An Interview With Merry
In late March, Paul Friedman, who writes the St. Pete Bridge Club's weekly email, interviewed Merry Schainblatt about what it's like to teach bridge online during the pandemic. Here’s an edited copy of the interview between Paul and Merry.
Paul: How and when did you learn bridge?
Merry: I first learned bridge 45 years ago in night school. I stopped playing and didn’t play for about 35 years until I decided to try bridge again when I retired and moved to Clearwater. I decided to start over with classes. An internet search led to the St. Petersburg Bridge Club with classes by Lee Main. I fell in love with the game again and with the Bridge Club. Led by Charlie Gill, the club was so welcoming and provided great opportunities for developing players.
Paul: I know you were a special ed teacher. How did you get started teaching bridge?
Merry: Lee asked me if I were interested in teaching beginners. I realized I had found my retirement job. I was so lucky to be able to combine two loves: bridge and teaching. After Covid hit, Joanne Wharton asked if any of the club’s teachers were interested in trying on-line teaching. I started one class and, seeing the demand, added more and different choices.
Paul: How much time do you spend teaching each week?
Merry: I spend about 10 hours teaching. I spend another 10 hours preparing and answering emails. It was more when I started new classes, but now I am tweaking current ones.
Paul: What are your teaching plans once the club reopens?
Merry: I plan to continue at least part time online even after covid. This summer I hope to be back at the club for some lessons but mostly for supervised play. My current goal is to get an online supervised play game going in about a month.
Paul: What do you enjoy most about teaching bridge?
Merry: I most enjoy creating new bridge players! It is fun to watch people get fascinated.
Paul: What is the hardest part of bridge to teach and the hardest part to learn?
Merry: Defense! I try to focus on thinking and logic, not just memorizing rules.
Paul: How has your teaching changed since you started your on-line lessons?
Merry: The hardest thing about teaching large classes online is not being able to monitor body language and use that feedback to adjust the pace of my teaching. This is even more difficult because of the wide range in level of the students. It is a much harder game to learn from the beginning on the computer. It is very exciting to use Shark Bridge, the virtual classroom technology, along with VuBridge and Bridge Bee … these tools are very helpful.
Paul: Thanks Merry!