Convenient telecourse got complicated

Back in 2007, I won a free (regularly $2,000) “Introduction to Life Skills Coaching” telecourse. I was thrilled. Price was right. Subject interested me. And best of all, as the brochure said, I would be attending class in the privacy and convenience of my own home.

Why I thought there would suddenly be privacy and convenience in my home for class or otherwise is beyond me. There usually isn’t. But you can’t argue with “free,” so I signed up, eager for the first of 31 sessions.

Week one arrived. As the various members of the class introduced themselves, I realized I was the only one with children underfoot. The others were mostly academic types who had remained childless for professional advancement reasons. Those who had parented were no longer subject to ankle biting while they tried to sound intelligent.

There’s a reason I’m writing this at 4:30 AM.

When I taught family life education classes for WMU, I marveled at the students who were also parenting. I gave them points just for showing up each week, whether or not they were able to think or had done the homework. I felt sorriest for the high achieving grad students pregnant with their first child, knowing a rude awakening loomed on their horizon.

I’m glad I completed my masters before serving two young masters named Connor and Kate. When they were one and two, my ex-husband put off some project, saying he would do it later. “We have no later,” I told him, “we have children.” It still holds true.

For telecourse purposes, I purchased a phone headset with a mute button on its cord. My phone already had a mute button, but I suspected backup might be necessary. That turned out to be the only thing I got right.

Each week, my kids seemed to save up all their misbehavior to unleash the night of class. While I can’t prove it, I know it’s true. Mud pies were made in the living room, Popsicles microwaved in miniature teacups, and the cat bathed. One night they brought three roosters into the house during class. I discovered one perched on my Tiffany parlor lamp while the instructor lectured on visualizing success.

Double mute, expletive, whack-whack, unmute, back to class. I developed a problem-solving rhythm.

In addition to the weekly one-hour phone class, coaching students were assigned homework. It consisted of reading from one of three texts, then being on the phone for another hour or two with a classmate to practice the skills we were learning.

One chapter that particularly spoke to me was the one about minimizing distractions in the coaching environment. While it’s one thing to apologize to your homework partner, mute out, and go chasing your cookie-jar-raiding kids with a flyswatter, that might be considered a tad unprofessional during a coaching session with a paying client.

Plus, you’d have to come up with a good reason for the interruption. Like my WMU students whom I would let kill off only one grandparent per semester as an excuse for missing class, I could claim only once that my “office” had been on fire.

I critically surveyed the viability of my four- by five-foot, lint-laden laundry room that, as the most soundproof room in the house, served as my private in-home classroom/office. My children had opened its creaky door on me the second night of class and ruined its possibilities.

“What was that?” the instructor asked at the extended groan of hinges.

I said nothing, shrouded in electronic anonymity. It could have been any of the 25 students in the class making the sound. I also denied knowledge surrounding the periodic background screams.

But extraneous sounds posed another problem for me: If I became a coach, just where in my house was quiet enough for me to set up an office? My best guess had me barricading myself in the former coal bin of my basement, taking furious notes under a fluorescent shop light, watching the cat chase a mouse.

Perhaps phone coaching clients from the convenience and privacy of my own home needs to wait a few years. I can’t quite visualize myself being successful . . . . yet.

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