A CSR Success Story!

Lacy, a SimplySteno student, passed her CSR exam last week!!!  She’s worked hard and deserves every bit of success she gets!  I asked her to share the testing details.  I’ve posted it below…

“There are many factors that contribute to a pass and it often felt overwhelming to think of everything out of my control. So one month before the CSR I kicked my pre-test routine into overdrive Every single day before the test I watch an EFT video and/or did my tapping exercise with 100% focus. I took a short walk everyday wherein I would give myself lots of positive affirmation and intentionally recall how much hard work I’ve done and how far I’ve come to be able to sit for the test. I would also remind myself that self-worth is not based on passing or failing tests and that as long as I did everything in my control to do I could be at peace with a pass or a fail. i would say over and over again, every day, “you are awesome. You are just going to go in there, do your thing and pass that test. You have earned it!” In addition to tapping, I would rub lavender oil on my temples and inhale deeply before taking tests.

On the day before the CSR exam I got lots of good sleep. I bought myself all of my favorite healthy treats that energize and comfort me to take to the test with me. I also carefully packed my bag and got everything ready! I made a sandwich, had some trail mix and an anti-stress tea . . etc. I avoided sugar and coffee like the plague because they only add more adrenaline.

The day of the CSR I packed up all my healthy treats. I took my own pillow from home for my back. I took my lavender oil and some simply steno practice material.

When I got there I set up my equipment and started to practice. My fingers were shaky and my nerves were getting the best of me. So I stopped and did my tapping and immediately felt my heartbeat slowing back to normal and continued till I felt completely normal. I did a names and numbers take at a bit of a slower speed to gain control of my fingers and boost my confidence. I rubbed on lavender oil and then the test began.

All throughout each CSR portion I breathed deep when I felt myself tighten and told myself, “just hold on. Don’t worry about pass fail, just hold on, write forward. you’re doing great”. The same goes for transcription time. Controlling your nerves is just as important while typing. Typing time is not “self-critique” time, it is not “worry about failure” time, it is “in the zone, 100% focus” time. Marc is so right, don’t second guess yourself! Trust yourself.

For me, setting myself up to pass the CSR test was all about making myself believe I was actually at home doing the same thing I every day! Routine, routine, routine! Breathe, breathe, breathe! I didn’t talk to people and tried not to look at people much (because at home it’s just me and my computer). I just smiled a lot and kept a happy attitude, hoping to encourage those around me with positive energy. I took every comforting thing I could think of. I’m sure I looked insane, but I was totally prepared and I passed!”


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Views From the RPR Exam – A Volunteer’s Story

I asked one of my wonderful SimplySteno students, Jenny Melius, to share her experience as a volunteer at the RPR exam.  Some great information!

RPR Exam Story

Last weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer for the NCRA tests. I wanted to volunteer so that I could see firsthand what to expect when it’s my turn to take the RPR exam. It was interesting to see how the actual testing procedure was laid out. People started showing up over an hour before the test began, lugging in their writers and their laptops and their printers. It looked like people were moving in for the weekend with their roller bags and suitcases to carry all of their equipment.

From my perspective, the actual test went pretty quickly. The chief examiner went into the room, played the three tests back to back, and then opened up the door and let people start transcribing. I was surprised at how much commotion there was in the transcribing room. People were constantly moving in and out to go to the bathroom or come out and ask questions. I hadn’t thought of it before, but after seeing the test in progress, I would definitely recommend ear plugs for anyone who needs complete quiet for concentration during transcription.

Even though I was there primarily to see the testing process in action, I was surprised to learn that the whole format for RPR exam testing is changing next year. It’s going to a completely online format where we can take the test anywhere we want at any time we want. I think it’s a great technological advance from the current lug-in-your-own-printer format, but it was a little sad to me to realize that I probably won’t ever get to go to a testing center and experience that communal excitement and anxiety of taking a test. Being an online student, I feel like I miss that aspect of knowing there are other people in the same boat as me. However, being online students to begin with, I think we may have a big advantage when it comes to being able to take the RPR from the comfort of our own homes, in exactly the same environment where we’ve done all our other tests.

One thing that won’t change about the RPR exam, however, is how we frame our attitudes around the test. I checked in all of the RPR testers on Saturday. Some of them showed up with feelings of excitement or nervous energy. Others showed up already feeling defeated, acting like this test was just a waste of their Saturday morning. The few people who walked in with negative attitudes were the same people who left the transcription room early without having turned anything in. Marc’s already drilled it in to us, but this was my chance to see it with my own eyes. The people with the negative attitudes were the people who sealed their own fate and didn’t even give themselves the chance to pass. They believed they would fail, and they did. I’m sure not everyone who went in with positive attitudes passed, but at least they gave themselves a fighting chance.

I’m glad I got the chance to volunteer for the RPR exam. I learned a lot about the way the tests are structured and the way people conduct themselves before a test, but it also was a chance to talk to other students and reporters. I even got a chance to do a little networking and made plans with a reporter to shadow her in court when I get a little higher in speed. Being an online student can be isolating. Take every chance you can get to meet other people in the field and start building a network!

RPR Exam

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Steno is a Rolling Stone!

Court reporting school is like a round stone.  It’s hard and…umm…well, it’s hard.  But for now I’m going to talk more about the physics of a stone in relation to court reporting school.  That’s right – I’m getting all steno scientific on you!  Even if you’re not a physicist, you can understand this example –

If a stone is rolling along, it only takes a simple nudge from your hand to KEEP it rolling – just a little bit of expended energy on your part to keep the stone’s momentum.  If that same stone is stopped, you need to give it a stronger push in order to send it on its way – a greater use of your own force and energy.

Same thing applies to steno.  If you do your practice on a regular schedule, the amount of work you have to put in to maintain and increase your speed is much less than if you stop and start your practice routine.  When you stop practicing, not only do you have to get that practice routine back in shape, you also have to shake off the steno rust before you can get back to your original speed!  It’s really easy to grasp – just check out the simple graph below…

This is how a steno keeps momentum.

See that?  Even a baby could do it!  What?  Doesn’t make sense?  Okay – easier example.  If you want to run, is it easier to do starting from a walk or from a sitting position?  Ding-ding!  Momentum builds momentum.

I’ve said it before – your biggest job is to sit your butt down in that chair each day.  That’s where it starts.  Sit in the chair – the rest will flow.  But if you don’t sit in the chair, you have zero chance of gaining steno momentum.  Pretend it’s you’re job – and you’ll get fired if you don’t show up.  Give yourself the opportunity to succeed!  Just don’t get run over!

Steno was a rolling stone.

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You’re Not Mark Kislingbury!

I remember the first time it happened.  I had just started my online program and got a call from a student.  “Is this really Marc?  I can’t believe I’m speaking with Marc!”  Well wasn’t that nice!  I mean, my program was new, but StenoLife had been up and running for a few years – and SpeedBuilders was well established.  Why shouldn’t she be happy to be speaking with Marc?!  Well, 4 seconds later I found out why.

The Mark Kislingbury!  How exciting!”  Flarg.  Turns out I was a Marc…but not the Mark.  What a difference a letter makes.  (oh yeah, and being able to write 360 words per minute)  This was the first of many encounters with students and professionals who just assumed I was Mark Kislingbury.

As the years went by, it still happened… a lot!  But as my program grew, so did my name recognition a little.  Every now and then the person would say, “Hey, Marc – I’ve heard of you.”  And I’d give them a way out – “Just to be clear, I’m not Mark Kislingbury, the fastest court reporter in the world.”  And then I’d be shocked to hear, “No!  I know who you are!”  Really?  Lil ol’ me??

Having the same name as Mark Kislingbury – The Fastest Court Reporter in the World (that’s how I address him when I see him) – has been a blessing and a curse.  I actually get to speak to a lot of people who call me assuming I’m him.  Blessing!  And then there’s that moment when they realize I’m not.  Curse!

That’s okay.  I’m making it my mission to write 361 words per minute.

Mark Kislingbury

File Photo – Mark Kislingbury

PS – This blog was written as a joke, people.  Mark is one of the nicest, most helpful people in the court reporting field.  I’m lucky to have worked with him several times.  I just wish he’d change his name 🙂

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A Steno School Story … And You’re Fired!

I think it’s safe to say I’ve done every job on the teaching side of court reporting.  I started off as a reader in steno school.  I did academic grading for a long time.  I taught every speed class at one time or another.  I was the program coordinator for several years.  And in all those positions, over all those years, the worst part of the job?  Firing people.

steno school

I should have used a Post-it!

Firing someone is a horrible thing to have to do – even if you don’t like someone.  There’s no easy way to do it.  I suppose there are employers out there who get off on that moment of power, but I was never one of them.  Which leads to my “firing-gone-horribly-wrong” story.

I’ll start by explaining that being a steno school reader is a unique skill.  You have to have a grasp of the English language, read at very specific speeds, enunciate and project your voice.  All this while students are waiting on your every word, ready to throw steno machines at you if you stutter, stammer, make eye contact or move in any way.  “I was getting that till you messed up!!!  Jerk!!!”

A Steno School Story

Enough delay – here’s the story!  We had the need for another reader at the campus school… right away!  So we brought in a bunch of people to try, but all were horrible.  One woman was a little less horrible than the rest, so we hired her, hoping we could mold her a bit.  After a month of molding, there was no change.  The owner of the steno school told me I would have to fire her.

I could have just told her, “This isn’t the job for you,” but she was so nice, I didn’t want her to feel like she had failed.  So I told her due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to let an employee go, and since she was the last hired…  She nodded with total understanding.  Her ego was unscathed – I did the job!  But…

On the way out of the building she stopped in the steno school owner’s office to say goodbye.

(the conversation as told to me later)

Reader – I just wanted to say goodbye before I left.
Owner – I’m really sorry this didn’t work out.  Reading is a tough skill.
Reader – (perplexed) Yes… it is… but I’m not sure what you mean.
Owner – I mean you shouldn’t feel bad.  We’ll probably have to interview 50 people before we find someone new.

I could hear her heels clacking against the tile floor as she came running down the hall towards my office.  She threw open the door and let me have it.

Reader – “What is wrong with you people?!  Do you get some kind of sick thrill out of *&@#ing with people?!  What kind of #*@$ed up court reporting school is this?!  Is this what you do all day – hire and fire people just to *#@% with their heads?!”

Well… no.  I try to be nice 🙂  Oops.

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Get On The Court Reporting School Roller Coaster!

Welcome to court reporting school!  Make sure to sit back in your seat and lower the safety bar.  Keep your hands in the car at all times.  All clear?  Away we go!  Click… click… click… click… click… AHHHHHHHHHH!!!  Does that sound familiar?  I hear it all the time from students, both in and out of my program – “I feel like I’m on top of things one day, then can’t write a single word the next!  It’s like I’m on a roller coaster!”  And you are!  You probably didn’t know exactly what you were getting into when you signed up for court reporting school, but by now you’ve reached the dizzying heights…and nauseating lows. And that’s not a bad thing!

Court Reporting School

Let’s compare court reporting school to a relationship instead.  What if you knew that you were going to be in a relationship with someone, and you knew there would be wonderful moments, but also moments of total frustration?  BUT…at the end you knew that relationship was going to be everything you hoped and more.  It would be worth it, right?

And that’s what you’re getting in court reporting school.  You’ll have days when the words flow straight from the speaker’s mouth, out your fingers and onto the page without so much as a hiccup.  Other days, it will be like someone stapled your fingers together and soaked them in pine tar.

That’s the nature of the beast.   That’s the path that most of you MUST follow to get to the finish line.  And when you break it down, it makes sense.  If you didn’t have difficult days, you wouldn’t be a student…you’d already be a working reporter.  And every new speed is a challenge and you need to keep pushing yourself.

Court Reporting School Finish Line!

And then, after the ups and downs, the ride is over!  And you’re so pumped up that you want to ride it again!  Oh…wait…no you don’t.  You want to start working!  And that’s a whole other blog 🙂

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Court Reporters Are Human Beings Before All Else

Court reporters do an amazing job!  It takes skill, both mental and physical.  It requires an amount of focus that many people just can’t grasp.  But for all the awesomeness that court reporters put on display each day in the workplace, let’s not forget that beneath it all, they are PEOPLE first.  As human beings, they share the same flaws as those who are not court reporters.

Every now and then a story will come forward about a court reporter who has done something questionable, either in their job or in their private life.  Invariably, the court reporting community (no, not everyone!) will rush to the defense of that court reporter.  “They’re a court reporter – they would never do that!”  But let’s not forget that they are human first.  Being a court reporter doesn’t exempt someone from being a jerk, breaking the law, having poor judgment…being flawed.  Some of the greatest leaders in this world have made mistakes – shown their human side.  If some of the most respected people in the world can make mistakes, are we to believe that court reporters are above that?

“This job is stressful – they just needed a release!”  There’s no doubt that the job of a court reporter is challenging.  They sit in on tense situations and listen to horrible stories – witness verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse only feel away.  And they must capture the record under those moments – asked to put aside all emotion for the sake of the job.  No one would question the stress placed upon court reporters.  But again, stress is not a “get out of jail free” card.

Court Reporters

Court Reporters Are Human – “Flawed” Quotes

“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”
― Augusten Burroughs

“Nothing’s perfect, the world’s not perfect. But it’s there for us, trying the best it can; that’s what makes it so damn beautiful.”
― Hiromu Arakawa

“We are flawed creatures, all of us. Some of us think that means we should fix our flaws. But get rid of my flaws and there would be no one left.”
― Sarah Vowell

“We all are men, in our own natures frail, and capable of our flesh; few are angels.”
― William Shakespeare

“The Lord works through deeply flawed people, since He made so few of the other kind.”
― Timothy B. Tyson

Humans have flaws.  Court reporters are human.  Therefore court reporters have flaws.  That’s not a bad thing.

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Electronic Recording is Here!!! Run!!!

If you’re a court reporter (or court reporting student) who works on an actual steno machine – RUN!!!  The day you’ve been dreading is finally here!!!  Electronic recording is taking over!  Doubt me?  Take a look at the article below.

Electronic Recording is Here!

Looks a bit like Daft Punk without the costume.  Wicka-wicka-wah!

Daft Punk are Electronic Reporters?
Okay, so maybe the reports of electronic recording taking over the world are a bit premature…like 78 years premature.  That article above was written in 1936.  And besides the actual technology, the claims haven’t changed much – 100% accuracy – adaptable to any courtroom – captures any speed spoken.  Of course the operator still has to remember to turn it on…so there’s that 🙂  No biggie – it’s just a murder trial.

I can only assume the article headline 20 years from now will look something like –

Electronic Recording Robot Replaces Stenographer

And that’s all fine and good until the robot revolt happens and they turn us all into slaves.

To some extent, the claims are true.  Electronic recording can capture pretty much any speed (as long as the hardware keeps up).  And it can capture everything that’s said (as long as it’s not muffled, too quiet, several voices at once).  And it does replace the court reporter (with a different person who cannot provide a realtime record).  And it’s less expensive (unless there’s a problem, like someone doesn’t turn it on, causing a retrial).

The biggest step in electronic recording over the last 80 years has been that it is no longer the size of an ordinary desk.  They’ve whittled it down to a computer and some microphones.  Kudos to them!

So I’m not too concerned about electronic recording replacing court reporters on steno machines.  But in the event that does happen, it only makes sense that the next step would be…Judge Robot!  Makes as much sense 🙂

robot judge

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For the Record – Court Reporting Documentary Trailer!

It’s been 2 years in the making, but it’s finally here…sort of.  Our court reporting documentary, For the Record, is still being edited, but the first trailer is complete!  You can check it out below!

There are many different stories to tell in For the Record, so trying to squeeze them all into one trailer just didn’t make much sense.  So for this first trailer, we decided to focus on the Guinness contest to win the title of Fastest Court Reporting in the World!  And although we focus on Mark Kislingbury, Dee Boenau and Stan Sakai in the trailer, Kathryn Thomas, Kathy Cortopassi and Diane Kraynak worked their fingers off to go for the record of 400 words per minute.  Did they make it?  You’ll have to wait for the movie to find out!

For the Record - Court Reporting Documentary

Mark Kislingbury

It was so much fun speaking to the court reporters, captioners and CART providers – sensing their passion for the occupation – hearing about their love for the steno machine.  That’s something we explore in the documentary – that connection between writers and their machines – that love/hate relationship that those outside the community can’t always understand.

For the Record – The Next Steps

As for where this documentary will go once it’s complete, I’m not sure exactly sure at this moment.  But I know I want the final step of For the Record to be in every library of every high school.  High school students need to know about this career opportunity.

And finally, I want to mention the sponsors.  Without them, there is no movie.  So make sure to visit their websites and let them know their contributions were worth it!

LiveDeposition – Deposition streaming done right
Infinity Steno Machines – Steno machines for the next generation…today.
RealLegal – Complete resources for court reporters.
SimplySteno – The smart alternative to court reporting schools.

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Court Reporting Documentary – Behind the Scenes!

Later this week we will have the “world debut” trailer for our court reporting documentary.  Most movies don’t have a fancy debut for their trailers, but….most documentaries don’t get shown in big theaters, so we thought this would be a fun way to get the movie out there.  We’re showing it off at the DRA convention in CA.

When I decided 2 years ago that I was going to film a court reporting documentary, I was pretty…stupid.  Not to be hard on myself, but looking back, how could I not know what I was getting into?  I guess “naive” is a better word.  But I’ve always been at my best when I back myself into a corner.  I usually figure a way out.  “Of course I can – and will – make a court reporting documentary!”  And then I figure out how to make a movie.

Court Reporting Documentary

Dee Boenau and Mark Kislingbury on the Daytime set in Florida. That’s me between them…doing nothing!

Court Reporting Documentary Mistakes!

So what were my big mistakes?  First, before we started filming, I had a “script” – a way I figured the documentary would head – the stories we’d tell.  But I quickly learned that that’s how scripted movies work – not documentaries!  You can only plan a documentary so much.  I assumed it would be about court reporting, with the thread of the Guinness attempt winding in and out of the story.  Turns out the contest angle was as strong, or stronger than the other parts.  It comes down to personalities.  That’s where you have to go.  You can’t write a documentary – you have to let it write itself.

Second, I never understood how filmmakers could work on documentaries for years!  Now I know 🙂  We didn’t have a page of script to shoot each day.  I didn’t know what the answers in our interviews would be.  I never knew how exactly one thing would lead to another – somewhere I never thought of before.  Again – you have to let the documentary tell its story.  And that means new interviews, interviewing a second time, taking chances.

Third, I now have a bad case of “Damn!  I should have asked that!” syndrome.  While going over shot footage, I came across many answers that should have gotten a follow-up question…but I never asked.  Not the end of the world, but you do need certain things to tie story lines together.

Finally, I found out just how opinionated people are about how I should make my court reporting documentary…MY documentary 🙂  “It’s going to talk about CART writing, right?”  “How could you not mention electronic recording?”  “I once did a deposition with a cat on my lap – how hysterical is that?!  That should totally be in the movie!”  Uh…I think you should put that in YOUR movie.

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