my light-and-breezy manner while remaining in control of the class.
I resist the urge to yell, “Live, from South Salem…” at the start of each class. Teaching my writing classes is exhilarating. I want to hear every participant’s story and make helpful and positive comments. In warmer weather, some students sit outside on their decks for our classes. We never know when a loud squawking bird, barking dog or noisy lawnmower will interrupt while that person is reading to us.
Years ago, I had the opportunity to be in an actual TV commercial for a regional gourmet food store chain. Different sections of the store were to be highlighted including the deli, bakery, fresh produce, etc. I was dressed in a white chef’s jacket and was instructed to sauté a pan of shrimp and then flambé the skillet on camera. (If you are a faithful reader of my columns, you may recall I have an aversion to lighting things on fire ever since my hair caught on fire blowing out the candles at my Sweet Sixteen birthday party!).
We practiced the segment a couple of times. I remember feeling nervous. I know that I was blushing like a red tomato which must have contrasted with my white chef’s jacket. The director yelled, “Cut!” and the camera crew moved on to the bakery department.
A few weeks later, the first airing of this TV commercial was scheduled during the six o’clock news. I set my VCR to tape it so that I could show the commercial to my parents. I sat on the edge of the sofa waiting to see myself on television. The familiar store jingle came on with a montage of bright colors and juicy looking produce and shelves stocked with gourmet delights. For a split second, there was my arm sticking out of the sleeve of a white chef’s jacket and holding a pan of shrimp. Was that it?
I later learned that the commercial was filmed during a Screen Actors Guild strike. Since I did not have a SAG card (why would I?), they could not show my face or the other non-SAG people who had participated in this TV commercial. Imagine my family’s reaction when I brought the VHS tape over. I showed my dad, brother, and Uncle Steve the new commercial. “There’s my arm!” I shouted gleefully. We viewed the commercial three times. I’m pretty sure they believed me.
When I taught kindergarteners, I always thought up creative ways to make learning fun. One year, I decorated a large poster board with a big square cutout in the center. I printed “K-I-M TV” on the top of the “TV screen.” Each student was given the job of sports announcer or weather forecaster or traffic reporter. The boys and girls held props like a football or matchbox cars or sunglasses and each decided what to say for their morning report. A great way to introduce the concept of public speaking, the kids enjoyed making brief presentations to their “viewing audience.”
Kim Kovach teaches fiction and narrative nonfiction writing classes via Zoom for adults, teens, and children. kimkovachwrites.com.