Hope, Failure and Success

In my role as PHE Canada President-Elect, over the past 6 days I have had the distinct pleasure of co-hosting two Cross-Country Check In chats (Zoom meetings) to connect health and physical educators across Canada (and some global members). The first chat was on April 3rd and focused on physical and health education teacher educators. We peaked at about 190 participants and settled to a level of +/- 120 teacher educators and teachers – mostly Canadian with a scattering of US and International friends. It was a great chat and I’d like to thank PHE Canada for connecting us all and my co-host, Dr. Lauren Sulz (@Lauren_Sulz) for her role in planning and facilitating. You can find the summary and recording here. We had no issues other than figuring out how to have a good conversation with that many people.

As for the second chat… I’d like to share a Haiku (apologies to traditionalists) that I composed shortly after the event and immediately following a reflective walk in the river valley.

High hopes for a chat
Flatulence, pornography
Oh shit - now reset

If you were not fortunate enough to be on the hastily aborted first attempt… Here’s how it went down. My co-host, current PHE Canada President Lori Munro-Sigfridson (@loriamunro) and I had sent out an invite that asked, “Join us and fellow physical and health education champions as we look at the PHE landscape across Canada, challenges and opportunities, and approaches to supporting physical and health education under the current educational landscape.” As the Zoom chat began to populate, we were on a roll with participation moving steadily through 400 people and rising fast. Lori had a bit of trouble logging in at first so I un-muted, welcomed those already on the chat, let them know that we were going to start very shortly, asked them to please mute mics and said thanks for joining us. Just as I muted my mic, someone farted.

I honestly thought that someone just let one slip while they thought they were muted. I could see a few smiles and chuckles on the screen – a few people asked in the chat section: “Did someone just fart?” I actually wondered for a moment if anyone thought it was me… (Ummmm, it wasn’t! At least not this time).

Then a blurry video popped up briefly as a screen share, then disappeared. Lori joined the call and as we were about to start, someone farted again – and again. Then, the pornography started…

We were being Zoom bombed with great efficacy and scrambled to deal with it. Lori and I were also on a group text with 4 others including PHE Canada staff members who were hosting the Zoom. Rapidly trying to text, talk to participants, type in the chat section and make a decision made 60-90 seconds seem like an eternity. As fast as we could, the Zoom was shut down.

At that point, I thought we were done. Big public fail with 450+ wonderful HPE teachers who just wanted to connect and support each other during a time of crisis – not listen to fart noises and see porn videos (at least we maybe met a sex ed outcome or 2… too soon?). We had some frantic calls, texts and the decision was made by Melanie, PHE Canada’s CEO (@MDPHECanada), to send a new link to those who RSVP’d, shut down screen sharing, admit people one by one for screening purposes and try again.

I am not sure I would have made that decision, but I am glad Melanie did (#highfive!). To get right back up and try again, even with the extra measures, took guts and resiliency. Even though we were prepared to shut the second attempt down immediately (I pictured someone at PHE Canada sitting in front of a large, red button – “Shut it down, shut it down!”), there was a risk involved. Would anyone come back? What about our reputations? Even though the hacking was not our fault, it didn’t feel good to have that happen on our watch.

What happened next was amazing. We peaked at about 350 participants and settled in at around 320. An hour later we still had 300 engaged HPE teachers sharing their experiences, making new connections and sharing resources. Our set topics included 1) What are you doing to maintain your own health and well-being during this time? 2) What roles are physical and health education playing in provincial learning continuity plans? 3) How are you using your expertise during this time to support ongoing learning for ALL students? Although we certainly covered those three topics, the conversation and sharing covered a wide range of topics and issues as teachers from across the country chimed in.

No farting.

No porn.

Success.

I’ll sum up with a few key statements but also want to mention that since April 8th, many school boards have banned the use of Zoom (some prior to that), some federal agencies have also stated that employees are not allowed to use Zoom with their work email accounts. Obviously, this problem was much bigger than us. PHE Canada will continue to host Cross-Country Check Ins on a range of topics but will be exploring new modes of connection. That being said:

  • Sorry for the fart noises and porn – we have learned a lot from the Zoom bomb experience!
  • Thanks to all who took a chance, came back and engaged.
  • Sorry to those who tried to come back but didn’t get in for whatever reason.
  • Thanks to Melanie and the staff at PHE Canada for quick thinking and getting right back up to try again.
  • Sorry to those who left the first chat in frustration and never came back. I completely understand and also hope you can join us again at the next Check In.
  • Thanks to the amazing and adaptable Health and Physical Education community – I don’t know of any other group that has the resiliency and flexibility to do what you did on the chat(s), in your ‘normal’ teaching days and especially what you are doing now, in a pandemic.

Stay well.

Wash your hands.

Practice physical distancing and socializing from a distance.

Teach health and physical education.

Hope you can join us again for a Cross Country Check-In!

Come on, MOVE me!

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