We're joined by Carol Mackey, an avid discussion group participant, and co-host Debbie Worman to chat about what Hadley groups are, how to join, and what you can get out of them. With 10 groups on a variety of topics, there's something for everyone. Listen in or chime in – it’s up to you.
The Inside Scoop on Hadley Discussion Groups
Presented by Ricky Enger
Ricky Enger: Welcome to Hadley Presents. I'm your host, Ricky Enger, inviting you to sit back, relax, and enjoy a conversation with the experts. In this episode, we explore Hadley's live Discussion Groups. And joining us are Debbie Worman and Carol Mackey. Welcome to the show.
Debbie Worman: Hi, Ricky.
Carol Mackey: Thank you. Hi, Ricky. Hi, Debbie.
Ricky Enger: So great to have both of you for a discussion on discussion groups. And thankfully, that will be the last time I say that for the episode, but it's awesome to have you both here because you're such valuable contributors each in your own way to Hadley's Discussion Groups. And I'm delighted to have the chance to just explore some of that and talk with both of you. Before we jump into that portion of things, why don't we just get a couple of brief introductions? Debbie, we'll start with you. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Debbie Worman: I am a learning expert here at Hadley
. I support our recreation, daily living, and adjusting to vision loss workshops. But I imagine the main reason I'm here with you and Carol is that I actually co-host 6 of the 10 Hadley Discussion Groups. So, I'm happy to be here with both you and Carol to do that today.
Ricky Enger: Six. Now, that takes some dedication right there, and none of it is faint enthusiasm. It is definitely, you really love what you do, it certainly comes across. Carol, how about you? Tell us a bit about yourself.
Carol Mackey: My name is Carol Mackey, and I am living in Maine, and I came to these discussion groups, probably I hadn't... I was just thinking how long ago, it's probably getting close to a year actually. And I take part in the quite a number of them. I think there's only one that I don't actually, the Braille Discussion Group. I am visually impaired. I have limited vision. I have kind of a lifetime of low vision, a poor vision, but I was able to do quite a few things. And as I've gotten older, I am 78 years old, my vision is deteriorating. And the Hadley Discussion Groups has been just a wonderful gift in expanding, not only the specific knowledge that these groups offer, but also the people that I meet, Debbie included, and all of the other facilitators, but also all of the people on the call.
Ricky Enger: Well, I hope you can hear the smile in my voice, Carol, because I certainly am smiling. I love your description of just how you came to the discussion groups and really what they've meant to you. Maybe it makes sense to talk about discussion groups and what are they and what are they not? Because I think if you hear the phrase discussion group, people are like, is that a support group? Is it like a class? What is it? Debbie, how would you best describe what Hadley's Discussion Groups are?
Debbie Worman: What are Hadley Discussion Groups? What a great question! I know what they're not, they're not boring. So, Hadley Discussion Groups really are an opportunity to share resources, tips, and tricks. It gives our Hadley learners a chance to meet others who share similar interest. The groups provide a chance for connection.
I like to think they offer reassurance and boost confidence. That's kind of sometimes when people come on, I know they have a feeling that they're not alone, that they got this, that others are here for them. And another wonderful thing is that it offers an opportunity for learners to share what they know, to really put out some of their own good ideas.
So, the groups are live, but if you're busy or can't make it, we do have them recorded that you could receive. They're facilitated by the co-host, but we kind of go with the flow. It's an opportunity to either chime in with their own ideas and resources, or just sit back and soak it all up. We welcome listeners as well.
Ricky Enger: Awesome. And I think one of the most fun things for me is that sense of it is structured, but we do go with the flow. So, there are times when we have a discussion, I come in to do mine, which I do one as opposed to six, but when I'm having my tech discussion group, I go in thinking it's going to be one thing, and I'm surprised and delighted to discover that the conversation takes a totally different turn, and people still end up learning quite a lot. Debbie, when you are doing these discussion groups, what makes a discussion group feel like, okay, great, this has been a super successful session? What are the key things that you're going for?
Debbie Worman: Mostly I'm going for participation. I may share information at the beginning, but again, we're not there to lecture or to give a class. We're there to kind of spark the conversation and get people thinking. My success is to see all those hands go up, right? And even sometimes at the end, when we run out of time, if there's a few hands up, I still consider that a success because I consider that people were excited and were interested in the topic and they wanted to be engaged.
I have to admit, I get quite anxious before each and every group, but once we get started, that vanishes. And I think that's what helps me feel like it's a success. Like we're really just, even there could be 60 people in the Zoom room, I just feel like I am sitting in my living room just having a conversation with people. When I was a teenager, I used to work at a movie theater, and the projectionist used to tell me the sign of a good movie is it's over before you know it. It just goes real fast. And so that's the same for me in the discussion groups. Sometimes I just can't believe how quickly the hour goes.
Ricky Enger: Yeah. Time flies when you're having fun. For sure. What about you, Carol? I'm wondering how you heard about Hadley Discussion Groups. How did you become involved?
Carol Mackey: I think I started; I was doing a number of American Council for the Blind. They have a number of groups that meet. And I had heard from someone member about, oh, this Hadley, have you done any Hadley? And I thought, oh, okay. I look into this. And I got the number and called in. I don't happen to Zoom it. I do it on the telephone. When I got in, I really liked the way these discussion groups are done because the facilitators, Debbie, for example, will have start out with a jumping off place, some information, some resources, some experience, they've done research. And I really appreciate that because it also, oh, I didn't know that, but also it gives the whole discussion kind of a little bit of, even though I may arrive with no knowledge at all, it starts out and I think, oh yeah, I actually, I knew a little bit about that.
And I love the whole, the interchange and people speaking up, not only that they're adding their experience, but also the location. I love hearing where people are calling in from. There's someone from Hawaii or someone from the other corner of the country. And I love that flavor. I will just add one other piece, and it's not part of the formal discussion groups, but 15 minutes or so before the group starts, which starts on the hour, there's kind of like an open period of time when there's no one muted, everyone just talks. And it doesn't get too rowdy if you will. It's not like people are talking over each other a little bit, but that's always fun because we just never know where the discussion is going to go. And often it goes totally different direction than what actually the discussion group might be about, which is always kind of fascinating.
It could be about food, and the discussion group is about a tech talk. I get so much out of it and feel the support to know that there are other people who are dealing with so many of the things that I'm also dealing with and get some pointers, oh, okay, I can do that if I try it that way, that maybe I do need the new headset, or maybe I do need to get that added magnifier or something, just from talking to people on the call, or people who have never had sight, which I have had sight. So, there's a different experience that everybody has to offer or bring to the table. And it's really a gift. It's a wonderful gift.
Ricky Enger: Wow. And once again, you're talking about out some of my favorite things, as well as a facilitator is watching that interchange and seeing people who are sometimes you are the one who is sharing that tip that's making the difference for somebody else, and sometimes you are the one receiving that tip. Someone's giving you a good idea that you can go and try after the call or a resource that you weren't aware of. So that's always so so much fun to watch. Debbie, what about you? I mean, you're in six groups, so you have a lot of opportunities to see just how people engage with each other. What keeps you coming back? What keeps you feeling the love for the discussion groups that you clearly do?
Debbie Worman: It's knowing that there's never one right way or wrong way to do something, right? There's no right or wrong way to do something that we're just throwing out things we're trying, and that have worked for us, and everybody has an idea, and we respect each other's idea, and support each other.
And if you've been in any of my groups, you know all about the WW theory. We get a lot of whatever works in there. So, it's really not feeling the pressure that there's one way to live with vision loss, right? That there's all kinds of unique ways to deal with things, and we're absolutely going to hear them in the discussion groups. We've heard some really interesting things. My favorite part is just that connection with the learners. Carol has been so generous. She co-hosted a Hadley Growers with me. And as we were planning, that just gave me an extra opportunity to get to know her more. And that truly is what I love about the discussion groups. I learn new things, and I get to hear stories. And that just fuels me. That's what just keeps me going, is that fuel I get from the discussion groups. I'm worn out when I get done with the discussion group. It's that worn out feeling of, wow, it's a real positive worn out.
Ricky Enger: Yes, it's that feeling of being so engaged and so in the moment, and when it's over, it's almost like, wow, okay, the endorphins are going away now. Carol, what about you? And we're going to have a pop quiz for Debbie in just a second where she names all 10 of our discussion groups, but Carol you're involved in several of them. And what is it that keeps you coming back week to week, month to month, that not just for a couple of them, for lots of them? What keeps you involved?
Carol Mackey: I think that every single one, there's something that first of all, the topic is clear so that I know, oh, goody, we're going to talk about tech stuff, even though I'm not a techy person in the least, but I always learn something. And I think maybe that's the crux of it. I always come away with having heard something, learned something, not necessarily new, but a different way to approach something or think about different perspective. The other thing is that people that come and just listen, that there's no requirement, they don't have to do anything. They only have to show up, and gain what they gain, come back, hopefully, but maybe not. But it's available. It's this ease of availability that really makes a difference. Call in on the phone as I do or Zoom in, Zoom in and not have the video working, whatever someone might choose, those are the things that just keep me coming back.
Ricky Enger: I love it. And as you mentioned, Carol, there's no one way to join the groups either. You can join by phone, as Carol has done, you can join from the Zoom app or from Zoom on the PC or the Mac. And Hadley, by the way, does have some Zoom workshops. If you're, “I don't know about the Zoom thing,” we do have the ability for you to check out those and see, okay, what's this Zoom thing all about, and how difficult is it going to be to join? But if all that is still feeling a bit overwhelming, that's cool too, because we have the ability to call you. If you're able to press the number one on your keypad on your phone and get joined up, then you can be a part of the discussion group. So, we'll have information in the show notes and talk a bit more when we wrap up. But before we do that, Debbie, it's time for your pop quiz. So, we have 10, 10 discussion groups. Can you name them?
Debbie Worman: Can I name them? Well, easy to name the ones that I do. Book Nook, which is actually like a book club; Get Up and Go, which is exercising and getting out in the community; Hadley Growers, which is our gardening group; Resource Roundtable, where we share resources and organizations; Travel Talk, all things travel; Writers' Circle, where we have learners who are writers. You don't have to be published to join Writers' Circle. We have writers from all abilities and just people who write journals or just for fun. Then the ones I don't do are Crafting Circle, which is a crafting group; Embracing Braille, all things Braille; then we have Ricky, your group, Tech It Out; and then the ever popular, What's Cooking? So those are the 10 groups. It kind of covers a nice range of interest, I think.
Ricky Enger: And it's not super problematic to figure out the schedule either. There's always something going on Tuesdays at 7:00 Central or Wednesdays at 4:00 PM Central, then we have a couple of our Thursday groups at 11:30 as well. So just some consistency thereof, hey, it's Tuesday at 7:00, wonder what Hadley group I should join today, which is kind of nice. For some people though, it can still feel like an overwhelming thing for a variety of reasons. Maybe it feels too technical or maybe it feels kind of vulnerable to put yourself in the position where you're socializing with other people. Maybe you're just not feeling that confident, and you're feeling like everybody knows more than you, or you're just shy in general. For people who are, for whatever reason, just feeling like, I don't know if I want to do this discussion group thing, what would you say just, as an encouragement to think about it? Debbie, I guess we'll start with you.
Debbie Worman: There used to be a cereal commercial years ago where this little kid, they would tell Mikey, "Try it, you'll like it," that if anybody remembers that. So, I would say about the discussion groups, try it, you'll like it. Again, Carol, you said this beautifully earlier too. If you just want to join and sit back and listen, that is perfectly fine. You do not have to chime in if you're shy or if you don't feel like you have anything to add that night, that's perfectly fine. If you're hesitant about the technology, hey, we've got you covered. We can call you, you press one, and you're in. That's the “we'll call you” feature. It's as simple as that. And we have quite a number of people who join that way, who otherwise wouldn't have gotten in, and we're happy to have them in the group. And you know what, they've learned to raise their hand and participate. So, we're so excited about that.
We have workshops on Zoom. The other thing is we're very willing to set up practice sessions. If you're hesitant about raising your hand or muting or unmuting, happy to set up a time privately that we practice that so you're comfortable doing that, because hey, I had to learn Zoom at one point too, believe it or not. I know how anxious that technology can be. We've made it really quite easy to join, and as I said, jump in and try it, try out the different groups, see what interests you. If you are new to vision loss and you can't imagine how you're going to get back in the garden, join our group. Believe me, the gardeners in that group can just tell you all kinds of things to do. I mean, my brown thumb is gradually turning green because of that group.
I would just encourage people, try it, you'll like it. Well, we have fun learning, we have fun sharing. As Carol said earlier, that pregame, the 15 minutes before, wow, the energy. People just saying hi, and then we get into the discussion. And again, if something sparks you to speak up, ask a question, share a resource, share something that's going on. As you said, Ricky, people can feel vulnerable, and we've had people open up and share things. And I'm very glad that they feel comfortable doing it in the group.
Ricky Enger: Carol, how about you? What would you say to somebody that's feeling a little hesitant to dip their toe in the water and join a discussion group?
Carol Mackey: I would say, and I guess for those that are feeling very vulnerable, that no one knows you're there except you and whoever the facilitators, and they don't tell. You can just hide for the period of time and there's no responsibility, there's no requirement that you are interested in this topic or not, or just think, oh boy, I wonder what that's all about. That's all that's required, is your perhaps curiosity, or interest, or oftentimes it might be someone who can bring a lot to the table that has all kinds of knowledge, which always shows up at almost every discussion group. There's someone who speaks up and it's like, wow, I didn't know that. And that's always just wonderful. The fact that Hadley folks will call you, they'll call you, you press a button, and you're in. You don't have to do another thing. Just be, and that's all that's required.
Ricky Enger: Thank you for that. Thank you both for sharing just your enthusiasm in... It's funny, I think we all have really come back to the same point, although we've expressed it in different ways that these discussion groups really are about connection and learning from one another. And what could be more important and more fun than that? If you're listening and you want to be involved in the discussion group, you can give us a call 800-323-4238. So, if you're not even signed up on the Hadley site yet, and you're thinking, oh gosh, it's going to take a lot to get started with, and I don't know, give us a call. We're happy to help. We also have information in the show notes about the discussion groups and how to join each of them and the schedule. All that fun stuff, you'll find there. Any final thoughts before we say goodbye for now?
Debbie Worman: I guess I would just like to remind people too, that we are here after the discussion groups as well. We just don't sign off, that connection with the learners continues. Each one of the groups has a special email address. You can contact us, and we're happy to follow up if you miss something, if you want something reexplained, if a question didn't get answered, if you had your hand up and we didn't get to you. We're just always wanting to talk to the learners. It's that connection that we like. And hey, it's my passion, and I'd be happy to talk to anybody about the discussion groups.
Carol Mackey: I would say, give it a try. Absolutely. There's a lot to learn and also, you're not alone, and at least I can't do this alone. What an opportunity to expand what you have.
Ricky Enger: Very well said, both of you. Thank you so much for dropping by. And if you'd like to hear Debbie's or Carol's voice again, then all you got to do is join a discussion group and you can chat with either or both of them during the pregame and then hang out for the discussion group and learn something. Thanks, everyone.
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